Tel Aviv Diary - August 21-26, 2019 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 21-26, 2019 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 21, 2019

I must have other pictures of him somewhere but I can't seem to part with this one.

Sasson Somekh dedicated his life to to help the western world understand Arab literature and culture, to bring the jewish and muslim community closer together. here he is with Ali Salem. i'll try to talk more about him tomorrow.

August 21, 2019

So Ali Salem was a renowned Egyptian writer and actor. We met for the first time in Salzburg for a seminar of a few weeks, and a year later at the University of Michigan where I was giving a lecture. It went like this. The room was full. I was talking about how women in Israel reacted to the war (don't remember which one), so there were mostly women in the room. As I began to speak, suddenly a booming voice from the back called out "I know you!" in a thick Arabic accent. And he came rushing up to the front. "Ali!" I shouted, and we hugged. Another time he took me to a Palestinian restaurant and as we were eating said to the owner, "You know she's Israeli." He was trying to see how far he could go with this, but the restaurant owner wasn't going to bite. We shook hands and hoped to meet again in a peaceful land.

And then one day Sass called me and said we had to go to Netanya to rescue Ali Salem. Ali had decided he wanted to see Israel for himself and drove his jeep across the Sinai desert - but he missed the exit for Tel Aviv and wound up in Netanya - on a Friday afternoon. He found a religious hotel that kept the sabbath and settled in. The thing was he couldn't tell anyone he was leaving Egypt for Israel in 1994 and didn't dare take even a toothbrush with him. So we had to rescue him.

Sass was an important professor even back then, but when Ali called him he was immediately game. We drove to the hotel in the morning, put a sign on the jeep with the Egyptian license plates that Sasson Somekh was hosting him, and took him to Haifa to visit with the Ben Dovs and to eat in a local Arab restaurant.

I don't remember the details after that but they're in his book. at Amazon

I tell this story because i was overwhelmed by Sass's inclusion of me in this and other escapades. I was always ready to join him on his adventures, and always flattered that he thought of me. "I believe in you, " he told me over and over, and who was I? a little renegade lecturer all the proper academics were doubtful of at the time.. He translated a few poems of me, he read my articles. he did everything to encourage me when i was dragging my nose in the dirt of the quad of Tel Aviv University.

our last plan was to go to malta. Ezi was still shaky and Sass was too sick and the adventure never took place, but my dream was so strong i'm going to go there this year in his honor.

August 22, 2019

okay - we really need a moral compass. and even though every one says to me that nothing is going to change, i think we're really working on trying to establish one. it won't come immediately but the values have to change so we can know where to put our efforts. i have friends who are voting for Liberman because he wants a broad government not controlled by religious parties, I'm for it, but not for Liberman. others want to vote for meretz because Nitxan Horowitz is the only one with an ideology, the point is they want a way to tell right from wrong. and im proud of those people. really..

But here's a twist, I have to agree with Trump when he said that the democrats going against israel were being disloyal. against israel. and where would be without israel. the number of jews saved by the state is miniscule compared to the number whose lives were given dignity by the state of israel. although we owe it tp ourselves to keep our house clean, we owe it to ourselves to have a house.

August 23, 2019

Boy do I hate Ramat Aviv G. I was there twice in twenty four hours and wish terribly it was a more human place. There are no smiles anywhere. Any other place in the country, there are smiles - real ones in the shuk, fake ones in the mall - but smiles. I don't feel it in the cafes but in the shops it is as if they are doing you a favor by selling you a cake.

The terrible tragedy of a family blown up today is a terrible contrast to my trivial kvetchings.

August 24, 2019

The time I usually take to write here - late in the evening - was consumed by a showing of "Black Honey," the story of Avraham Sutzkever, on channel 1. I saw the movie months ago but could not think of doing anything else when i read that there would be a one-time showing of this film. All evening, with the children and the grandchildren here for dinner getting more and more excited over the coming program on another channel "Ninja", I could only think of seeing Sutzkever again. On the Ninja program my granddaughter's former coach became the first woman to successfully manage the ninja course, and it was really really exciting. i'm sure my granddaughter Noa will be greatly encouraged in her efforts to succeed in the world olympics, and she's really being groomed for that, but my mind was totally on Sutzkever, his amazing nobility of his life in the face of the intense and continuous suffering of the jewish people. After i first saw the film i went to pay my own respect to his grave

August 25, 2019

The unchecked fires in the Amazon reinforce the understanding that we have to work together to save the universe, that we are all in the same boat and have to make sure that responsible people are in charge, everywhere in the world.

In the meantime we can't pay too much attention to the Amazons because we are busy with defending our borders in all directions - a few rockets on Sderot in the south in sympathy with Nasrallah's promise in the north to keep us very worried, and a terrorist attack in the territories.... all in all one great weekend.

In case you don't know how petty I've become, I met a friend today who went to Italy the day we returned and when he complained of the heatwave there I was absolutely relieved my family didn't suffer it alone. I was ashamed of my public rejoicing in that news, and when he added that on the last day on the way to the airport, pouring rains began that flooded the roads, I rejoiced, talk about how we have to work together to save the universe. instead of weeping about global warming I was glad someone was suffering as well as me. But now the summer vacation is almost over and we can go back to our normal lives with our internet soon. Today, however, we had to stay away because we had kids with us and the cleaner was messing up the house, so we wound up at a mall. There were children all over, behaving rather subdued now that I think of it - probably because the lengthy summer has worn them out - and then we saw some guy walking around with an m16 slung over his shoulder. no one else noticed or cared but i cannot help but wonder what someone is wandering around with an m16. and why no one cares.

August 26, 2019

Am I the one who is always afraid of a war? This time I'm even afraid of the entire destruction of the planet. Iran and the Amazon forest. Amazon and Iran. Maybe for a moment the possibility of a deal of the Americans with the Iranians and talks between Jews and Muslims - but then Iran and Amazon.

So thinking i've got to get in a better mood before i go to sleep because tomorrow is Sasson's funeral. And suddenly the news on tv has a piece about Jewish medical students studying Arabic so they can treat all their patients equally successfully. and they show a class where they are singing one of the first songs i learned when i started learning arabic (before i started forgetting everything). It's a simple piece where the singer tells the boat to go out and come back bring sugar and tea. that was enough to change my mood.

babouri rakh rayh, babouri jai/babour me hamil sukhar wachai.

it's a comfort song