August 6

A new page is good - i do it every 5 days - can't wait out the week. The illusion of a new beginning.

The talks between Fuad and the 3 Palestinian leaders about implementing a program for the gradual cessation of violence seem to be along the same lines as my new page. Nevertheless....

We grasp at straws. The good news about the couple who were killed yesterday - man and pregnant wife - is that the kids were saved when the army jeep happened by and opened fire on the terrorists before they could get into the car and kill the baby and the 3 three old. The car that exploded with its suicide bomber in Um El Fachem yesterday was on its way to Afula with a belted suicide bomber and a big knapsack of tricks. Mubarak's criticizing Sharon's absence of a 'plan' might encourage both Sharon and Arafat to make a plan...


I feel better only when i think of the people i meet who are worth saving. Something like Abraham and God's bargaining over Sodom. Except it is clear that 99% of the people here as individuals are worth trying anything to save.

And they shouldn't have to live with malnutrition, poverty,ignorance and bigotry and fear.

Enough of the pontifications. Sometimes I forget I am writing this for me and not for some moral propaganda.

Last night at a poetry reading Rony Sommek read a recent poem I thought had to be translated. This is a draft. If anyone wants to reproduce it or use it or whatever, please get in touch with me because there will probably be many corrections before it is ready.


This whose brain is the Commander of the body

This whose body conceals desire in the cave of genitals

This whose genitals moisten the lips of the hostages

This whose hostage is the broken tooth in the mouth shouting commands

This whose command knows no borders

This whose border is stretched like a sock

This whose sock is silent

This whose silence crumbles threads from the gnarl of words

This in whose brains words are stuck like a fence

And after which nothing is left to say.

This is the kind of thing that makes Rony a great poet - his interrelation between the personal and the political that reflects accurately how life goes on around here.

August 7

Here we are beginning to bargain again. It is very exciting - but people are too scared to get optimistic - just like we're too scared to face the situation as it is.

But the manner in which we bargain is very important and we should pay attention. I know the Palestinians are known to be very good bargainers because they don't compromise. But every time I hear the way the U.S. insults the Palestinian leader, I get worried. Only Shimon Peres knows how to talk to them, I think. Once I wrote a poem about this - it was in Ignorant Armies (1994)



When I was very small

Aunt Raisel who survived the holocaust

said to the peddlar, "You call this fabric?"

Look how it wrinkles, see how it tears,"

"Why the Queen of England wears

no better wool." "And bought it from you,

I suppose. I'll give you two groschen

for this rag, no more." "No less than four

could I take for such cloth. Your mother- -

who never married- -taught you nothing."

"Your father was a thief before you, I knew

him well in our town." Thus she would

jew him down, and I was red with shame.

Later, each spit on the curb where the other walked,

angry and sure he'd been had.


Margalit, from Spain, took me to the wholesalers

one day for a bathing suit. Her way

was to draw close to the man

and remind him of all she had bought

before, all the women she had steered

to his store. "We have a special friendship

she whispered, with an elbow and a wink.

I think, "It'll never work,"

but we walk out with our low-priced parcel

and broad smiles. When I look back in the shop

I see him counting our cash again, grinning.

The bathing suit fades in the first sun.


Gentle Anne shops in the shuk for gifts

"That plate is lovely," she breathes,

"How much?" The swarthy shopkeeper quotes a price

I can only sniff at- -two hundred is outrageously high.

But she puts the plate on the counter

and continues admiring the engraving,

the way it catches the light.

"Yes, and that pitcher- -how heavy and solid it is.

My mother would just love that shade of blue."

He smiles, polishes the glass with his sleeve.

"You have such fine things here. It is an honor

to be in a shop owned by a man of good taste."

She wouldn't waste her words, dear Anne,

and never- -as far as I know- -lies.

The shopkeeper orders coffee for three:

I tug at her sleeve, "The price! The price!"

"It's all right," she smiles, and I think,

absurdly, of ancient women- -Rebecca, Yochevet, Shulamit.

Over coffee she tells of her husband, the babies, her writing

and asks the man about his shop, his wife, living in Yaffo.

All the while I watch the stack of plates,

trays, and statuettes she has put aside.

When we've finished our coffee, and the final candlestick

has been placed in the pile,

She says, "This is all worth so much- -

these gifts will please my family- -

but I only have three hundred

to spend today."

They go back and forth a while and agree

with all the sweetness and quiet

Anne is known for.

We walk past the shops

carrying her parcels

carrying her peace.


Now my children say I don't know anything about bargaining. When they have business to take care of they don't invite me. I say - sheepishly - i've survived.

August 8

In the meantime the talks have been held up by the arguments about which city to begin with. Israel wants to start with Gaza - the Palestinians want to start with Bethlehem. Israel wants Gaza because the Palestinian Authority infrastructure hasn't been damaged there and they can combat terrorism. The Palestinians want Bethlehem because there isn't much terorism coming out of there and the chances of terrorists sabotaging the proces is more remote.

Makes sense - so little trust on either side every detail is going to be a probem. The Arabs simply don't trust us and we don't trust them.

Chaled Yashur is being charged with murder - the Arab girl who took her girlfriend and got off the bus that blew up near Tzfat because the bomber told her something terrible was going to happen - and let a number of people die as a result - is also about to be charged. Both of them did not let anyone know that an explosion was about to take place.

I look at their faces and they are very familiar to me. There is great pain in their eyes that goes beyond the legal situation they find themselves in.

In a way, except for the fact of the terrible murders, they are in a similar moral dilemma as i am - must I be loyal to my people even when they are doing things that are terrible?

I don't mean to equate the terrible damage. Israel avoids killing civilians whenever possible, and Hamas and Fatah target them. I just mean the state of being in-between.

August 10

So I got drunk at a wedding last night - and didn't make too much sense when i came home. I thought I would say something about Sheikh Munis, where the wedding was. Sheikh Munis was the Arab village upon which Tel Aviv University was built - next door to me. When Oren was little he used to call it "our local terrorities." Because it reflected a great deal of the current dilemmas. Yes, there was a village here. Yes, they did shoot at Jews, and killed not a few travellers from Petach Tikva to Yaffo. Yes the 'left.' The enormous house of the Sheikh was restored in 91 to become the faculty club, but since the faculty can't really afford it, it's also for hire. We had a two of our own family weddings there.

Why the university doesn't quite acknowledge this past is not clear to me, but the fact that it doesn't is. The big sign on the building announces the architects and the builders of the reconstructed house, but there is no acknlowedgment that it IS a reconstruction, although everyone knows that it is. In the sevetnies, Rony told me last night, the Arab students had a newspaper they called "Sheih Munis University" and the university was not pleased. We feel we've explained and justified this situation and don't need to keep bringing it up. But I think we SHOULD bring it up, not because we have to rationalize the past, but because we need to EXPLAIN the past, confront it.

Why am I not talking about what is happening in the Arab cities? Why am I not talking about the terrible losses felt in the past week by entire families? It is too much. Remember the idea that if you put 2 Jews in a room and they start asking each other who they know eventually they will find a connection? It's that way with the bombings. Every bombing has involved someone I know or someone I know who knows someone. The anger of the Arab people who are under curfew now, and who can hear homes in their villages being destroyed at night I can sympathize with - but it is not the same as the grief at losing targeted citizens - old ladies, young children, pregnant mothers. Like most people around here I live with this all the time, as well as the fact that I am targeted. In the Gulf War I had a poem describing the feeling of wearing a bullseye on my shirt.

found it. here's the section.


My sanest friend is sure a target

has been painted on her chest,

that the Iraqis with eagle vision

seek her out each night,

each missile aimed at her,

and only standard deviation

keeps her alive.

it is extremely interesting the way games of chance have become more and more popular here lately. In one of the ads for the lottery they have this term, "chanceologist" - people who have made a method in randomality. You use your mother-in-law's birthday, the licence plate of the doctor who operated on your nose, a system of arithmetic... Of course the parallels with life here are overwhelming. A guy walks out of the felafel restaurant and it blows up, and he thinks - if i didn't have the right change i might not be alive... By the way the effect of having just missed being blown up stays with people forever. I was just talking with Ronen who stopped for a minute before coming into the bus station at Nahariya a few months ago, and saw it explode. He's still thinking about it. And I wouldn't be surprised if it triggered some major changes in his life.

APOLOGIES TO THOSE WHO WROTE THAT I SKIPPED A DAY HERE - IT'S ONLY AUGUST 9. Apparently I'm in a hurry to get to the future. But why - what's waiting for me there but more and worse of the same.