Tel Aviv Diary April 15-30, 2017 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel -Aviv Diary - April 15-30, 2017 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 15, 2017

Rivka was fine. Her dark cottage turned bright again in an hour.

As Holocaust Day nears I begin again my search for lost relatives and their histories. I discover my aunt the partisan who fought with the soviets can get no credit in Lithuania or Belarus because they consider Russia a totalitarian state and jews who fought with them enemies of the people. Maybe that's why I can't find out anything about her.

Because we will be occupied all morning tomorrow and it is erev hag and we'll have no time to cook and we have 14 guests we hadn't figured on, we decided to go to Tiv Tam today. The decision came after we had coffee with cousins in the 7 star mall, but all the usual supermarkets are closed on shabbat, so we decided to go to Tiv Tam. Visiting Tiv Tam is like going abroad to Mother Russia - not only are all foods available there - including treif and hametz - but the abundance, quality, and variety is unlike anything in the regular supermarkets. The organic foods and beauty products section is run by a pharmacist, a middle aged woman in hijab who is quite knowledgeable, but the meat and cheese sections features only Russian women. We came home loaded down with goodies we had not thought to buy, and after a rest until sundown we'll begin cooking and setting up.

The idea of going there came to me after I read in Haaretz an article on the large number of Russians who leave Israel after they have established themselves here. Some for education and employment, some for ideology, some for other opportunities. But I wanted to be reminded of all the three quaters of a million Russians who remain here, and live their lives as if they were in Russia. Their culture and language and diet is Russian, and it is very much a contribution to our own freedom.

April 16, 2017

Yesterday was my mother's birthday - she would have been 112. She probably would have lived longer than 82 years, but had no desire to live after my father died.

I wonder what she would have thought of my stubborn life style pushing against the religious constrictions of this country. What would she have thought of my buying treif on Shabbas? And if I had been living in the US I would probably have been in synagogue at the same time.

April 17, 2017

I thought we would take the second holiday lightly. Maybe visit some relatives, maybe go out for dinner, maybe watch a good movie. But I wound up with 15 people for dinner, and worse yet the guests turned out to be six kids who weren't interested in food, one adult was sick and suspiciously contagious, two left their kids off and came back an hour and a half later, and I would have given anything to just put my feet up. But it was still a lovely dinner, and we have leftovers if you want to come by. They'll be around for a while because we're going out to lunch today and dinner tomorrow.

April 19, 2017

On the way back from taking Oren to the airport we took a short cut and stopped in some strange outlet shopping center in Petach Tikva. A strip mall that seems to cater to the extreme religious because of the special supermarket - yesh chesed - that feeds the poor. I went crazy there - all kinds of clothes I usually grab up in the US because it's so cheap there and so expensive here. leggings, gym clothes, socks, etc. Even Ezi bought clothes - simple and useful stuff. It was 7 and the mall was pretty much empty - just like in the US. In the mall near where we live (and pretty much every mall in Israel) there is almost always big action.

A mysterious flu kept us from going north yesterday to the memorial for Tina. First Ezi and then I fell strangely ill - a 12 hour flu, it seems. By this afternoon it was over.

April 20, 2017

The absolute disdain i have for the humanity of Bibi yesterday turned to a bit of pity. Not only was he responsible for the debacles of the last war, but he had no idea how to handle the bereaved families who came to the Knesset to participate in the debate over the publication of the mistakes of this war. He had brought his two Rottweilers - Biton and Zohar - to bite back at any criticism, but they were not trained properly.

A delightful place sit, watch people, and eat vegetarian is Bocca Cafe on Ahad Haam Street. They spell it Bocke I think. I had an amazing kinoa burger there today and we spent a few lovely hours facing the sidewalk where an endless number of interesting people stopped. It took us a while to find a place there. We started at Nechama and a Half, moved around Habima square, and finally found a place to sit there. It was worth the search.

April 22, 2017

Antishefa yesterday was as good as ever. But it came after a grueling morning at the dentist which followed an early gym class, so we didn't go gallivanting with the crew. Nevertheless there was dinner at daughters and then a blessed day of rest. The hamsin brought the temperature to 35 centigrade and closing the windows and shades and basking in the cool shabbat was blessed.

Tel Aviv is battling to keep its little grocery stores open on shabbat and there is much debate on the nature of shabbat. Me i do like the idea of a day of rest, but hate the idea of being forced to do anything. Everything here is becoming a matter of religious domination and it is our fault. I mean if we accept the theocracy it's our responsibility - we're the majority.

April 23, 2017

Holocaust Day is tomorrow, and the mood is already changing in the country. We are going to visit the painting of Kurt Gerron, hanging for a few months in the Stark Museum in Haifa, and revisiting his story. Every time I begin research on him, my understanding changes. Every piece of writing I read, teaches me more about this human being whose humanity prevented him from leaving in time.

{apologies for the size of the photographs. i will try to change them without sneaking a peak at the text)

The mood changes during the day. We visit the exhibit and apologize to Kurt that we are leaving him alone for so many months in this place where his name is not even mentioned and no one knows a word about his history, his greatness, his tragedy.

And there is no place to tell it in the Struck museum. When the curators cancelled their appointment with us Ezi tried to explain to them who he was and what was the significance of this painting, but there seemed to be little interest. They are art curators, not historians.

It was a relief to discover the perfect counter to this sadness - the Elheir restaurant. Something about the openness of the view of this restaurant opposite the cinemateque, the joy in the fresh, local foods; the warmth of the owner;

Highly recommended.

April 24, 2017

I haven't figured out how to make the pictures smaller yet.

As hard as I tried to plan my trip this morning, I didn't figure on a big traffic jam, so when the siren went off I was just turning the corner on a major highway. Of course all traffic stopped, and of course we all got out of our cars and stood at attention. A few seconds later a man a few cars down, clearly an Asian foreigner, got out of his car and looked around. He was clearly surprised at the siren, the silence, the seriousness of the event, and crawled back into the car to look for his camera. No one moved. He began taking pictures. No one moved. After, I thought that I would not have liked to have my picture taken without combing my hair and putting on some lipstick, but at the moment I could think of nothing else but my aunts. I was focussed today on an aunt, Batia Berenzyk, who, according to my mother, perished in Auschwitz with her husband, and, perhaps, her children. There is no record in Bad Arolson but there is no record of them elsewhere. I thought, suddenly, what if she really survived and she is now standing somewhere at attention.

A few hours later, as I was leaving the dentists office, I heard Rabbi Lau being interviewed somewhere in Poland. Most of the time I turn off the radio on Holocaust Day, because it is really much too depressing, but he came on just after the news, and I was expecting psalms or something, but he began to complain about how the Syrian people are being treated and how it shames the world. For him, the Holocaust teaches how we must be alert to the pain of those around us.

The debate of our responsibility for our Syrian neighbors is constant and continuous in these past few weeks. It is our duty to help, even if the rest of the middle east ignores the situation. But our efforts are minor considering the enormity of their tragedy.

April 25, 2017

Yom Tov Samia is running in the Labor party. I have hope.

All the controversy today about the German Foreign minister. the meeting with Breaking the Silence, the refused phone call, the mistakes as i see it on both sides - all this was forgotten when we went to the early show to see Jim Jarmush's Paterson. It is one of the best films I've seen in a very long time, but I'm first going to talk about the people who go to early early shows. Mostly elderly people, but their distinguished age didn't prevent them from keeping their phones on - on silence - and checking their messages. Some people came in after the film started, some left before the end, some talked. it was like it was in somebody's living room. I've never been to an early early show before - and maybe I won't go back again.

But the movie - well I know I usually talk about growing up in Tel Aviv - but the movie, the movie - was about everything I try to do in my poetry. Not that the poetry was that good, but "No ideas but in things" is my thing. That's what "Hanging Around The House" is playing with. By the way, if you like me, please order it on Amazon. I'm having big problems with them ordering books from me and need to wake up the system a bit.

April 26, 2017

The big cyber attack yesterday probably from Iran may have been the reason there was a bit of a glitch in my system for a few minutes. I was too naive to notice and only heard of it the morning after.

A man came up to Ezi at the pool and told him he could be a double for the president. Rivlin! Ezi?! What an amazing comparison. Ezi, nonplussed, replied that he does in fact cover for the president sometimes. I on the other hand started immediately thinking of points of reference and with whom we compare ourselves. Why are there so few people we can really respect? Who can we model ourselves by? Is there any country we would want to escape to? Any one we trust with our lives? Suddenly I am less unhappy with my own president.

And I sleep with his double tonight.

April 27, 2017

Rivka Bassman today told me a story about her late husband, Mula Ben Haim. I am particularly tuned to stories about him because my mother used to baby-sit him in Lida. He survived the war to become a painter. I remember visiting him in his kibbutz atelier with my parents, but I didn't know his work until much later, and didn't know that his wife was a poet. He had a studio in Zefat but didn't sell as well as the others, primarily because - like me - he didn't have a business mentality, and one day he was asked by a potential client about a painting. "What is that behind the mountains?" the customer asked. And Mula answered, "Canvas."

It is almost as funny and significant as that anecdote about James Joyce who in exile kept a framed picture of his beloved county Cork, and was asked, "What is that?" to which he answered, "Cork." "I meant the frame," the visitor commented, "What is that?" "Cork."

In the mean time we shot down some things coming from Syria tonight - in retaliation for our bombing the weapons coming into Syria for Hizballah from Iran. A nice situation.

April 28, 2017

We didn't have time for breakfast after gym and before the optimologist, so we thought that after the pharmacy in the mall we'd a bite before i have to go to the dentist. but the crowds were so daunting we went home for brunch.

Why the dentist AGAIN? The crowns were put in last week and the one on the root canal started to wiggle. The tooth couldn't hold the weight. So my tooth is in trauma and so am I. I'm back to eating on one side.

But never mind. Soon we'll all go to the pool and I'll forget it all.

We went to the beach - and discovered that the pier that Ezi's father built is gone without a trace. It was of no value for a long time - other systems had replaced it and it had probably been torn down months and months ago. but as soon as Ezi saw it he began to reminisce. He knew exactly how the pier had been built, because he too worked on it. he knew the methods, how it was built according to the design of the bridge at Raqqa, the materials, and the order. No one else knows this. I urged him to write it down and tried to leave him alone for the evening. We'll see what happens.


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