Tel Aviv Diary September 9-13, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - September 9-13, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut


september 9, 2004

Lots of rockets falling on Sderot. Someone from there told me today he's in a state of habitual panic. This has been going on for years. The other day they showed rocket drills at schools there.

"Bad enough getting no salary," says my friend, who works for the municipality and hasn't been paid his tiny wage in six months, "but poor and endangered both - that's shit."

Our little packages of food are literally a drop in the bucket. Apparently 650,000 applied for food for the holiday. And as far as I know this is the first year there has ever been a need for it.

My own package consisted of pasta, sugar, canned goods, oil, honey. And I know that whoever takes this package will be someone who has not gone to the movies in a long time, who is not even thinking about new clothes for the holiday.

And with all this we went shopping today for a dress for the holiday - on dizengoff - the boutiques. There is not doubt that i don't need a new dress, but my daughter does, and yet she isguilty about the thought. Of course.

But shopping on degenerate dizengoff remains an adventure - the pregnant bride in the window is just a tiny indication of the postmodern wink of the street to the whole subject of dress. Maybe SOME people take it seriously, but not me!

September 10, 2004

School has started. I was leafing through some of the schoolbooks here, wondering about how they represent the mess we're in. It turns out schoolbooks are under review at the Center For Monitoring the Impact of Peace. This one is a report on Israel, but you can also find Egypt, Palestine, etc. Wow.

What a difference! No wonder even the nicest people can't talk to each other. If it is a basic truth, for example, than Jews are never to be trusted, we really can't get very far with making peace agreements.

Tomorrow's the 11th of September, but since Jewish holy days always begin the evening before we're already into it. Sit around talking about where we were, who we knew, what could have been done... Of course the whole world is doing the same thing, not just Tel Aviv.

The personal becoming universal

But I didn't know my friend Veronica's connection to the Beslan disaster until she wrote. Her blog site here shows the emotions, emotions i recognize from within.

September 11, 2004

When Daniel Marcus died in a road accident 9 years ago, his family was devastated. A soldier, a rower, a billiard player, and a wonderful and dynamic young man, it seemed impossible to overcome. The Daniel Amichai center for rowing was built to commemorate him. It is on the Yarkon river, in the shape of a beautiful overturned boat. There are courses, boats, equipment, professional encouragement for all -- turning an elite sport into a popular one. Today was a regatta, and the speeches of the mayor and his mother Linda and subsequently all the others were encouraging the rowers to start thinking about training for the Olympics in Beijing. All this reminded us that with enough tenacity and vision (and money) terrible tragedy can be transformed to hope.

It's a particularly appropriate day to get this message - when so much tragedy has not been ameliorated in any way.

Food. We are planning our Rosh Hashana menu, and i keep thinking about a conversation I had with an Arab friend about food. She said that she made traditional food for some foreign guests and then they were supposed to go to an Israeli house for dinner and wondered what they would be served - that is, what is traditional Israeli food. No one could come up with a satisfactory answer. There isn't any food, they said, that is traditionally Israeli.

That was last month and the question keeps coming back to me. When I was in Taibe last week I found myself describing my own background and the fact that we had almost no knowledge of vegetables at our table. We had tsimmes, potatoes, beans and onions. Celery in the soup. My father, I said, was the first person in his town (Lida) to eat a tomato. We all laughed at that.

But since then I've been remembering - that they had such a restricted diet simply because they were poor, forbidden to own land (and work it). There were a few chickens, but they were kept for the eggs and rare occasions. The luxury of meat was much more rare, and in my parents' home, despite their increased income, the holiday food was based on pasta or potatoes: kugel, kreplach, latkes.

All the Jewish food, Liz once said to me, is just stolen from the area in which the Jews lived, overlooking the fact that this just means that Jews had no home and therefore could never establish a cuisine.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, in Israel, the new immigrants from Europe continued the Jewish tradition, gradually incorporating Arab dishes as well as food from the Sephardic kitchen. This incorporation of cuisines has continued so that the traditional Israeli cuisine is totally postmodern. With pockets of old national traditions. Today, for example, we went to a Hungarian restaurant where we compared their cooking with our own, their goulash with our goulash, their stuffed cabbage with ours, their lecho with our gevetch. My paprikash is better than their paprikash, i proclaimed (although no one answered me). We have to make some kaposta, we said, as we gobbled it down, like grandpa used to make (Bandi) Even though we were provincial in our referential palates, however, the experience was totally Hungarian - and not only because the people at the next table were speaking Hungarian.

When we came home we looked up the dessert (Turos Gomboc) in our Hungarian cookbook (written by the head of the third biggest political party in this country, Shinui, Tomy Lapid), and are now considering modifying the recipes for our own holiday menus.

But i have suddenly remembered my mother's taiglach - especially made for a sweet year - and now i'm going to look it up in the Hadassah cookbook.

September 12, 2004

What a site! I'd be interested in hearing what you think and whether you are going to be involved in this. It is movement to stop terrorism by urging governments to cut off the money for terrorist movements. It is here. At least it is something specific to do.

My efforts to get young people to vote in the U.S. elections has been pretty much wasted. Only 3 days to the deadline for registration and I can't get people interested - my argument is that even if they are indifferent now to the elections they might change their minds if something happens and they should keep their options open. I'm faced with total indifference. Maybe if I could get them interested in these watches they'd want to vote.

September 13, 2004

What do I think of Barak's return to politics? I hate people who back out when the going is tough and then come back when he thinks he'll win. He was needed way back then at the beginning of the intifada, even though he was needed because he was one of the reasons for the intifada. and he left. and he left his wife. so i have to be shown that he's a human being first.

Hmm wait - who IS a human being in politics? If Minister Poraz can say there is no hunger in this country and introduce a bill to prevent workers from getting interest on the debts coming to them from the municipality - salaries unpaid for years - i don't know what...

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