Tel Aviv Diary October 10-14, 2006- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - October 10, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut


October 10, 2006

I kept thinking of that line in The Red Badge of Courage, "The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer." The immobile sun just before it set into the sea today seemed holy. I could hear Hanna Senesh's prayer in my ear, "my Lord - may it never end./ The sand and sea,/ whisper of water,/ the prayer of man." I could imagine philistine worshipers, temples to Baal on the beach, an awe enormous in proportions, overwhleming to the heart. And while it sinks rapidly into the sea, who could imagine what travesties have occurred in this world just today? From the nuclear test in north korea to the murder of the russian journalist to the ongoing immorality of the situation here - you wouldn't think we remain worthy of such sunsets.

We went home and found ourselves reading the story of Abraham's first sojourn here. And lo and behold there are no breathless exclamations of beauty. He gets here, there's a famine, he goes to Egypt, passes his wife off as his sister so he can get by better, gives her to the Pharoah, and leaves with a lot of loot when he gets found out. A million travesties. No exclamations of the beauty of nature.

While I was out with the dog, my next door neighbor had their third break-in. They weren't home and the cops were all over looking for them. I've got to get the details.

Robert reminded me that the god of the Philistines was Dagon.(Remember Sampson?) Logical for the beach since Dag is fish. And logical that I would go for Baal since the Jews seemed to be more attracted to him.

October 11, 2006

There's a house being built down the street that I just couldn't figure out. Most of the houses are understandable - an imitation old-tel-aviv house with its small windows and red shingled roof, a new-age enlarged bauhaus, a tuscan villa. But there is one going up that looks to me like a nuclear bomb shelter. I pass by every day and wonder at it. No windows onto the street - just reinforced concrete. Surely the Tuscan villa is an attempt to recall the idyllic qualities of the summer vacation, and the bauhaus is a upwardly mobile nod to the noble and simple dominance of this genre in the new city of Tel Aviv... But this shelter...

Yesterday I brought Rachel to take a guess. "Oh, Russian Mafia to be sure." And it was suddenly clear.

On that same street I used to see women holding out their traditional Arab dresses to catch the olives someone would shake from the trees. The trees were behind the fences of the olives, but the branches reached out to the curb. I haven't seen them lately.

October 12, 2006

Five years ago my aunt Chasha died of lung cancer. Today her photo appears on the Lung Cancer Circle of Hope site, turning her tragedies, as always, into a learning experience for others. She never smoked, and so her cancer needs to be explained in another way than the usual theories. This is a poem about her and Yehuda Amichai, who died on the same day.


It looks something like a vague train station,
but very smooth and in a dream.
And they have met here for the first time –
my dear aunt Chasha who died this morning,
and my Minister of Poetry, Yehuda Amichai,
who too has now been freed. They are on their way
to the most special part of heaven,
the site reserved for colossal souls
that incorporate everyone into their lives
and love and love and never deny
the ardor of others.

But their conversation is quite plain, a little mundane.
Perhaps they are talking about the times they never met
at Sloan-Kettering, and how they were born in the same year,
in the same world that vanished into their memories
and how felicitous to make each other’s acquaintance
now, as they are about to broaden the range of their embrace.

October 13, 2006

Friday in Tel Aviv, even the 13th, is usually crowded. But wherever we went, there was room. We walked through empty rooms in the museum, and sat at the bar in Nona keeping the barman company. I'm exaggerating. There were a few people at the Givati exhibit, and much more at the Femme Fatale show. (I was actually surprised at the femme fatale exhibit. I thought it would be 'foreign,' European, but there was so much about jewish tradition and biblical figures. Lilith, Bathsheba, Delilah, Judith, Potiphar's Wife - all the misunderstood women I've written poems about! And then the vampires of Munch, the harpies, etc. The combination was interesting, even though the text was sometimes naive.

And Nona wasn't empty. It just wasn't crowded the way it usually is - and that just made the lasagna tastier and the beer more fun.

A few queries about my video presence on the web: I haven't figured out the html on this but the site for a simple reading is The "Thin Lips" site is now here

October 14, 2006

very hard holiday for the jews. very hard. we're ordered to rejoice for 7 days. now how can jews do that?

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