Tel Aviv Diary August 24, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 24 - 28 , 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 24, 2005

Tomorrow evening - reading for ARC 17 - Beit Leyvik - Tel Aviv - 30 Dov Hoz Street - Reception 6:30/ Reading 7:30 - Entrance free.

I am dressed to the hilt - as I never am in August - because I had to visit the Austrian Ambassador - and on the way home I stop to get gas at the Paz station on Namir just before the river. Because of the heat, I let the attendants rip me on for a bottle of radiator water, and they must have screwed up the battery contacts (by mistake - really) because then the car wouldn't start. Dead. The manager bangs here and there on the contacts, on the starter. Nothing works. This is only a gas station. No facilities for service. We push my car up to his and he attaches cables. The car springs to life. I offer him money and he refuses. But then again his workers had already ripped me off. I race home, after an hour in the sun in my elegant acetate blouse. Whatever made me buy artificial fibers in this country?

While the girls of Sa-Nu are praying and weeping their Nehila, I remember myself in the same prayer at their age. I was as intense as they, but i always had a sense of irony, a questioning that would never have let me be put in their place. And i mistrust that intensity - in any religion.

August 25, 2005

Today our kitchen is finally being completed. And the airconditioner, after 4 visits, will be actually repaired. All the remains is for me to prepare the food for the family party of 35 tomorrow, and to get the refreshments for the reading tonight at Beit Leyvik. While I do not know the participants, I do know that the subject - of trees -tonight is a charged one, in this country, at this time, in an audience that comprises all the range of political opinions.

I think I believe that trees have souls. As much as we do.

So there. I've said it.

But it isn't as farfetched in this country as it sounds. The rarity of them, the necessity of nurture, the delicacy, and the way they react, makes them eligible to be regarded as individuals. Adelaide Crapsey, probably watching the trees near Fiesole, wrote a poem in 1912 called " On Seeing Weather Beaten Trees"

Is it as plainly in our living shown,
By slant and twist, which way the wind has blown?

And I often remember those lines when I see on the barks of trees the history of this country.

Right now they are transplanting trees from the settlements to the new places, as if they were house pets. Despite the expense, and our poverty, I am proud that we can take some our trees with us. It is not that I do not want the Palestinians to have a beautiful country, but I know the personal attachment to trees planted with one's soul.

Hillel Schenker has given a good, if painful, analysis of the present political situation. Robert Rosenberg at Ariga. is also wisely analytical.

August 26, 2005Did Dahlia Ravikovich really kill herself? Her brother says otherwise. And why is it important? For me, I hate the emphasis on her suicide, hunger for a celebration of her work. And I think the model of the suicidal poet is simply wrong. Poets have the same statistics of mental illness and suicide as everyone else - the myth of the artist is a bad model for young people. And Dahlia Ravikovich is/was a model.

In any case he says she slipped in the bathroom and hit her head. That couldn't be hard to check.

I would also like to note, if i didn't note it before, that the Minister who presented Ravikovich with the Israel Prize for Literature in recent years was not present at the funeral and did not send even a wreathe or a telegram. The lack of honor and respect for poets is to me terribly relevant. A country that is building its culture and society needs the creativity and expression of poets. The absence of poetry in the center is always a sign of stagnation.

And I do not say this because I am a neglected poet, but because I am a student of culture and a scholar of poetry.

August 26, 2005

I'm afraid it sometimes gets the betters of me, the situation here. And it gets to be too hard to write about. We sat around predicting the future and couldn't come up with one realistic scenario that could relieve our political despair.

August 27, 2005

In the afternoon we went up to Latroun to see the "Mini-Israel" exhibit. This is a miniature of most of the important sites in this country - churches, mosques, synagogues, historical sites, from skiing on Hermon Mountain to Yad Vashem, to Eilat. We went before sunset but as it got dark the whole atmosphere changed as the little lights in the cities went on and everything seemed softer, more romantic. We were sitting opposite the miniature of the Daniel Amichai Rowing Center, a place we visit frequently in its original size, sipping some kind of artificial tasting juice marketed as real... and i was trying hard to get into it. But in my foul mood the fact that the forms of buildings, the outsides, were foregrounded, somehow bothered me. Then: "What did you like best?" her father asked Liora, and she pantomimed her answer - the praying men at Al Aksa.

It was true - the kneeling figures who moved to prostration at intervals, like the jews 'shockling' at the wailing wall, were indeed the most human and transcended the minimalization and consequent externalization of the country.

I have been getting letters from settlers and sympathizers with settlers that i am not showing enough compassion for their plight. It is true - my compassion is limited. Sometimes I'm against disengagement because I don't want to let those entitled people into my neighborhood.

Uri Avneri wrote a bunch of letters on his websites. Here's one;Dear Settlers --
"Dear" in the most literal sense.
At long last it must be spelled out, without hypocritical pity, without "if" and "but".
We have paid billions of shekels in order to settle you in the Gaza Strip. We have paid billions to keep you there, and most of you have lived there at our expense. We paid billions to defend you, and dozens of soldiers, male and female, lost their lives doing this. Now we are paying billions (Eight? Ten? Twelve?) to get you out of there and pay you generous compensation.
But all this is not enough. Again you are shouting. Again you are being robbed. Again we owe you much, much more. Whole stretches of the country, preferably on the sea-shore, to be especially reserved for you, so that you can resettle "as whole communities". So that you can live separately. So that you can have your own separate schools. So that you can draw government salaries as employees of the local council, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Defense.
I don't know whether the Guinness Book of Records awards a title for champions of impertinence, cheek, impudence - in short, good old Jewish chutzpah. If so, you should win it hands down. In the past we only owed each of you a luxury villa for next to nothing, as well as a source of livelihood, land and water, now it seems we owe you everything. It is your right to help yourselves from the money needed for the sick, the elderly, the handicapped, the children, the unemployed. Because you are the best of the best. Because you are holding on to the beard of the Messiah. Because you were personally chosen by God.
I might have some sympathy for your plight, if you had uttered one word of compassion for the inhabitants of the 1500 Palestinian homes that were destroyed because of you, a greater number than all the homes of the settlers that are being destroyed now. If you had expressed any compassion for the children that were evicted from their homes within half an hour, without compensation, without hotels and psychologists. For the thousands of trees uprooted in order to supply you with "security".
As the good Rabbi Hillel said 2000 years ago, when he saw the skull floating down the river: "Because you have drowned others, you were drowned…"
And please remember: the bill is not being paid by "the State", an anonymous body, but by me and the Israeli readers of this column, out of our own pockets.

At the same time I don't like the idea of people being displaced - any people - and at the same time I remember the signS all over the country -


and i think of what my sister-in-law said: "Jews don't exile jews - they just move them a little."

August 29, 2005

So the Hamas is already into us - bombing the central bus station in Beer Sheva this morning, apparently on their way to bombing the local hospital. Beer Sheva has never been in question, but it does get bombed on occasion - which tells us again and again that Hamas wants to get rid of us all.

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home