june 15

Among a thousand other events in my dream last night, there was one scene in which I join a group of Arab men in a cafe at Oxford University and I say something like 'okay, let's thrash this out once and for all - let's get it decided.' They are very amused by my silly Israeli directness, and order coffee and we flatter each other for a while.

And I wake up remembering an old poem I wrote about bargaining. I think it's from ignorant armies



When I was very small

Aunt Raisel who survived the holocaust

said to the peddlar, "You call this fabric?"

Look how it wrinkles, see how it tears,"

"Why the Queen of England wears

no better wool." "And bought it from you,

I suppose. I'll give you two groschen

for this rag, no more." "No less than four

could I take for such cloth. Your mother--

who never married--taught you nothing."

"Your father was a thief before you, I knew

him well in our town." Thus she would

jew him down, and I was red with shame.

Later, each spit on the curb where the other walked,

angry and sure he'd been had.


Margalit, from Spain, took me to the wholesalers

one day for a bathing suit. Her way

was to draw close to the man

and remind him of all she had bought

before, all the women she had steered

to his store. "We have a special friendship

she whispered, with an elbow and a wink.

I think, "It'll never work,"

but we walk out with our low-priced parcel

and broad smiles. When I look back in the shop

I see him counting our cash again, grinning.

The bathing suit fades in the first sun.


Gentle Anne shops in the shuk for gifts

"That plate is lovely," she breathes,

"How much?" The swarthy shopkeeper quotes a price

I can only sniff at--two hundred is outrageously high.

But she puts the plate on the counter

and continues admiring the engraving,

the way it catches the light.

"Yes, and that pitcher--how heavy and solid it is.

My mother would just love that shade of blue."

He smiles, polishes the glass with his sleeve.

"You have such fine things here. It is an honor

to be in a shop owned by a man of good taste."

She wouldn't waste her words, dear Anne,

and never--as far as I know--lies.

The shopkeeper orders coffee for three:

I tug at her sleeve, "The price! The price!"

"It's all right," she smiles, and I think,

absurdly, of ancient women--Rebecca, Yochevet, Shulamit.

Over coffee she tells of her husband, the babies, her writing

and asks the man about his shop, his wife, living in Yaffo.

All the while I watch the stack of plates,

trays, and statuettes she has put aside.

When we've finished our coffee, and the final candlestick

has been placed in the pile,

She says, "This is all worth so much--

these gifts will please my family--

but I only have three hundred

to spend today."

They go back and forth a while and agree

with all the sweetness and quiet

Anne is known for.

We walk past the shops

carrying her parcels

carrying her peace.

Now what's wrong with this poem - for my purposes today - is the fact that it doesn't really foreground either the Arab or the Israeli way of bargaining. It just points out some distinctions in ways of negotiating.

We Israelis started out by rejecting the convoluted way of bargaining of surviving in the diaspora. We're home now - we don't need to play games. But we went a little far with it -and raised a generation of people who are consciously insensitive to others.

I suspect that the Palestinians, on the other hand, have raised a generation of people who have forgotten realistic goals.

But I'm still struggling with this stupid infected finger. So more of this later.

later this evening

Part of the latest Abu Shakra Gallery exhibit from Uhm Al Fahm opened tonight at a gallery on "Citizen Alley." (Um El Fachem Art Gallery,Albatan, POB 30010, Um El Fachem, 04-6315257) Every leftist artist for miles around was there - and all the sentiments of love and peace. The amazing thing was that from what I could see (peering over the heads of all the people) the art was great. Absolutely genuine. Lee - who's got something exhibited in the Uhm Al Fahem part of the exhibit, said I could find it on the website. But I can't find a website, and I couldn't find Lee again, or Farid Abu Shakra (whom I haven't seen for 2 years) so I don't know how to find out more about it. And I can't find the invitation right now. I'll have to go back to the gallery when it's not as fashionable.

Today's news is filled with the beginning of the building of the fence. "Good Fences makes good neighbors" I was saying last month. But I also said it can only work if it is part of a bigger strategm. If it indeed becomes only one element allowing us to cool down and think rationally. If it is built without any attempt to consider and/or assuage the local residents, it may cause more problems than it solves.

Still my self-preservation instinct makes me want to stroke the wall, to pet it, to say - you keep us safe, you hear.

June 18

Yesterday's entry wasn't saved in time and the system fell and it was all erased. And now we wake to a new tragedy - the jerusalem bus with at least 10 people killed and 20 injured (injured means a few arms and legs missing at best). The guy who blew himself up yesterday had AIDS so even that is now being used as a legitimate weapon.

I'm watching the first footage of the explosion and seem to identify among the sad injured and confused people i know and love.

The facts boggle the mind - as always - More and more people dead - I imagine always - unwillingly - the ends of days when all these people are reunited with their limbs.

The reality does not sink in.

Until the details emerge, I escape to the idyllic past. Last night we went to see Sharon Moldavi sing - Deep under Dizengoff Center. He had a new song about how his homeland is the Hebrew language - an indication of the same kind of search for equilibrium I myself am experiencing. He has opened up as a singer, and his voice carries genuine emotion. It was a great experience.

Thursday night, at a party for Ezi's coworkers (the one where the cat bit me) Some of us recalled that the last time we met, it was a tour of jerusalem, innocently arranged by the union. It turned out to be a propaganda tour rather than a cultural one, and it was the hottest day in August - and we were all incensed. I dug up the poem I wrote then - never published - because it happened just before the 'intifada' and we got distracted by the consequences of what we saw. When I looked back at it now, it seemed very prophetic, albeit naive.


Everything he said enraged me

It was as if he were dripping

poison into my ears, even though

most of his spiel sounded perfectly

innocuous. Like that little remark

about the purity of its air.

No polluting industries for the Holy City

he said, and we all knew

that it was our own air being polluted

to make the products

that kept Jerusalem clean.

Every place he took us enraged me,

even though I do not hate this city,

and the food we ate, both at

the kosher restaurant

and the gate, was


The tunnel that took us

under Bethlehem

under Ramallah

showed me we had created

two levels

to this town

to suit our vision

The dress of the women, Muslim and Jew,

was more similar to each other than to mine.

And the babies in their arms

clinging to their long dresses,

had the same eyes, so different

from the eyes of those

I myself have raised.

Then I returned to the perspective of Tel Aviv

and saw that I myself

am creating these distinctions

moving even the mothers of Jerusalem

from my heart – only because they live

in that city that has caused such pain.

Still, I remained

a tourist

in my own land

at the Wall, enjoyed

the laminated prayer

hanging on the entrance

to the toilets, praising

the Lord who has created us all

with holes and entrances

And kerchiefed I approach the Wall

and squeezed a note in a cranny

that said: Please

arrange a little earthquake

to swallow all the holy places

without harming a single soul.

June 18

The terrible tragedy in jerusalem yesterday - like every other terrorist attack - causes waves and waves of emotion among all populations here. But what emotions? The leftist author A.B. Yehoshua says we had better give them what they want or we'll have another holocaust here. The rightist author Eyal Megged concludes the opposite. Megged, who lives near the venues of the recent attacks, has seen with his own eyes the body parts and other mutilations of the bombs. He is personally traumatized. Yehoshua see the murder and anger as a symptom of the Palestinian problem, and believes a state would solve the hate.

me, i don't know.

last night, as a result of two writers writing in to me from opposite points of view - asking me 1 how could i agree to a wall and 2 were there really more than a few Arabs in israel before '48 - influenced this strange 'dream' i had. I was an 8 year old in Balata named Basmallah. I didn't see what i looked like, because there were no mirrors i could reach in my house.

My mother was sitting on the faded red velvet couch (with the fringes underneath where i hide my ball) and talking to my brother - the third one. She is trying to convince to work in some positive job, helping people. He has just come back from being arrested by the Israelis and there are still red marks on his hands where the plastic cuffs bit into him. The arrest has made him very angry, and he needs to get rid of his humiliation. He wants to make bombs, but my mother tells him to learn how to dress wounds. She makes him mint tea and tries to calm him with gentle tones.

then i was back in my bed, myself.

I realize that part of this dream was due to the fact that the dog decided to join us in bed and kept pushing me to the edge, so i was feeling very pressed and crowded.

June 18

7 killed – north Jerusalem – French Hill – forty wounded. Mostly women and children blown up by a woman bomber who rushed up to the people waiting for a bus and exploded herself.

We discovered it this minute when we came home from a party a few minutes ago. I still don’t have details

Before I left home I was watching the Israeli Parliament debates on television – Arabs and Jews giving speeches about illegal building. Neither of them talked to the other – both sides heckled the other. Even in the Knesset no one can listen to the other. Without dialogue how can there be anything but destruction.

At the annual party we were noting the fact that we have lost the ability to host guests. “I don’t have the patience,” I said, “Especially when people who visit want to be foregrounded, given special attention. People who in the past I could have learned from, I can’t even look in the eye now.” I was pretty ashamed of myself – of my lack of largeness – but I know that when we had a guest for this semester it was very difficult for me to devote myself to arranging events for him. All I could think of was how I wanted him to help others here, to contribute to a community in need. So now I’ve become ungracious as well as hysterical.

I used to think that people become kinder in times of trial, but most of us have become very tuned to ourselves.

My friend asked me to answer her question in public. She asks why I am making myself so open to criticism by publishing first thoughts on the Web. She suggests i polish my thoughts, write a book, edit it, and then present it to a publisher.

It is probably the wise career move - but i do believe there is a value to this immediacy - even if i don't come off as a great writer.

June 19

I receive many letters from people of all directions. I don't have the patienct or the time to argue with all of them but all of them have something of value, and to ignore them here would be to go against my principles on these pages, to open a dialogue.

Two days ago i received a letter from Franec Wygoda - which was first amazing to me because he had downloaded the pages of my diary that got erased by accident - and restored them to me. But then it was aqmazing to me because he deserves answers, particularly from poets. Here is part of the letter:

. I am a native of Poland and I lived in Poland during martial law in the 1980s; then I was a member of the pacifist movement “Freedom and Peace,” an activist and advocate of non-violent civil resistance. I am Jewish even if I did not grow up in Judaism and for a long time I struggled to recognize and understand my Jewishness. I am also a poet raised within the idiom of Polish poetry that over last two centuries has drawn its strength from both protesting against oppression and extreme sensitivity to the misuse of language. This is indeed the source of poetry of such authors as Czeslaw Milosz, Wislawa Szymborska or the late Zbigniew Herbert. Accordingly, I believe real literature captures truth sometimes even against the ideology of its author (Dostoyevsky being the most obvious case in point). Furthermore, I believe the worse the reality is, the more clear becomes what’s right what’s wrong; the choices simplify and “yets” and “buts” turn from qualifiers into excuses (when the situation gets better things again get complicated, but that’s a different matter). In bad times it becomes clear who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed. This is where I think Israel and the Palestinians are now, and I am not trying to write as a political analyst but as a poet, from the perspective of what comes out as a result of this moral consideration, and disregarding other factors. Paradoxically, what’s bad for people, for poetry may be good (so to speak) and that’s also where Israel is now – providing that its poets can stand up to the challenge of pursuing and telling the truth beyond their national and personal allegiances. .....What I would like to know more about is the Israeli side, namely why the Israeli intelligentsia does not demand from their state to put an end to the colonization of the West Bank and Gaza and dismantle the settlements? (Or maybe it is that these demands just don’t reach me?) Frankly, the lack of such voices on the side of those considering themselves liberal intellectuals reads as their tacit support for the colonization. Contrary to the appearances the issue of settlements is not an inseparable part of the present conflict both on moral and practical plane.

I remember '67 well. I remember also that Israelis at that time felt that, except for Jerusalem, nothing in these territories would remain with Israel - they would be returned to Jordan and Egypt. Sadat didn't want Gaza, because he knew how troublesome it would be, and Hussein would not have taken back the "West Bank" either. The idea of Palestine, and the Palestinian State, began to emerge then. As one of my right wing nephews always says, Israel created the need for Palestine.

But I also believe, with Mr. Wygoda, that Palestine should exist because these people now believe it should. And I believe, that the sources and origins don't matter any more. That we have to create a present and a future.

As for the intellectuals in Israel -i would say they are very vocal - within the country - but I've got to stop now - person from porlock - let me write about this at night when i'm not supposed to be working.