Tel Aviv Diary April 8, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from April 8, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 8, 2005

With all the things I was supposed to do today, I seem to have found myself in bed eating chocolates and watching Israeli coverage of the Pope's funeral. The chocolates are nothing compared to this critical coverage. Just like in local funerals here where there are always a few people standing away from the grave, half hid the trees, and gossiping about the person, this incredibly elaborate ceremony has our professors and reporters speaking over the pomp and evaluating with a critical eye the life of the Pope. What, for example, was he thinking of when he spoke against the defacing of the church in Bethlehem during the Intifada without saying a word about the people - hostages, terrorists, soldiers... And why has Christianity disappeared from Arab countries in the past few years? It seems with each sentence the commentators provoke each other to greater and greater questions, criticisms. Then they suddenly seem to remember that someone may be listening, and they become respectful, humble. It is a remarkable dual spectacle, the magnificence of the farewell to Pope John Paul II and the choir of questioning voices. My sister-in-law, Dina, is in Rome now, and I wonder what is the perspective she and Giora have on this scene.

And while I'm wondering about perspectives, the Arabic news comes on and Naim Araidi interviews the local archibishop whose name I didn't catch. I suspect that the coverage is a bit more respectful. The only problem is calling the Pope "Baba."

But now the heat is taking a terrible toll tonight- forest fires on the Carmel are even threatening Haifa university. Dalit el Carmel, Ussifia, all are in danger.

April 9, 2005

Poisinally I had a fine day = but things are not so good around here. The whole idea of a cease fire is blowing up in our faces - as far as i can see - what with kids getting killed in Gaza and mortars falling. We have to do all we can to make sue all hell doesn't break loose.

We can't afford it

And then the business of the trees. The fire was put around this afternoon but I can imagine all those beautiful forests we drove through the other day to and from Haifa -- all scorched. 50 dunams of trees, desperately needed foliage, who knows how many animals - and arson.

April 10, 2005

All night I dreamt of the fires - the hatred that is willing to destroy the world just so others will not enjoy it. How do I know it was political arson - because fires began simultaneously in numerous places. And we've got more days of sharav ahead!

With all the damage we as civilization do to our environment, damage from malice is by far the worst.

Why do I hate cooking programs on Israeli tv? The food is wonderful, innovative and multicultural, and the chefs funny and insightful, but these programs keep calling to mind for me a terrible association with decadence, a decadence of spirit and will. It's not cooking, it's showing off.

Appropos decadence - i actually bought orange shoes at DKNY today. Oren also bought something, but preferred holding my handbag to a shopping bag with a 'label' on it. Like me - ideology and hypocrisy in one body.

April 11, 2005

What is it I'd like to eat? Not European food. Not on a regular basis. (Although as i made that declaration a vision of chicken soup with noodles floated through my mind ) Traditional african and asian: Kubbe of all kinds - like okra or beet, kitshre, stuffed fruits and vegetables, brains in lemon sauce (gristada)... I must be hungry. The weather continues too hot to eat but not too hot to desire food. Desert dust fills the air and the sun seems to reach in every corner. It is perfect weather for sitting by the beach in the shade with beer and fries - but there is 10 days or so before Passover and everyone is working harder than ever to get their work done before the holiday.

We got some pots as a gift from Ezi's work - almost industrial size - and they serve as a reminder that one should be cooking for an army on Passover.

An army. Why did I say an army? Whenever I looked around for something lost, and asked my mother where it could be, she always answered in Yiddish: "A platoon of soldiers came and took it away." It was such a common answer and so much a part of my childhood that I assumed it was an idiom. But when i gradually discovered that no one else used it, I began to examine its meaning. My parents grew up on the Lithuanian corridor during World War I, when their town was constantly being taken over by different armies - Polish, Russian, German. My mother used to say that they knew which army had invaded by the language in which the soldier who came into their yard, pulled the head off a chicken, ordered my grandmother to cook. So their childhood was full of soldiers and they made light of it by assigning blame to them when one of their socks or a trinket would get lost. I wonder what kinds of metaphors my grandchildren will grow up with.

April 12, 2005

Ehud Manor just passed away.

Everyone is still in shock - his heart stopped in the middle of the night. And as I write these words, I think perhaps the heart of many many people stopped for that moment as well. Ehud Manor wrote the songs of the heart of Israel. He was also an incredibly naturally kind man who was never threatened neither by his incredible and well-deserved success nor potential 'competitors.' His love for his family was extended in concentric circles to all others. when I heard last week he was going to get an honoary doctorate from Bar Ilan, I remembered he was writing his doctoral thesis in Oxford and revelled in the thought that he would be granted 'validity' from both directions, the popular and the academic world. Last month I ran into him at the shopping center at Brodetsky, that old unpretentious little square, and with all his gentle grace he asked me what I had been up to, and whether I was making another disk. He always had time for everyone. And so much to give.

Almost midnight and I am still unable to grasp how someone who lived so much every day has ceased to exist. All day long all the television and radio stations have been full of his music, his voice, his friends. It seems like a day of national mourning for the man who registered our feelings so well.

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