Tel Aviv Diary August 20 - 4, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 20 - 4, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 20, 2004

So I've been too busy sitting in cafes to write. Nona, Buzz Stop, The Book Worm... In each place a different atmosphere, with each person a fascinating conversation. Today, for instance, with Yael in the Book Worm - Tolaat Sfarim - (I'm writing this at night about the 19th) we discussed the self perception of the role of the writer in a crisis society. This was in wake of the paper I read about Poets Against the War by Astrid Franke, in which she discusses (among other things) the sense of delegitimization of the private self in the wake of a public crisis. And Yael had been complaining about her difficulty in bringing poems to the point of publication. It was something I identified with - and suddenly i realized that this was connected to Astrid's concept, about which I too have written (in an article coming out in the next Poetics Today about poetry of September 11). So that maybe part of the paralysis of my fellow poets and myself is the sense that one should be writing something important, but that every attempt to grasp the larger picture is artificial, temporary, and unreal.

Perhaps on the same note, theTell An American to Vote Site was pointed out to me by Hillel Schenker. The sense of impotence felt by many is only partially true. When the situation is tough, most people just give up and don't do anything. And yet there are things to do. Voting is one. Speaking up is another. When Yeats wrote "The best lack all ambition, while the worst are full of terrible intensity," he was describing a situation between the world wars, a situation that would not have led to the Holocaust had 'the best' acted.

What do I do?Right. Not enough. But I don't give up.

One problem is that the situation is never really clear. One example - the fence. There are people against the fence, and there are people for the fence, but the people who just want the fence moved - right now - to a human place - seem to be very quiet. That's why I was particularly pleased that our Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has just warned again that we'd better move the fence to the Green Line. It's the voice of reason, and we should do everything to support it. But how? It's easier to come out strong for an extreme position. Still...

Oh, and how to register in Israel to vote? ask them:

August 21, 2004

Must be something about August. I can't get myself to do more than watch people on the street. It is a pleasant enough sport, and sometimes I play the game of fatter-than-me with the women. Tonight we did it on the Tel Aviv port, which was, as usual crowded with parading people. Cafes and restaurants are crowded with families, couples of all ages, and young people on the make. i actually found 2 americans who didnt know how to register

August 22, 2004

No of course they are not fatter than me. But when i first came to Israel women had seamstresses and their clothes fit. Now they are wearing lycra fat-roll enhancers, and i enjoy a false sense of superiority. The young, beautiful women are even more beautiful than I remember, but the women my age have lost their sense of aesthetics - at least on the street.

Oy, already I am having pangs of regret for having betrayed my friends. And suddenly realized that many the women my age way back then were toothless, with scarves on their heads and wearing shapeless flowered dresses.

All this is to ignore the political crisis we are coming to - Bibi as prime minister.

August 22, 2004

But there are more important things than politics. Especially at the end of August. Like which beach is the most fun. That's what people ask me about - where to go in Tel Aviv. The most interesting one to me is a beach named after one of the moe famous mental institutions in Israel, Shalvata. The name also means peace of mind. And the entrance claims: "Shalvata Beach, the sanest place in the country." An interesting concept, don't you think?

Moshe Shamir, one of the most significant writers in this country, will be buried tomorrow. If you haven't heard of him, I think it's because he swung away from the glamorous left he represented in his youth, and became very right wing. I am sure that it hurt his reputation. But he was a great writer - the author of "He Walked in the Fields" and "The Frontier" and dozens of other books. He was also an editor of "Bamahaneh." I met him years ago when he was the literary editor of "Maariv." I had written a review of a friend's book and sent it in. He called me and invited me to his office, where he offered me a regular reviewing column. I was too shy to tell him I had broken my neck getting the review translated, and I would never be able to write regular reviews like that. But I will never forget that conversation. Because it was the first time I encountered ideology in editing. Not specifically political. What he was looking to do was create a quality literature, to set standards, to guide readers. He was a great man, but was ill in the past years, and couldn't continue to create a model for young writers.

It has been pointed out to me that I have been urging Americans to vote, but I haven't reminded all of you Israelis to sign in at The Peoples' Voice . Don't forget to add your name to this site. Send money if you can't sign.

August 23, 2004

There is an article about why people getting screwed by Bibi love him so much in Haaretz today by Daniel Ben Simon. It doesn't answer the question, it just states the fact. The question has to be answered - because there is something basically wrong with a society based on this kind of masochism. What draws us to this personality? Why don't we go for the nice guys? How can Haim Barak be a possible choice for PM? I think I'd really go for Yuli Tamir, for example, or even Haim Ramon. But I would also vote for Amnon Lipkin Shahak,

Of course, dual citizenship means a double opportunity. So I'd go for Democrats Abroad.

Of course when Iran takes over, I won't be doing much voting, or talking for that matter. Did you see this? Iran NewsGirl got hanged for having a sharp tongue. Oy

As I was falling asleep over the tv last night i swore i dreamt one of the news announcements. Something like - well, we may not be getting a lot of medals in the olympics but one of our boys is up there in the finals for the "Superstar" - the Arab Star is Born. Ammar Hassan, a Palestinian singer, may be voted as the star of the Arab world. This is an event in itself, But what amazed me more, and i heard it again on a different channel, was the fact that Israel was proud of it. Or at least the late night news broadcasters were. I can't seem to find it in the papers...

But he does have a website

August 24, 2004

It is one of those days where every moment gets you deeper in shit. We invited an electrician over to make sure our house was in perfect condition for the inspection from the electrical company. And indeed he only made a few comments initially about the innovations we had made. But as he began to work, he began to discover that there was no grounding in the house, that the wires were too thin, that the fuse box was not, in fact,attached to the wall... My neighbors suspected the sincerity of his interest in our safety, but since these gradual uncoverings have occurred over and over in this house, i tended to trust him. He has now been with me for over 9 hours and is showing no sign of leaving. Or even wanting to leave. Will he call his wife to tell her he won't be home tonight? Has he tested the mattress in the spare room with a surreptitious press? I can't tell. All I know is that my building is like this country, created in a rush, as inexpensively as possible, and now we're beginning to understand how much it will cost to make it right.

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