Tel Aviv Diary - April 19-23 2011 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 19, 2011

Where did the day go? It seems we're in a frantic rush to see our old friends and family we haven't had a chance to meet since new years. Every hour seem taken up with reunions - always pleasant and sometimes profound. An intimate lunch here, a reconnective phone call there, a dozen friends here... it prepares us to sustain the rest of the hectic sprint toward summer.

Because we led the seder, and it took place at our own pace, we got through the whole thing - with a few little skippings. The photos in the Hagadah helped us remember that we are all involved, all are allowed to contribute, criticize, kvetch, while feeling united as a group. I mean who could not feel the sudden shocks at some of what is there and what is absent from the text. I'm already digging my heels in at the kiddush, that announcement of our chosen status - but then I think the chosen status is an imperative, ordering us to behave as model human beings, and I go on. The guy next to me says something about the violence of the plagues, especially the last one, and I am suddenly defending the story because the 'story' of the Exodus from egypt takes place with the same motif - the murdering of the Jewish sons.

But it isn't mentioned. Because we don't like heroes, the name of Moses doesn't get brought up in the Hagaddah. As if they threaten the concept of monotheism. The Jews are the only ones whose faith is named by the people, not a prophet.

So all this visiting and socializing is appropriate to the religion.

And, as they say in Yiddish, nine Rabbis can't make a minyan, but ten shoemakers can. That is, leaders are no more important than the group itself.

April 20, 2011

Traffic jams kept me home today - the fear of the crowds - made me spend the day working. But the holiday spirit is too great for me - tomorrow I'll have to get out. And after the holiday, we may even take a vacation!

April 21, 2011

So we faced the crowds. We took extra time to get to the dentist because we thought there would be traffic jams and we wound up half an hour early. Then we went shopping and the only reason we had to wait in line was because the clerk had no idea how to figure out the cash register. Everyone is abroad - except, it seems, for little children. They are all over the place. Thank goodness school starts next Wednesday.

April 22, 2011

And to close this entire section on shopping, here is a passover anecdote. We hadn't been to the little supermarket where we usually go since way before the holidays. So it was a little shock to see so much of it draped in white plastic. It wasn't only that the chametz was covered up, but there were signs. "Kosher for Passover" on some shelves, "Not kosher for passover" on other shelves, and then "Absolutely Not Kosher for Passover: Not for Sale" on other shelves. "What will you DO with all those Matzos all along the wall?" I asked the Muslim cashier, "Who's going to eat all that?" "You people still have the holiday until Tuesday, you know." She answered, and separated the sticky plastic bag I was struggling with.

April 23, 2011

I must work! I must work! I declare, but there is no working when this society celebrates. How could I work when long lost friends ask if they can come by and show their new baby? how can I possibly be condemned to work when my family offers dinner and a movie in Tel Aviv. Never mind that MeatBar serves frozen cooked t-bone steaks, we're sitting on the sidewalk in an evening that threatens to rain at any moment, and they're out of decaf - it is glorious. And to see 'True Grit' that denies divine intervention or the power of the law or nature, but relies instead on the individual, was perfect. What a film to see on a holiday which reminds us that there are no heroes (Moses isn't mentioned in the Hagadah so we won't take our attention away from God)! We must rely on our imperfect selves, I do recommend "True Grit" seen in the backdrop of Passover.

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