Tel Aviv Diary - April 8, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - April 8-12, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 8, 2010

As the time of Holocaust Day nears, I thought you might be interested in what my parents had in the luggage on August 26, 1039, as they fled the city of Danzig before Hitler's invasion. Contents of Luggage

April 9, 2010

It would be a good day to talk about the responsibility of the individual to society: the contribution of our former PM to the distortion of the Jerusalem landscape, the guilt of a soldier who gave damaging army documents to the papers, the penthouse neighbor who's wasting tons of water on his roof garden and drowning our grass in the process. But I'm too exhausted to write. I'll try again tomorrow.

April 10, 2010

This has been a week of doctors, and I hope the next week of doctors has the same atmosphere as last. Here's one slice: At the general check-up at the hospital, the opthamologist looked worriedly into my eye. "Sometimes they suspect glaucoma," I whisper, "but it's the shape of my eye." "Indeed it is very suspicous," she intoned, "And must be immediately attended to." "Field of vision?" "Of course." "The diagnosis is always the same," "Yes?" "Inability to concentrate, but normal sight." "No, no - you have glaucoma. Get it checked." I make an appointment with the local eye doctor of whom I have heard good things, and on Friday morning show up at the little mall down the street. There are about four people before me, and the receptionist suggest I take a ten-minute walk. So I wander into the pharmacy and allow myself to be accosted by the cosmetic stewardesses. What does a person with a potentially serious disease need? My time is up before I decide, and I step into Dr. Boris...'s office with my complete song and dance even before the door is totally shut. After a few drops, he examines my eye and asks, "how old was the opthomologist in the hospital?" "young." "of course. She did the right thing, but I'm pretty sure you don't have anything but a funny-looking eye." He gives me more drops and twenty minutes. Just enough time, I tell him, to get the sparkling green eye make-up that will comfort me. Another test, two more appointments to get eye-pressure tests in the morning and evening, three appointments to make at the outpatient-eye clinic for tests. "You don't really need them, but what do you care, the government is paying," he says. "Now, show me the make-up.

As an exceedingly complicated medical being, I don't expect simple results, but I really appreciate professional and humane behavior.

Why was it so hard to get tickets to the early show of "The Ghost Writer" tonight? Even though we managed to get them last night on the internet for tonight, they were almost the last tickets. How could it be? Simple - tomorrow evening is the evening of Holocaust Day. Everything will be closed, even restaurants (many of which don't even bother opening tomorrow), and we're already depressed. So a little escape is helpful.

But there is no escape - even Polanski's latest suspense film - that is so far from reality it even distorts the possibilities of modern technology - is filled with reminders of the morality of our day-to-day dilemmas.

The idea that we are often in the position of ‘ghost-writing’ of living a life determined or originally written by someone else, and that we don’t always know when we are playing the part of some one else’s script, is one that we deal with daily. Do we really ‘know’ what is determining our ideology, manipulating our emotions? Me, I kick back when I think I’m being manipulated as much as my two-year old granddaughter – but I don’t always know… I suspect that in my case, as with Polanski's, our experience with the Holocaust had something to do with that struggle.

April 11, 2010

I keep thinking about Frost's "The Death of the Hired Man" every time I hear something new about Sheikh Jarrach. The way the husband says, "Home is when you go there, they have to take you in." And she answers, "I should think it was something you didn't have to deserve."

My parents were without passports from 1933 until 1956. That's when my brother and I were naturalized, and they became citizens. I will remain eternally grateful to the U.S. for taking us in. 23 years of being entirely without a country.

April 12, 2010

As the sirens rang out today I was standing in my bedroom, running late and unaware of the time. Immediately I stood to attention and suddenly my companion was Willy Neisner. He wasn't killed in the Holocaust. He survived and moved in with us in 1952 or so, having finally reached the United States. Perhaps because he was smaller than the other survivors who had lived with us, and the only one who arrived on his own, my brother and I liked to sit on either side of him and joke around with him. Perhaps for this reason he moved out very soon and moved into the local Jewish Community Center, which at that time was in the middle of the city and had dingy YMCA-type rooms for men. Not too long after there was some event in the JY as it was called, probably another fund raiser for Israel with Yaffa Yarkoni, and we resumed our positions next to the poor refugee. There were some matches with "Mazel Tov" written on it, and one of us wrote 'who's getting married' and the other wrote, "Willy Neisner!" I remember him as if it were today, with his woolen cap, his narrow form that increased slowly with the months in Rochester, and his worn, lonely face. But I don't remember who told us, a few weeks after our little celebration, that he had hung himself in his room.

Six million and one. He was counted as a survivor, but he wasn't.

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