Tel Aviv Diary April 24, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from April 24, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 24, 2004

We've moving into Memorial Day. Some younger women I am close to - fun-loving bar-crawlers - told me yesterday that they can't bear the thought of living through another memorial day. Each of them has a relative killed in war or terrorism or has to spend the day comforting a friend... Most of them are working that day but will take a few hours off. So what do you do on the weekend before the day that ends with a memorial ceremony tha precedes a few hours at the cemetery and then ends with a raucous patriotic party? Because Monday night is Independence Day - barbeque, dancing, nostalgia.

I just had a thought - Is that why Sharon announced that Arafat is fair game? So he can kill him on Independence Day? And then we can disengage with what remains?

Let's not go there.

Let's go back to August, 1939. My parents on a boat, all their worldly goods on the deck, spot the Promised Land. They're going to be saved! No more Nazis beating up my father! The promised invasion into Danzig will find them gone! My mother looks over the papers again. It says nothing about my father's communist past, so the British have no reason to reject the false papers arranged by the Joint. But some guy in Lida has been chatting up my father's sister, flirting, flattering, to find out her brother's plans. And he's about to get his reward - my parents' worldly goods. Maybe some money too. And my parents - for whom that Haifa port had meant the difference between life and death - sent back to Danzig, on the eve of Hitler's invasion.

We were sitting around a Saturday afternoon dimsum in Tel Aviv while a suicide bomber was being cornered a mile away. It was only on the way home we began to suspect something was going on. Something about the way the cops were talking to each other at one of the exits. Later on we saw it at the news.

April 25, 2004

Don't forget the Mifkad, the people's voice for peace. As of last week 176,600 Israelis and 137,000 Palestinians have joined. It's no where near enough, so tell everyone you know about it.

On my way home at 6 this afternoon, listening to a poem of Zelda's, I suddenly remembered I'd forgotten to hang out a flag, and raced to find where I'd put it last year. It was a powerful drive, to show support on Memorial Day - And my flag here today on this site is Zelda's poem.

Zelda Mishovsky


Each man has a name

given him by God

and by his father and mother

each man has a name

given him by his stature and his smile

and given him by his clothes

each man has a name

given him by the hills

and given him by his walls

each man has a name

given him by his fate

and given him by his friends

each man has a name

given him by his sins

and given him by his yearnings

each man has a name

given him by his enemies

and given him by his love

each man has a name

given him by his celebrations

and given him by his work

each man has a name

given him by the seasons

and given him by his blindness

each man has a name

given him by the sea

and given him

by his death.

(My problem with it is the word "Ish" which translates as "man" but is just a bit less gender specific.)

The Druze, courageous contributors to the military effort, as also of those who suffer the most from military losses. Beit J'han, a Druze village, has the highest quotient of losses in the country.

And with that, one of my favorite poems ever is that of Naim Araidi,which also belongs on this page on this day:

And Many Nations


And many nations shall come there and speak

and I shall be among them,

a man who bears to men

a poem.

And they shall beat their swords

into plough shares

sometimes bearing spears

sometimes hymns

and I shall be among them,

a man who bears to men

a poem.


Enemies are sometimes friends

and the vigor of the horses

raises the value of the rider

soldiers dead in battle

are fallen forever

and the entire the life of peace

is due to those awful deaths

but poets in their life and death

remain but poets

and I shall be among them

a man who carries to men

a poem.


Violins are never warm

if they are never in human hands

and in summer, when the stones are warm

the spirit is within them, perhaps like blood.

Man sometimes errs, curses, rages, quarrels

but forgets at the passing of the storm

and will say it has never been

and will play other melodies

and I shall be among them

a man who carries to men

a poem.

April 26, 2004

So the siren goes off at 11. I was shopping, driving into my demi-culo supermarket on the side of the student dorms, and pulled over under a tree. All around me people were standing, heads down, at-ease position. Old men, young women, everyone in mourning. This year for the first time since I can recall the number of victims was mentioned - 21,782. For a country our size it's pretty daunting. And I dont know if it counts victims of all terrorist acts, only the recent terrorist acts, or only soldiers. But I wasn't thinking about the statistics during the two minute siren. I was thinking of the boys I'd known who had lost their futures and their future generations in these senseless battles.

The birds in the tree above me were chirping like crazy, as though the sirens had driven them wild. Or maybe they too understood the loss, the terrible loss.

As the day continues, the quiet becomes more comforting, less painful. We have a party to go to tonight - what do we bring, what do we wear, who will be there. And because I was a little involved in the planning, I know we're having dancing, felafel, and ice cream - like in the old days.

Yes, it was the party of the year.

April 27, 2004

While we were in my neice's penthouse barbequeing - 1 million people had picnics in the public parks. As signficant is the fact that between 50-100 thousand Israelis demonstrated today in the West Bank against disengagement. There are pretty agressive signs all over the place in Tel Aviv, stirring up people against disengagement. That in itself would be an indication that disengagement is imminent. But everything seems to be such a mess. How many people of the religious fanatics don't even acknowledge memorial day here (or the state of israel) even though they get a nice dole and subsidies for yeshivot and manage of avoid army duty, taxes, etc.

April 28, 2004

As we were going in and out of the car yesterday on our way to various celebrations and visits, we kept the radio tuned to 103 which had a comedy skit marathon. We knew the old ones - and waited for them: Dahn Ben Amotz's "Diary of a School Boy," about the kid whose mother forces him to keep a diary so he records his agressions, plants a bomb in the school, and when his father sends him back to apologize, answers, "What school?" A very interesting lesson in the early sixties about the danger of agression from a very serious writer. Then there was the skit of the "Pale Trackers" about the guy who comes to the army to get his car that had been comandeered for the Yom Kippur War. "Where's the radio?" "It had a radio?" "Yes, it had a radio." Oh, the guys took it out to listen to the news at the base." "Go - drive away. The keys are in the ignition." "Where are the seats?" "There were seats" .... On and on, and the position of the individual in the society occupied with defence and the confusion surrounding it is less and less relevant. Shaike Ofir as Arab English Teacher explaining Hamlet to his class has some of the most useful definitions I remember all the time. Like his explanation of a monologue as a person talking to himself and a dialogue as two people talking to themselves. The idea being that a person coming from a different cultural framework will see different things in works of literature. And they can be humorous and profound. That all cultural perspectives can be learned from. Just like all social levels are valuable in his comedy skits. The problem for Shake Ofir's characters is always that the character accepts dominant values and can't fit himself into them, but they always prove the nobility of the individual as individual.

Sorry t get so serious about comedy, but when we found ourselves coming late to every event because we sat in the car and waited for the skit to end, we realized what we truly cared about.

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