Tel Aviv Diary August 4 - 9, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 4 - 9, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 5, 2004

Jaffa, Yaffo, Yaffa. The Flea Market is being remodelled - sewage pipes, especially - half the roads are torn up - and the skeletons, the cannon, hundreds of years are exposed right there in the flea market.

After a few hours of sifting through the bracelets and belly dance costumes and watching the card games and buying tobacco, we headed for abulafia for pita with zaatar and my favorite fried egg pita with bulgarian cheese and olives. Since I do not usually delineate my meals, know that this was the best meal i've had in a long time.

We ate the pita in the park above old yaffo and listened to 2 different muezzins separated by a few kilometers and a few seconds in their gentle calls for prayers.

There is always the sense of something eternal in Yaffo - something universal and superior to daily life. There is a church there, for example, that holds services for foreign workers on saturdays because they work on sundays. there is a philipine service and an hour later a nigerian and then a russian one.

It is not my city, but i would give anything to belong. A few of my friends came to live there before the intifada - someone of them were forced out and some left from choice. i would like to be a part of that city but only if i had a possibility of belonging.

August 6, 2004

I had a little visit to another country today - Ramat Gan. It was just a trip to a music store to buy a microphone - a small shopping area in a high-rise office building. But as we looked around I spotted some hassidim and realized i was in a religious neighborhood. The 'galery' for religious articles, the kitchenware shop with its wigged shopkeeper...yes yes definitely religious. But then the hassidim turned out to be a row of life-size dolls held together with metal poles with a harness in the middle for the real person to dance them around. When the dancer wearing the harness moves the dolls move too. They were just being transported from some engagement back to the offices.

Now, I mistook the dolls for real people and was just beginning to draw conclusions about the different groups in this country with blind followers, when the truth that they weren't real, that they were actually a parody of the stereotype, hit me in the head like a week-old challah. Because of course it so suited me to think in terms of stereotypes that I almost didn't look twice. I had just written of this little charming visit to Jaffa and all the quaint things and people I had seen there, and it was probably the same thing.

All this means: I MAY make some good pictures and draw interesting scenes, but unless I'm talking about the dog's diarrhea i probably don't know what to make of what i am seeing.

August 7, 2004

Dim Sum for Shabbat dinner - i was actually enthralled by the idea of a friday night family dinner on king george street - with the chicken soup and candles and all that - having a little flu or maybe what shusha had and no energy to consider cooking. Now King George street is not the ideal place for a friday night - there are no couples strolling, only single people wandering around with their dogs - but i am often drawn to it. Masaryk Square, at Cafe Tozeret Ha'aretz last week. Dim Sum near Dizengoff this week. I'm talking about the hours when most people are asleep - getting up their energy for the night frolics - 7-10 p.m. But I am getting to like early evening conversation much more.

The whole idea of possession and occupation keeps coming up - how the occupation has ruined our society, our sense of relationships, our concept of mutual respect, and how the idea of possession has been put into question again by revisionist zionism. You mean this ISN'T the land we've been longing for for 5000 years? It ISN'T ours? Can we go back to being wandering jews again, to being pemanently temporary?

I always stop at that point - at the point of possession - Just because the two versions of who possesses what will never be proven. One of my nephews, a history teacher who is part of a project in which history teachers from both sides present what they teach in school (and the book of parallel histories will appear in hebrew and arabic soon) keeps reminding me that what actually happened is a combination of both sides.

August 8, 2004

In Suheir Hammad's journal of her visit here, there is a terrible description of the city of Lydd, or as Israelis call it, Lod, where her family was born. I am sure it is accurate and true. And this evening channel 8 seems to be dedicating the evening to exposing some of the corruption of this city. Guy Meroz, Orli Vilnai-Federbush, and their teams, seem to be endangering their lives by dealing with the gangsters who are running the town. It is worse than the Japanese film about warlords

But Suheir apparently only saw the Israeli part from a car window - she assumes that she wouldn't find Mahmoud Darwish or Fadwa Tucan in bookstore here, for example. She's right and she wrong - if there are books of poetry there can be Palestinian writers. (Sasson Somekh and Odded Peled both translated books of Darwish, for example, and of Tucan's popularity here - especially with Moshe Dayan - we have already spoken here) The problem is there are no books of poetry at all most of the time!

Through reading poetry I first learned of Hammad herself, and feel that I learned more about the political situation here than most of the newspapers I read daily. Whitman says in his poetry "who touches this, touches a man," and i am sure that if there is any way to come to human understanding in this crazy situation, it is this way. through touching human beings.

August 9, 2004

Who's with me on this? I know the Mifkad Haleumi goes for the connection on the individual level, and there are countless of programs and projects that work toward mutual understanding, but its nowhere near enough. All we really need are two prime ministers who believe in it - instead of Arafat and Sharon - and we're on the right path. But who can think of the people suited for this job?

I want to write about my visit today with Nathalie Handel, about our little drive around Tel Aviv, about our conversations and projects, but I left her at the bus station to go to the dentist, and even though he didn't hurt me, i have a head ache. She probably had more of a headache, trying to get back to Bethlehem before dark.

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