August 11

All evening i waited for the terrorist attack - it was clear to me that it would come. So we stayed home and kept the TV on - without sound most of the time since there's nothing on any more. At 11 the program is interupted to announce preliminary accounts of a terrorist attack on a small town near Shchem. At least one woman was killed -apparently in her home. I keep asking about the statistics - how many women - how many mothers - In earlier wars we worried about our sons - the Isaac complex - sacrificing the next generation. This time it seems to be women and babies.

We know nothing more about the attack.

In this war of media depersonalization the intimate stories help clarify things. Robert Rosenberg at Ariga put a couple of stories on his site that might help. Here's one by Marty Friedlander and another by M.A. Matyash

The death toll keeps rising from the hebrew university attack. Every time there is a number given of victims, you can be assured that there will be one or two more weeks later. But by then we have moved on to another atrocity and don't notice. So the woman killed last night in the settlement of Michora had a husband who is severely injured. I hope he makes it, but the camera will probably never return to him to find out.

The camera

Everyone knows about the enormous selection the camera makes. But the vastness of the world and the choices that must be made are staggering. CNN had a program last night about children in Ramallah at a 'recovery' camp - children who have lost relatives or been injured in Israeli attacks. Their lives have been irrecoverably damaged, the gentle psychologist says. They are agressive, short on concentration, etc. They are all lovely children and terribly sad. But when they are asked to stage a play they do a shihad pantomime, with the victim carried through the crowd with pride.

Will the camera return to them? What will it film then?

(There was a similar program today on Israeli television about traumatized children. The only difference is that the psychologist here tries to have the children work with animals, to teach communication and sensitivity and concentration. That's another story I should do as hypertext when my own concentration is better)

And it goes without saying that there are increasing rings of influence - Not only Daphna Shrpuch who died today of wounds she received last week at Hebrew University - not only her family, her grandchildren, her neighbors, but her friends too, her coworkers, her classmates from kindergarten will have signs of repeated and unceasing trauma - almost unnoticed by others who are watching the camera - the spotlight - and themselves.

Nevertheless, I don't totally agree with the Ramallah psychologist who threatens eternal trauma and terrible times ahead. As one who grew up with Holocaust survivors I believe that scars can be borne. I would be happy to bear these scars IN TIMES OF PEACE, would love to be off camera, maybe wake up once in a while in the middle of the night with a little rapid heart beat, maybe recalling a sight of a terrorist's head under the bank machine in dizengoff center ('88), take a half a valium, and go back to sleep... sounds good to me.

I promised Ben yesterday that as soon as this mess is over i'[ll start an erotic diary.

August 12

So maybe we'll have a hunra now - and maybe a small measure of sanity will return.

Interesting that we are using the word from Arabic, since it is really the Arabs who are determining the situation. What we really need is an influx of sane immigrants. The U.S. has been sending us the crazies for too many years. And the young volunteers who come now are so wonderful and helpful - maybe they'll be the role models we need so much. I've noticed, although there are no statistics for this, that there are a number of American-trained Palestinians around - not in politics yet, but in business, in life. It can't be bad for societies stuck in ruts to get the perspective of a totally different system of thinking.

But I am going to have to explain this at a later date, since it is time to take care of flu victims.

Yuval, a young poet, called me last night after years. He's just written a poem about the 'situation' - against the occupation, he says, as a matter of fact. who knows what if anything will happen to it we agree. After all, there are almost no avenues for the artist to meet the public anymore. I used to thrill over the fact that I was living in a country in which every newspaper had a weekly literary supplement where you could read the very current work. Now all that's left is the strange and quirky page in Ha'aretz that publishes three or four good contemporary poets and a lot of translations from the German classics. Ma'ariv also has a poem now and then. But the sense of a dialogue with a public that would establish a literary tradition is gone. Gone too the sense that the spiritual leaders of the country are the poets. Shimon Peres still lives that way - but he's the only one I can think of. Worse, most of the writers have pretty much given up - Last time I brought this up a few nights ago Rony Sommek thought about it and then pointed out that 15 years ago his picture was on the cover of the weekend supplement - that would be unthinkable now.

I know we've got important things on our minds now - but it is interesting to point out that the Israeli Arab newspapers seem to give much more space to poetry....

I don't know about the Palestinian ones, but suspect they too know the importance of forming a culture and a spirit of the people. Even if it is propaganda, the demarginalization of poetry is important. If I had money to give to Israel I would give it to the reorganization of the Writers' Unions, the gentrification of its decrepit building, and the publication of a serious journal. (The journal now is back after well over a year - but the funding is still tentative. Toilet paper comes first in a place that is falling apart. I would also pay some managerial genius like Oren a bundle to turn the organization into a profit-making one. It's possible. But I would make sure that the writers were indoctrinated in the purpose of literature - in generating new writers, in supporting and encouraging an audience, etc.

So today is fantasy day.

back to reality. This came to me from David Alkalay.

The piece is entitled, "A Question of Blood," written by Dan Gordon, and it appeared in The Jewish Journal on May 29, 2002. Dan Gordon is a former sergeant in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), the author of five books, and a screen writer. He was in Jenin on April 16, and was told a story by Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit that bore the brunt of the fighting in Jenin. Dr. Zangen said that the IDF not only worked to keep the Palestinian hospital opened, they offered the Palestinians blood for their wounded. The Palestinians refused because it was Jewish blood!! The Israelis, who could not have been faulted for saying, "You don't like it, do without...," instead flew in 2,000 units of blood from Jordan via helicopters. In addition, they saw to it that 40 units of blood from the Mukasad Hospital in East Jerusalem went to the hospital in Ramallah and that 70 units got to the hospital in Tul Karem. And on top of that they facilitated the delivery of 1,800 units of anti-coagulants that had come from Morocco. This information was later confirmed by Col. Arik Gordin (reserves) of the IDF Office of Military Spokesman, who supplied the exact number of units and the names of the hospitals to which they were delivered.

This jibes with things my friends who were in Jenin told me. As a universal donor, I was particularly sensitive to the blood story and remember it well.

August 13

Three women were attacked by their (ex)husbands in the past day - one of them is dead, the other has burns all over her body and is fighting for her life, the third got away. -- the violence in our society is overwhelming - the frustrations at broken dreams and impotence are reasons, the lack of clear rules caused by uneducated democracy and multiculturalism, but so is the mentality of the occupation. I will say no more of this unless someone else insists.

Another point: the humor is coming back to Israeli society - it never went away totally, but is not as much fun. My old Egyptian friend, Ali Salem, who surprised me in the middle of a reading in the Women's Studies department at the U. of Michigan by getting up in the middle and saying in a thick Arabic accent, "I KNOW YOU," stunning the ladies - and me for a second before I rushed into the audience to hug him, was researching 'humor' then. He claimed that Arabs laugh at themselves and Jews laugh at others. Then he proceeded to tell a series of jokes about Arabs that I had heard Jews tell about Jews. That's when it occurred to me that we project a lack of humor, or agressive humor, onto 'the other' the way we used to project sexual eccentricities (Bugger comes from Bulgar, for example). In the same way humor appears to relieve, to protect, to define social norms, taking no account of the humanity of the other, because that would ruin the joke. So the joke is - what do you call a Palestinian mother - "A Shahidishe Mamma."

August 14

I don’t always relate to questions or comments – too much data is coming at me to make sense of it, and too many people write. But here are two responses to questions from yesterday’s entry. One is about the relation of humor to reality and the other is about the crack I made yesterday about uneducated democracy. I promised not to read my diary so I’d stay honest and not become artful, but here is one of the drawbacks – I’m not exactly sure what I said. So these are responses to questions not criticisms.

Sara Miller asked me whether I wasn’t just projecting a racist stereotype, or whether I was referring to someone specific in that joke about “shahidishe mama.” How widespread the phenomenon is really, I don’t know but here’s a quote from a woman who has become known as the mother of a “martyr,” giving herself the name, Umm Nidal, or the mother of Nidal:

“Because I love my son, I encouraged him to die a martyr’s death for the sake of Allah….He would brandish his weapon and tell me: ‘Mom, this is my bride.’ He loved his gun so much… I asked Allah to give me ten Israelis for Muhammad and Allah granted my request and Muhammad made his dream come true, killing ten Israeli settlers and soldiers.”

There have been antithetical cases as well. Yesterday a story was circulating of a father who shot his son in the leg so he wouldn’t be able to go out on a suicide-bombing mission.

This may seem totally unrelated to the other subject I wanted to mention, but it isn’t. When I said we were an uneducated democracy yesterday I meant that we have not been educated in clear, social values of democracy. We do not teach our children about how the government is structured, of the importance of voting, volunteer work, and in general participating in the society. This is in part because the very fact that the best years of the lives of our young people are given to society in the army, and this experience does not always inculcate a desire to further give of the self. Nevertheless, I WISH that some responsible body in this country would take it upon themselves to make this information available. Imagine, we have hundreds of thousands of new citizens in this country who were educated in Communism, and we assume they can automatically become citizens in a Democracy without even available information. My preferences are 1) multilingual educational series – not on propaganda and the history of this country, but simply on how things work here and how they work in other democracies. (What, for example, would be the advantages of having a constitution… 2) a clear educational program in citizenship.

To go back to the joke, we need to know what is expected of us and what should not be expected of us.

I don't mean to be comparing the two societies, but they do have a few things in common. Although the Palestinians have too rigid rules and we have perhaps not enough, we have in common the fact that they aren't totally clear and relevant to the society we need to create.

August 15

The wedding we went to tonight was way down south about 10 miles from Gaza. It took forever to get there because of the traffic, and only 30-40 minutes to get home. My Kaganovich cousin married a girl with a Moroccan background and I must admit the Lithuanians rose to the occasion and managed the dancing with bravado. I kept thinking of how close we were to Gaza and how far away. The Israeli- Mizrachi culture appears to be very Arab compared to the - say - European. But it is very different from the Arab culture. The men and women dance together and the 12 tone scale is missing for example. (Because I study what is known as classical Egyptian belly-dance, I'm very snooty about variations or vulgarizations). Anyway in the middle of this great wedding some fireworks went off from some other party and everyone but me thought they were wonderful. Ever since the Gulf War fireworks spook me anyway. But so near to Gaza, all i could think of was that if they can see it, and it looks anything like what it feels like to me they are running for shelter. of course they couldn't see these fireworks from 10 miles, and all the airforce pilots in the wedding were thinking only of celebrating this long delayed wedding. So all the drama was just in my head - for the moment.

Another drama in my head is the case of Marwan Barghuti - the way he faced his charge in court calling out for two states for 2 people and not - as you would expect if he is guilty of being a terrorist -of the destruction of the state of israel. Now it may be true that he is guilty of masterminding numerous terrorist attacks resulting in the death of many Israelis - but he's always sounded pretty rational to me.