August 21

When I was at Suzanna's the other day she told me they had made a film in her garden in Zichron the day before – about a romance between a girl from Zichron and a boy from Faradis, called 'two minutes from paradise' Today on tv I was surprised to find the filming on a gossip show (Guy Pines). They filmed the filming and a real wedding in Faradis at the same time. Of course the real wedding, with its 3000 guests, 3 bridal dresses, and all the excitement and ululations, was far more interesting than the film. And I found myself crying. Oh God I never learn, I thought. Because way back when I was a brand new immigrant I had the same experience. Even wrote a poem about it:


Confined to the couch by a bad back,

I watch Israel TV with my son.

There is an Arabic program on

and we slowly learn that the man

at the final fitting for a suit

("Mabrouk, Jamil!") and the woman

showing her new dress to her best friend

("Mabrouk, Azziza!") are getting married.

We watch the men come in to shave the groom,

the women warm the bride with dance and song,

the separate dinners with ululations.

More congratulations, then:

the two groups bring the couple to the square.

And when Azziza and Jamil look at each other,

slowly, shyly—I begin to cry.

I always cry at chasenes

It came out in my 94 book, Ignorant Armies, but i think this took place sometime in 80. 'Chasene' is a Yiddishization of 'Hatuna,' wedding. I wanted that 'heimish' atmosphere, that identification of all unions, that going beyond differences…

oy. I'm so glad I don't read this. Nothing like a schmaltzy explanation to ruin a barely successful poem, right?

but the business of weddings won't leave me tonight – not only because we use similar expressions, like Mabruk (mevurach – or blessed in Hebrew) and Mazal tov, and stuff like that, but because we all feel the idea of a wedding as a culmination of social goals – the seven blessings in Hebrew bestowed on bride and groom move gradually from talking about the universe to the specific couple that specific night, so you go from the creation of the universe to wishing them pleasure in each other – (this is the way I think in general – with the concentration on the very specific and the thought on universal implications.)

but this isn’t about me. When I saw the wedding in Faradis – I had a great idea. A wedding in Israel is a very expensive and complex affair. $50 a plate, RSVP, usually a few hundred people… the venu has to be kosher or the rabbi won't come to perform the ceremony and if don't get married by a rabbi you have to get married abroad because the Bureau of Internal Affairs doesn't accept civil (or conservative or reform) weddings in this country. So me I got married in Cyprus (by chance with a couple from Lebanon with the same problem). Many weddings I've been to recently have found creative ways of dodging the rabbis and still having a big wedding. Usually they get married in Cyprus or somewhere else, and have a little reform ceremony at the big wedding. And everyone's looking for more creative ways to have a wedding that means something without have a religious wedding (just because they feel they are being forced into things by the religious parties).

so why not get married in faradis? It's got the perfect name – Paradise – and you slaughter the calves and buy the food yourself and pay a cook so it comes out to a few dollars a plate – and then you can invite everyone you know and enjoy yourself.

Jump from this dream of paradise to the reality that the man who placed the bomb at the cafeteria at Hebrew University was arrested today and it turns out he's a Palestinian from a nearby village who works at the university. In fact he showed up for work the day after the bomb. He knew at least some of the people he killed.

When they interviewed his brother he was of course shocked – "How could we hate the Israelis?" he said, "We go to their weddings. They come to ours."

I was sitting in the park today with my hysterical dog – and suddenly I felt very nostalgic remembering how I used to go every day for tea with the gardeners. I think it was from about '88 to '91 or so when they changed the system. After that the municipal gardeners would move from place to place. But before then there was something of a sense of ownership and responsibility on the part of the gardeners about this park. I didn't think of it then as Sheikh Munis' old garden. Anyway I dug up a poem about these teas.

August 22


Abu Jassar is still in mourning for his hundred year old father

but didn't forget to bring the zaatar for our tea.

The other zaatars for bread and eggs

will also warm me for my man.

Drink some later in the day, he suggests,

and pours another cup. Perhaps this is why,

I suggest, his menopausal wife

has just borne him twins.

Phillipe, who was once

gardener at the Tuilleries,

leans back and dreams

of D.H. Lawrence, the sun,

the last woman who got away.

We sit under the tree near the gardeners' shack

Abu Jassar, Phillipe and me. The dog I have brought

to this park for his morning run

grabs a plastic bottle and races around us,

tempting us to a chase, then

rolls over in the middle of our picnic

offering his belly to any hand.

And in our tea, our talks of love, our laughter

with the dog, we are quite

united. I mention this because not too many people know that this kind of intimacy exists in Israel on a day to day basis.

It was pretty banal. In the poem I don't mention there was another Jew as well as Phillipe among the gardeners, a guy with brain damage. He worked much more slowly than the others, but there was no anger or impatience with him. The group was incredibly congenial. Phillipe, who was in charge, came to Israel a few years before and stuck around even after the girl he came for dumped him. He spent a great deal of his time with his drug dealers under the jungle gym, and Abu Jassar claimed – nudging me with his elbow - that if Phillipe had enough sex he'd stop smoking all the plant life in sight.

I was sitting in the park thinking about how simple it was all then – and how idyllic – and how it's going to come again someday. And Abu Jassar's grandchildren and mine will play together. I was thinking about all this because my brother wrote me today: The prophetic view is the only realistic one.

August 24

We were sitting with two friends who are building houses near Tel Aviv and employ teams of Arab workers. One of them said - "they are awful - i come to the site and say hello and they look at me with such hate and disgust - i know we can never overcome that." The other said - "we do very well together - i came on the day they were pouring concrete and brought food and we had like a cornerstone celebration and they're very warm and convivial. " Of course it helps that the latter knows Arabic.

It also helps that the latter believes in and enjoys people.

The fact that my Arabic is limited bothers me - i've made very limited efforts to learn it academically, can follow about 50% of talk shows, but don't have the opportunity to speak it daily. i hate it when someone knows a very few words and uses them as a sign of his understanding of the cultures. But I'm not good at learning in classrooms.

This is a great fault in our cultures and in me personally. And this is the year I'm going to change this.

someone asked me to explain the entry on august 21 - Zichron Yaakov is a Jewish town in the north,established over a hundred years ago. It is next to an Arab village named Faradis (or Paradise). A few people I know who live in Zichron used to have many friends in Faradis and many occasions to rejoice together. A few others have never been to Faradis. I don't know the statistics. I do know that when an effort is made to build relationships, it is usually rewarded.

This part is a public announcement and a request for help. As a result of my kvetching about the marginal state of literature in this country, and my separate kvetching about the lack of dialogue, a wonderful friend sat around brainstorming with me, and we came to the conclusion that she would sponsor a tri-lingual anthology of poetry by students. It's pretty clear to me that we would need 3 student editors (one in each language) to choose 35 poems each and to coordinate translations of the other poems. So stage one - editorial committee, stage 2 - call for poems, stage 3 editors selections of poems in their language, stage 4 - translation committee, stage 5 - organization and editing, preparation of introduction, stage 6 - layout, graphics, publication. 10% of the poetry should be 'favorite' poems of the culture, selected by the editor to represent the flavor of the culture. It's got to be an oversize book - wide enough to print three languages on one page. So please tell everyone you know who could possibly be interested in this to email me and help out. " my email

Augst 25

35 cases of soldiers stealing from Palestinians since the beginning of this operation – since the beginning of the "situation." The army didn't publicize this, and only now the facts are emerging. Many of the Palestinians complained, soldiers talked to their commanders about their fellow soldiers, and the army paid attention – punished the soldiers for stealing exactly as if they had stolen in times of peace. Still, they did not publicize these cases.

Anyone who has been in a situation like this knows the numbers are not great – that it is a situation that invites inhuman behavior. Nevertheless this information about stealing – an old woman's necklace, a cellular phone, a video camera – has shocked many people today.

Ezi always blames everything on the Occupation. Not only this terrible revelation, but also the crazy aggressive driving in Israel that this weekend has yielded 7 deaths, as well as the lack of sympathy we often find in the daily behavior of ordinary citizens. I agree.

We blame many many things on the Occupation. Architecture, for example. The high walls that surround so many public buildings in Jerusalem. The fortress mentality that makes the Hebrew University such an ugly and uninviting place. The need for borders that makes our neighbors build concrete walls between their homes and the street. Gender relations too – the number of women killed by their husbands in the past few years is increasing all the time. Even though women on the streets feel a great measure of safety around here. Politics and etiquette – behavior in the Parliament here is violent and aggressive. Politicians who are not aggressive are perceived as weak – like the gentle Amnon Lifkin-Shachak who disappeared from the political scene. Education –

I could go on and on. But it just frustrates me. Because I also use a double standard. Today a young Palestinian woman was tortured and executed by the Al Aqsa for passing on information to the Israelis. She was shot. Most of the time the suspects are just beaten to death and their bodies dragged through the streets.

August 26

I have been thinking about Iklas Khouli, from Tul Kharem, with her seven children, 35 years old and recently widowed.

Her son admitted to making up a story about his mother to avoid further torture by the Al Aqsa. Why would a son do something like that? turn in an innocent widowed mother? Maybe it's a continuation of what I was saying yesterday about Israeli behavior in this crisis. The situation creates behavior - the behavior creates character If we change the situation we still have a chance to raise some human children.

Take a very popular children's game in Gaza, for example. A bunch of children stand in a group in the street and a kid with a green ribbon on his forehad runs into the center, shouts Allah Hu Akbar, and pretends he's exploding. All the kids fall down.