August 1

A few hours left until August 1, but I am longing for a new month, a new beginning. The terrible attack today, the explosion at Hebrew University, in which students - Korean, Arab, Jewish - were purposely and indiscriminately killed and injured - can't be incorporated... There are no details yet - they can't identify some of the people because of the extreme explosion - and it is impossible to gauge the fear and the dread felt by everyone I know. They kept asking student witnesses, "Were you worried about your friends being there?" They answered, "At first I was just determined to get the wounded out, to help..." There were Jewish students interviewed and Arab students as well. [Even when I studied there almost 40 years ago as a foreign student, I knew as many Arab students as Jewish ones] They all said the same thing.

And Sheikh Yassin and the other Hamas, who proudly claimed reponsibility for this attack - because, as they kept repeating, we kill their children - I want to put them behind me. Their twisted logic, their selective blindness - there seems to be no way to even begin a dialogue.

And the taxi driver who brought the suicide bombers to their fatal destination in the old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, an pleasant and personable Arab named Challed Yashur from Yaffo, explained that they had wanted to explode themselves in Shfayyim, the shopping center I usually frequent, but were surprised to find it closed. The driver explained to them it was Tisha B'Av and then they got instructions to go to Tel Aviv. The driver explained that he was afraid of the bombers, and then was afraid to go to the police. In between both worlds. Fearful of all sides. I want to put his situation behind me for the moment, together with this sad month, and start again.

But we have been warned that there are 60 warnings of bombings - we've only gone through 5. What am I rushing into August for?

I have an aunt who is, among other things, an agoraphobic. Living in the enormous country of the United States, she stays at home whenever possible. Part of this may be based in her experiences of Auschwitz and other horrors of the Holocaust. Yet we always laughed a bit at her madness.

Tonight, walking the dog alone on a dark street, I was suddenly struck by the absolute normality and rightness of her agoraphobia.

In fact, with all the assertions of Hamas that it will take 100 Israeli lives in revenge for the death of Sallah Schehade – who in turn was responsible for the death of numerous Israelis –both Jew and Arab – walking around the streets freely seemed the "starkest madness," as Emily Dickinson used to say.

The names of victims of yesterday's attack begin to emerge. I heard some on the radio as I was watching the celebrations in Gaza on TV. The dissonance was resounding. I keep repeating this one naive cry - how can people rejoice at the death of others? Any people. Any death.

My friend John Williams writes from Liverpool: "one does not have to be afraid to go into the street to be deemed agoraphobic; one simply has to close one's own avenues of thought."

A talk between me and Sameh at Nona’s today made me run home to re-read my Kierkegaard. His sadness at what he is finding during his visit home to Nazareth, at the apathy, fear, and despair of most people he meets prompted me to pontificate about the possibilities in the depths of despair. And I found myself using Kierkegaard’s term from Fear and Trembling, “leap of faith.” Kierkegaard, I remembered when I came home, was talking about returning to religion in the 19th century, and I was talking about something completely different. I was thinking that people like Sameh, whose very natures are positive and connecting, should be able to just jump through all the mistrust and fear and take a chance on trust. Knowing all we know about all the mutual betrayals, the dangers, the basic differences – we need to create our own hope.

Kierkegaard himself would probably have gone the other way – supported the religious right or hamas – but I am alive and Kierkegaard is dead. And I want to stay alive for a while and maybe help create a situation in which others remain alive too.


August 2

It was announced yesterday that CNN would no longer be on Israeli cable. I must admit that there were a few times I bristled at some of the pieces on the Middle East, some of the programs that countered things I had seen with my own eyes. Even today, when it was announced that Israeli army invaded Nablus, the only reportage came from a person stuck in her house in Nablus who had no idea about what was going on, and there was nothing from any Israeli official or any reporters watching the events. Why is Israel in Nablus? What are they trying to do? Is it revenge or is there some program to get to terrorists? I can’t tell from CNN. And the only interview is with 2 terrorists exiled to Athens.

Nevertheless, something that Sameh said yesterday about how Israeli media seems to ignore information that disturbs the current vision of events is confirmed here. We just don’t want to see anything that might be positive about the ‘other side.’ We’re not OPEN to dialogue.

I suggested to Sameh that the reason we’re not open to dialogue is because we’re scared, shell-shocked, and mistrustful. This may even be true. But it certainly isn’t true that ‘there is no one to talk to.’ The ‘other’ is also scared, shell-shocked, and mistrustful – and as unwilling to initiate anything as we are. And some of them, like some of us, would rather shoot than talk. They’re the ones who are determining the absence of dialogue.

in the meantime some of the funerals of the people killed at the university in jerusalem were held today and in the search for the source of this bomb 4 people were killed in Nablus today - apparently when Zahal blew up a munitions factory.

Beyond despair.

So I fall back on my old love of jokes, and feel there's some political significance in this wonderful old joke Rena sent me from Canada. She reminds me that this is from the Sopranos and should be told in a thick Jersey accent - For political effect it should be told in Hebrew with a little lisp.

So this rich man and this poor man are talking about xmas. The poor man says to the rich man, what did you buy your wife for xmas? And the rich man says, I bought her a diamond ring and a cadillac. Why a diamond ring and a cadillac asks the poor man? Well, says the rich man, so if she don't like the diamond ring she can return it and still have the cadillac and if she don't like the cadillac she can return it and still have the ring. What did you get for your wife? The poor man says: a pair of slippers and a dildo. The rich man asks why a pair of slippers and a dildo? The poor man says: if she don't like the slippers, she can go fuck herself".

August 3

To explain my interpretation of the joke - Sharon and Israeli society is the 'poor man.' Arafat and the Palestinian people are the wife. The rich man doesn't exist - except in our mafia fantasies.

So I'm not a good allegorist.

I've been noticing more and more the raucousness of the escapist humor on TV. Raucaus laughter masquerading great gloom and infantile pessimism. We're going to see Orna Banai tonight - who out of the character of "Limor" (see the NYTimes and NY Herald Tribune articles I wrote about before) is a very quiet serious person. I'm fascinated by what she'll say about where we are today.

I'm watching a shrink on tv whose name i missed analyzing our characters - He notes wisely that Barak's failing was that he was realistic about what had to be done - and people didn't want to give up on the dreams of identity - didn't want to get to the point where we'd all have to face who we really are.

He also advises us to pay attention to reality now - we can't hear our own pain or the pain of others...

He's not very optimistic.

August 4

so we go out for a night on the town - typical tel aviv evening. Orna Banai was sold out so we went to the Amoldovar movie in Dizengoff Center. As usual the events surrounding the film were more real and gripping than the film itself. We decided to park under the center because it was convenient and "safe." But when we got up to the third floor on the escalator where the theatre is, for some reason the entrances were switched and we wound up in a crowd of entering people facing the exiters in a hot tight space. The claustrophobia because of the lack of escape hatches was palpable in a crowd just short of hysterical.

Once in the theatre it took us a while to get into the film - which is extremely beautiful and artistic, but totally artificial when it comes to feelings. Our own emotions were so strong the balance was off. And as we were exiting the theatre we noticed a thin white substance trickling down the ramp between the seats. Oren and I stopped - fascinated - for a second and bent over to see its source and said, "Its only milk" and we went on. "That might have been the most exciting part of the evening," Oren said.

But he was wrong. As we went down the back way to the parking garage, sirens started to go off and security men began to throw fire extinguishers into a shop, freeing mounds of smoke. Confused, we began to scatter until we realized we could still continue going down the stairs.

By the time we got to the parking lot, the PA systems was telling everyone to exit the building, and the smoke was beginning to choke us. It took seconds to empty the building and by the time we were out we were greeted by a team of policemen and fire fighters directing us away from Dizengoff Center. We turned back and saw the flames emerging from the show window oof one of the shops, but didn't stay to watch the 'event.' We dropped Oren off at Nona who needed a glass of tea to calm down, and raced home, comforting ourselves with the thought that it was only a fire.

The point of this tale is the constantly high level of adrenalin us that makes us ready for almost everything and able to fully enjoy almost nothing.

Of course, this experience is dwarfed by the 2 terrorist attacks already today. We're expecting more - the one in Zefat killed - what - 10 so far? - the one in Jerusalem - what - 3?

time to go to a memorial service

i wonder what a bombing at a cemetery would look like.

August 5

The names of the 13 people killed yesterday emerge slowly. Their individual personalities come soon after. This one was pregnant, that one was just beginning to study, and that's one's sister was seriously injured... I've noted before that most of our victims are women and children, quite a few of the women were pregnant, and they not always jewish. Yesterday in particular claimed a number of Arab and Druze victims. And the wounded - the wounded - living with a face full of rusty nails, living without legs...

It's a little game of bingo. who's going to get it. where. when.

and of course it is now spreading all over the world. because it works. it scared people, and mixes up the victims and the victimizers. not a few of my friends in manhattan felt guilty about being involved in a society that is the obejct of such antipathy. it does no good to tell them people are responsible for their actions and murder is an absolute crime - not a political tool.

as to why i am not on vacation - some of you out there were inquiring about what i am still doing in my office. this too has a political and military basis. because so many students are involved in reserve duty, it was long ago decided that final exams here have to have 2 dates, a month apart. a few weeks after the long semester ends, mid june, the exams begin. so that takes us to mid august. and then come the holidays and the next semester. so students here never get that 'summer vacation.' anyway most of them are married, and working. it's a different world.