Tel Aviv Diary August 15-19, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 15 - 19, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 15, 2004

Since we're already on the subject of the body in Tel Aviv, let me tell you about my morning in the hospital - doing a routine check-up. Most of the morning was spent moving from doctor to doctor, but in the afternoon I had some time between bone density and mammogram and sat in the Flora Darwish Park, outside the maternity ward, and listened to the Russian and Arabic all around me.

August 16, 2004

Darwish, to answer your questions, is a jewish as well as palestinian name. I'm not positive but i assume that 'darwish' is a holy man, a priest, a sufi.

And what i wanted to say about the hospital is that everyone seems to speak either Arabic or Russian. I know I've written about this before, the overwhelming percentages of Arabs and Russians on the staff of the hospitals, of all levels. And their relationships seem totally amiable.

Today I thought I would catalogue the near accidents i saw on the way home from Orit's. It is about a 15 minute ride, but it crosses from mid-tel-aviv to the north. As soon as I pulled out of the driveway a BMW came speeding down the avenue - at about 80 kmh - and honked that i was going too slow. Since i was approaching a light at a major crossroads, i thought that was wise, but he didn't, and almost ran into me before he decided to swing to the left and knock a motorcylist off kilter. No one else - not even the motorcyclist - found this unusual. And noone used their brakes.

There were four other near-misses of motorcycles in the next dozen blocks, but they were the fault of the cyclists who enjoy squirming through the narrowist places, particularly between two cars in traffic. It is great fun, i guess, and probably speedier that going by car, but quite dangerous. Then I began to lose track. There were too many risky near-misses to count. But strangely enough, no accidents.

The driving, of course, is linked to the 'frontier,' 'new country no rules' spirit of this place, the 'no one's going to tell ME what to do anymore' attitude that is totally out of place today and completely dangerous. I am sure that if we could people to follow rules on the road, we might get them to follow laws off the road as well.

This is a cross-the-board problem here. Everyone is lawless. The guy in Jerusalem who left his truck running and it rolled down a hill killing four people yesterday happened to be Arab, but he had gotten away with 108 previous traffic infractions without losing his license, so what lesson was he being taught by the government?

Everyone is lawless. But conventional at the same time. A very nice young man won the 'star is born' contest yesterday that has been going on for months, but he, like his contenders, had been chosen because of his 'profile' and i am sure that had Mati Caspi or Arcadi Duchin or Rami Fortis or some of the other amazing talents who have created Israeli music had been on the show, they would have been dropped at the tryouts.

August 17, 2004

Public bathrooms. There was an article in Ha'ir - the Tel Aviv paper - a few weeks ago about sex in bar toilets. According to them it is incredibly popular. To the point that a joke was going around last week that a guy got arrested for urinating there. Now this is actually not a new story. When I first came to Tel Aviv there was a joke going around that went:

Can you get a sexually transmitted disease from a public toilet? Yes, but it isn't very comfortable.

But after discussing this with a few bar owners just now, I was given to understand that the whole thing is just hype. It's part of the macho bragging about sexuality that is one way or another part and parcel of the package. This is not only about young people. there is a joke in Yiddish about the old man who complains to his doctor, "Doktor, Moshe says he can do it twice every night." "Don't worry," says the doctor, "You can say it just like he does." Of course it is better in Yiddish.

I know there are more important subjects to discuss, and more important things I've discussed today, but sometimes it's okay to lighten up. Also when I read the letters about the tattoos (many were shocked to hear that some Israeli women wear tattoos) I realized that there is a lot that any visitor to Tel Aviv would see on the street that is rarely discussed elsewhere.

August 18, 2004

Erased myself again. That's because both me and the computer caught a summer virus. So I went home after lunch - a liquid lunch on the beach with Oren - and watched television - where confusion reigns. The Likkud party is deciding whether to fight withdrawal or not, as if it had a choice, and Marwan Barghouti, leader of the Palestine Prisoners' Hunger Strike, is caught eating surreptitiously in his cell.

Another dreary day at the Olympics for Israel. How could it be otherwise? It takes money to identify a large potential population of athletes, money to train a smaller number people, and a lot of money to support the final choices. The same problems I find in literature here i see in the olympic team.

grumble grumble grumble.

August 19, 2004

Sharon lost in his party and now will not be able to include Labor into his government. This means his disengagement policy is in great danger. As usual the Likud party meetings look like chimpanzees arguing over bananas, and with a 42% attendance, and a weird logic, the decision was made to support their leader by preventing him from taking unlikudlike directions. i would have wept if i had any respect for any one in the Likud (except for - strangely - Tzipi Livni) but the Zubo they gave Sharon gave me no pleasure.

A few people have mentioned to me the possibility that Bibi would now become our next Prime Minister, probably within the year, and this makes me consider the possibility of taking up residence in Abarbanel Hospital (one of our wilder mental institutions) - since then it will be clear that we are all mad - but then Bibi will close Abarbanel and send every one out to find non-existent jobs.

The thing about Bibi is that his economics might have worked if he had encouraged businesses - if he had helped the small businesses become big, or helped out womens enterprising, or .... encouraged the exportation of the arts. But the rich people I know wouldn't bother investing their new found excesses in businesses now. Why should they endanger their situation? So the poor are poorer and their money goes to the rich.

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