Tel Aviv Diary - August 27-31 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 27, 2012

I think I'm back in an evaluative condition.

New York is slowly helping me to return my brain to working condition. It's not quite back yet but I can feel the presence of world news putting me slowly back into perspective. Now I know when I'm being fleeced and when it's just provinciality or stupidity. Now I can see when the truth is clear or not, when things are in truth fuzzy or just being presenting fuzzily.

Take one restaurant for example - Serafina on the upper west side. You walk in and you feel you're in the wrong place. The sign embossed on the door says breakfast lunch dinner 24 hours in gold. But at 12 they laughed at me when i suggested breakfast and kind of forgot to give me the lunch specials. Free delivery the website says but the delivery menu says "DELIVERY $ 15.00 MINIMUM & DELIVERY CHARGE 7%". If you're dumb enough to believe them, and don't have experience in the area, it's your problem.

August 28, 2012

The question of responsibility, of knowledge and understanding is very prominent in the Rachel Corrie question. Who is to blame?The Israeli courts have declared that the bulldozer driver is not at fault. Why does all this remind me of Osho's parable of the train. Unlike with Osho, the idea of who is really responsible is never a single issue. But we tend to forget sometimes that it is not always the one who should know better. One thing that Lisa Goldman and I agreed on tonight is that the singular attention should not be a blond American - despite her tragic death - but on all the Palestinian people.

Remember this old poem of mine from "Ignorant Armies"?


"One clear loser in the hostage crisis is Israel, which has gone down nine points in the ratings" NBC, June 30, 1985


"This is the game ..." You draw a diagram.

"First, a river" - a line across the page.
"On this side lives a husband and wife."
You write (H) and (W) on the bottom half.
"On the other side are her lovers," (L1) and (L2),
who live in view of each other.
(L1) loves (W) madly but (W) is mad for (L2)
who doesn't really care but consents
to sleep with her when she's there.

"There are two ways to cross the river -
a bridge and a boat. The boatman, (B),
for a coin will carry anyone anywhere.
The bridge is free, but from eight at night
until eight A.M. is patrolled by a murderer (M)
who destroys those who try to pass.

"One morning (W) goes to see (L2).
They spend all day in bed.
She is so besotted
she forgets the time, and it is eight.

"When she runs to (B) she sees
she has left her wallet at home
and asks to owe the money.
(B), a businessman,
does not operate on credit.

"Returning to (L2) she asks
for a small loan, but he - reiterating
what he said in the morning - shakes his head.
He has no ties to her, except, as she knows,
an indifferent willingness to acquiesce. Can
she stay the night, she asks. He shakes his head.

"(L1) watches her run down his path, desperate,
hysterical. 'If you love me at all, please
lend me the money for the ride or give me a roof
for the night!' 'Not I - who have watched you two all day -
in love and pain - I will not be further used and wounded.'

"It is bitter cold, and if she sleeps outside
(W) will surely freeze. Perhaps, she thinks, the
murderer will not come out now. She tries
the only way left.
When she gets to this point," You draw an (X)
with your pencil half way across the bridge, "She is killed.

"Now," you say in triumph, "List
the letters in order of responsibility."


That was years ago and I, a young American, newly wed,
wrote down (W), (at least she should know
to take her purse) then (H), (who could not keep
his wife at home with love, understanding, reason,
who did not go to look for her).

The lovers were somewhere in the middle
but he who loved should have wanted
to save her, had an obligation to that love.

The one who didn't care should
have cared for self respect.

The boatman - can you blame a capitalist?

At the bottom of the list, I wrote (M).

After all, I had been everyone, felt shame
for all of them, except the man on the bridge.  

I watched the Republican convention tonight. There was something in it I recognized from the past - a well-oiled machine that is going to succeed. Despite its responsibility for the wars.

August 30, 2012

Nothing seems to work for me in NY. It may just be me, because I'm so worried about what's going on with Israel, with Iran, with the U.S. election, with the world banks, etc... But come on - I went to the MOMA just to see the exhibit about The Century of the Child, and it seemed childish, irrelevant, pandering to a general audience and not educating anyone. The first problem was that it was only working with a small part of the materials necessary. What was missing? Marbles. Roller Skates. Slingshots. Dolls - china dolls, paper dolls, doll houses, doll beds, doll clothes, puppets and puppet shows. Games - stick ball, hide-and-go-seek, jacknives and the games played with them. Lincoln logs. Most of the materials were not manufactured but many of them were found. So why were they totally absent from the museum? if so much of the contemporary art is found, recycled, and so on, why were the true original toys ignored? The list I've made also shows something missing in the general approach of the MOMA - human interaction.

And that's what's causing all the problems that worry me in the world.

August 31, 2012

Not that life isn't play. Even though I'm sick and seem to be getting sicker, am worried all the time about Israel, and have to cancel plans right and left, my every day is a bit of a playground. Take the luggage lady in Macy's today. When we discovered that the child's guitar we bought for Omer for almost nothing will cost $300 to ship to Israel, we decided to try to fit it into a bigger suitcase and take it along. 'Thirty inches' I said to the luggage lady who looked and talked like Nina Simone. Then, after she started showing me the higher end of matched pieces, I explained the situation. She disappeared. I was sure she'd given up on us, especially since I was wearing my multicolored socks under my short shrunken jeans and couldn't have seemed like a real customer to her, but she came back with one after another, until she produced the sickest green duffel bag i've ever seen - something like luminous play vomit. Rejoicing at the appropriateness of it, we bought a godiva candy bar and split it with her. If we didn't make her day a little more playful I don't know what did. In any case the day we spent solving our - perhaps foolish - problem - was a great experience. When you can't solve a problem within the box you make the box bigger.

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