Tel Aviv Diary April 3, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from April 3, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 3, 2005

With all the budget cuts in the Ministry of Health, the colon cancer medication Avastin has been taken off the list of supplemented medicines, and costs cancer patients 20,000 shekel a month to stay alive. To sign the petition asking the ministry to put it back, click here

Sometimes when i talk to Russian immigrants it seems like they have a different life in the same place I live. Today, for example, I spoke with a Georgian friend about April Fools day. I had forgotten all about it, but she was delighted with her success. She said she had managed to fool her boss because she had convinced him she was about to leave the country at the beginning of his busiest season. And then she told me about all the humor competitions - from the big ones in Russia that are usually won by the Odessa contingents - to the ones in Israel that are televised and very popularly attended in big halls.

Now Israelis have lots of stand-up and comedy programs all over the place, but the humor is totally different. Ali Salem, the Egyptian playright, once told me that Israeli humor is always at the expense of others (as opposed to Egyptian humor which he claimed is always self-deprecating), and it made me very conscious of this concept. I've always tested the local humor against his theory, and rarely found it to be true. Although the humor may sometimes be in bad taste, I rarely find it insulting,

I'll find some examples, but not right now.

Remember the questions about Tel Aviv? Here's the second part of the third and last one:

3. Do you feel that the city stimulates you,and is there enough to do there at night.

Is there enough to do? There's just not enough time! Nobody EVER sleeps around here.

April 6, 2005

I just got back after 2 days abroad - Haifa. International Forum on poets. More about that soon. But Saul Bellow has just died and I'm off to do a TV program on him.

We had such an ambivalent relationship with Bellow. That "To Jerusalem and Back" seemed to get people's goats around here because he didn't only go TO Jerusalem, but he went home afterward! Those were the days, where any voice of criticism was dangerous to us! And Bellow gave validity to all American Jewish intellectuals, neurotic and vulnerable as he was.

You can see the news and me on theIBA site if you go to the English news and move ahead to about 17 minutes in. You may notice I'm wearing the same red shirt I wore last year on Tal Gordon's show on rock when "Thin Lips" did its mainsteam tv debut. Just instead of a leather jacket I've got on pearls.

Seriously folks, I seem to do a lot of media - Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman.... That's because American literature remains close to the hearts of Israelis, despite the fact that the American government seems to have cut most of its culture programs and participation in university programs, and the French seem to throw money at anyone interested in French culture.

Anyway I went to an international conference on poetry in Haifa for 2 days. It was a lot of work - preparing talks that got cut to nothing because other people went on and on - but there were so many amazing poets and so many experiences that I was overwhelmed. The poets who overwhelmed me most were the local ones. Jewish and Palestinian - they were just so much more involved and down to earth than anything from abroad. But who am I to talk? I understand 30% of the French I hear, and as I told Nimrod, can speak French only just after breakfast.

I do better with a poem on the page and a dictionary.

April 8, 2005

The weather turned from chilly to hot and dry - the desert wind has blown in. I should have gone to bed early what with the heat and my heavy schedule, but I had to catch "To Touch the Sky," that strange dramatic series that follows a Tel Aviv couple separated by the reborn religious spirit of the husband. I've always liked this 'local' series but now the way political life influences the very private life of each member of a family has become the salient issue and is quite realistic, if exaggerated. The religious husband moves out to the territories and goes back to Tel Aviv when he's needed, the son is ambivalent about the army, the mother has become tougher, tel avivit, through the necessities of her existence.

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home