Tel Aviv Diary - April 18-22 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - April 23-27, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 23-27, 2009

April 27, 2009

We always begin the day before. Holidays, ceremonies, memorials. But to me the day in memory of all the soldiers is always preceded by a day of teaching that is interrupted by a service. The service is always followed by more classes but I never know what I'm talking about by then. I look out at the students and see victims - young people mourning. And then the campus is empty, every one rushing home with little to discuss on the day. By six the shops are closed and the streets are empty. We watch the national ceremony on TV and the pictures of all the soldiers I have known flash before me. Their families gather together in my thoughts. The friends lost in terror attacks visit me once again.

The waste of it - the waste of war - No one ever gives a speech about honor and glory of war, only the loss, and the honor of the dead. It is one of the few times when I am happy to hear the name of our anthem, the Hope. Few people can be unaffected by this day. Not all that long ago I was hanging out khaki uniforms on the line on a Friday morning, and noticed how many of my neighbors were doing the same thing. Olive green or khaki, the mothers were hanging out the army laundry for the weekend, and were very happy to do it because it meant their child was safe and sound for the sabbath.

What of the Arabs, you say? Well, tomorrow evening, as I begin the celebrations for Independence Day, I will not mourn their day of loss so much as wish them a cause for Independence Day celebrations as well.

April 26, 2009

Let's see if this blog works better: blog take 3

who knows where we'll go? The week turns from Holocaust week into Memorial week almost inperceptibly. It's not only the programs on television, it's every conversation, every plan, every appointment. Monday afternoon begin the services in memory of soldiers killed in the wars in Israel, but days before that grief is re-awakened for the lost future generation, just as the week before that grief was re-awakened for the lost past. We are in the middle of the previous generation destroyed and tomorrow's generation in constant danger. It is a terrible sandwich to be in. And it is one frought with responsibility.

April 25, 2009

For some strange reason you readers prefer the wordpress site to my old-fashioned one. But I like the old one because it tells me how many visitors i've had.

Ah Tel Aviv! While Lisa was deep in the city taking pictures of the old bus station and the Saturday action, I was lounging in a restaurant near the market, watching the amazing natives stroll by as if they were walking down the hall of their apartment, in slippers, all relaxed for the Sabbath. i'm still cameraless, otherwise i would have shown you all the nature of the way tel-avivians treat their city like the kitchen they kind of stumble into after a night of carousing. But what really gave me a feeling of the city as a home was the conversation around the table - my friends were reconstructing the neighborhood of their infancy - a website (whose address i hope to give you tomorrow) is helping them.

Some of you have asked about the photo of my aunt. This is the first picture I've ever seen. I know that sometimes my mother used to look at me and cry because I looked like her sister, and sometimes she would blurt out that I'm as dedicated as she was, but I had no visual. I've been looking for her for months - especially after I saw the Bielsky film "Defiance." There were some things that sounded familiar in that film, but others that were strange. The role of women in the Bielski otriad, for example, was pretty domestic, and I remember that my aunt was a fighter. After weeks of searching on the internet I went back to my mother's testimony in Yad Vashem. The printed version didn't say much, but in the form, there it was in my mother's handwriting - Lenin Brigade with all the details... So I went back to the Internet. And finally found this picture.

April 24, 2009

Let’s compromise – I’ll try both sites for a little while and see how it goes.

The other day, Holocaust Day, I ran out of some drugs and had to hit the pharmacy in the mall. It took me just a minute so I thought that since I’ve already paid 6 shekel for parking, I’d step in next door to Zara and see what’s up. It was crowded. Crowded. But within seconds an amazing t-shirt with zippers and an unmistakable friendliness to my body called me to attention, and I found myself standing in the long line for the registers. “Isn’t it unusually packed?” I asked the girl at the counter. “Yeh, sure, it’s Holocaust day,” the salesperson next to her answered, “Wait ‘till you see Memorial Day!” It took me a long time to digest this information, being one of the sinners I wanted to condemn, but this morning, as I put the t-shirt on, I realized how much I needed the trivial renewal of clothing for this week-long period, when so much is mourned, and so much is ignored as well.

do me a favor click here and tell me how you like the format. me i keep trying this and get scared because it's too easy.

April 23, 2009

I think I've shown this picture to everyone I know

Malcah Kaganovich was my mother's youngest sister. She was born in Lida in 1912. She was educated there, became a Hebrew teacher, married Meir Kravitz and moved to Dyatlovo or as the Jews called it, Zhedtl. She joined the Otranski Otriad, the Lenin Brigade, after the second Jewish massacre in Zhedtl in 1942 and was active as a fighter. These partisans were determined, armed, and concerned primarily with blowing up German trains. According to my mother Malkah was burned alive when the barn they were hiding in was ignited by the Nazis in June of 1944. According to Chaike Grossman and Abba Kovner, however, she was caught by the Germans during a mission and hung. Her husband survived. She was thirty one when she died.

This is the only photograph of her that I know anything about. At first I thought she was the one in the first row, second from the right, that looks something like my grandmother of whom i have a little faded picture, but then I saw that she might be the one peeking in the last row near the right - and she looks very much like me.

She has long been part of my life, and anyone who knows my poetry knows how much she weaves in and out of the words. Here's one blatant example:


Sometimes, on a quiet summer night
I smell her flesh burning.

The shack ignited by Aryan soldiers
flares up again: the informant farmer
watches from the barn.

The women scream
as my uncle
pulls them out
one by one
leaving her –
for last.

And there she
for me –
my Partisan aunt –
Queen of burning flesh.

But now it's time to get back to Tel Aviv.

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