September 17

Every Yom Kippur is the same. The sound of prayers floating in the silent streets, the bicyles, the children, the parents, and the dogs wandering freely. The prayers, the development of repentance through the day as the time for the closing of the gates of heaven draws near. Every Yom Yippur is the same.

And every one is different. Something of the world enters into this scene that even on the streets feels holy, cleansing. This year, I was filled with wonder at the numbers of people outside - some in white, some with prayer books, some with sneakers and jogging gear - and I remarked to Ezi at the peace in the air. Then we met Nurit, who also noted the masses of people. "It's because of Iraq," she said, "Everyone's out because they know they'll be closed in their air raid shelters soon." Since we just finished preparing our own shelter for chemical warfare, it is not surprising she thought of it. What is surprising is that I overlooked the anxiety and saw only the pleasant result.

Panic over the impending war of the United States against Iraq is very amorphous here - The only specific element is that of the preparations - the long lines for gas masks, the discreet hoarding of food, the new round of soul-searching. As with the Gulf War, we see ourselves as passive victims. We do not get to make plans or decisions about whether this war is cost effective for us. we just get to hide in our ridiculous plastic wrapped sealed rooms with our gasmark, our flashlight and our radio, watching the dog for signs of chemical poisoning.

Until our old dog was put to sleep 2 and a half years ago, he would head shivering for the shelter whenever he heard thunder. The trauma was permanent. And now we're on to the beginning of what we hope will be only another trauma.

But I am on my way out of here. I'll be leaving Tel Aviv for a few weeks. And the question arises, can I persist in writing a Tel Aviv Journal while bathing in the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the Fischer-Diskau on the radio while driving through the autumn foliage, belly-dancing with Ann at the Figaro Cafe. When we turn on some 'demi-coulo' news in the U.S. that shows glimpses of atrocities in the Middle East mixed with undigested commentaries, we are so far from any real understanding of events here.

I promise nothing. it is possible the perspective might be productive. It is equally possible that the experiences of a Tel Avivian in the 'world' might have its own value and interest. But it is also possible that I will lapse into silence until my return on October 10. I may also find the technical problems of writing overwhelming and just give up. Please bear with me. I'll be back.

Ha. It turns out I'm addicted. i can't stop writing. I kept thinking this afternoon about the guy who was murdered today - David Buchbut, 67 years old, who was fixing up his house and went to buy some bulding materials - in - i think - el azaria - it seems that most of the people who have been murdered as jews in the past couple years have been people who are trying to develop a relationship with their Arab neighbors. People who visit villages, who try to help.

His body was burnt but it was clear he had been severely tortured. The contractor who got shot today building a road near Jenin...

And just now a bus just blew up near Uhm El Fahm.

No. a bus station - vadi ara. 3-4 injured, the terrorist dead...

we don't need to worry about being nuked by Sadam - we have enough at home, thank you.

September 19

how can I still be in this country and not write about what is happening. A big bomb, right near the big synagogue (whose dome Ezi's grandfather built) - the heart of tel aviv - there are still bodies in the bus at least 12 dead. We never do details, but one old guy managed to describe how parts of bodies rained on him as he stood near the bus. Pieces of flesh. And the cell phones aren't working so I can't find my kids. I had considered going to the city to buy presents for my nieces, but I guess they'll do fine without presents this year. And now Orit showed up here. Neither of us know where Oren is.

now we found him. I call a few friends, make sure they're okay. And that's the end of the standard ritual.

i hope this is goodbye for a few weeks, but somehow i doubt it.

Karen Alkalay-Gut Home