Tel Aviv Diary August 3-7, 2007- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 3-7, 2007

August 3, 2007

Breaking our usual routine of Friday morning chores, we met our friends at Yudit's cafe in "Gan Ha'ir" which is frequented by an older local crowd, probably because the cakes are like the old country - Budapest or Warsaw or Vienna of long ago. Not only was the age of the clientele striking. We were eating our Palachinke and I suddenly looked around and realized that the men at our table were almost the only men in the entire establishment. Although later the gender odds evened out, the age factor remained most salient. The strange thing about it was that we felt perfectly in place. As we should. That old culture of cafes and old friends and cakes and coffee should always remain with us.

Not that it is part of my own family tradition. Not that my parents ever had a chance to sit in cafes with friends. But when I first came to Israel and every one was drinking ice-cafe in the boulevards of Tel Aviv, I couldn't help thinking it was a symbol of freedom - a wonderful release that people can express only when they have been under great stress for a long time.

August 4, 2007

How will Sara sleep, I think. I forgot to write today - first time in i don't know how long. It was only when I was explaining to a friend how I started this thing during the terror of tel aviv that i realized the there are no real incidents at the moment and it is possible to keep my mouth shut for a bit.

August 5, 3007

My friend calls up to invite me to join her in the march in Jerusalem in protest of the lack of government support for Holocaust survivors. They've been waiting for the money that was supposed to be given them years ago, and are dying out. Since they are always with me, the survivors, it seemed natural that I should join. And I've never been a friend of this government. Why do I have a problem? The complexity of it and the lack of conclusive information maddens me. I want to know what happened to that money. I want to know what has taken so long and now that the government has finally made the first offer ever, why it is so low (84 shekel per month). And I continue to believe that the survivors were never compensated properly by this society which rejected the whole image of the victim, even while we based our national identity on the fact of these very victims. We don't like victims.

When the trees were removed from outside the window of my neighbor who is a holocaust victim, she was very upset. She complained to the board, but didn't think of planting - not even a flower - in its place. So I assumed for a while that she was just kvetching. But last month we suddenly realized that maybe she really deserves some attention. We could easily plant some of the trees that have been sprouting from our avocado pits, we thought, and so I planted them next to her window. I have no idea how we'll they'll do, although they seem to be thriving. But she herself is thrilled. So am I.

What solutions do I suggest for the Holocaust survivors in Israel? That they get medical expenses free. That they get free transportation. Phones.

Today is Shimon Peres' 84th birthday.

August 6, 2007

Today is the anniversary of Hiroshima.

The group that does my "Love Soup" poems - Roy Yarkoni, Yael Kraus, et al, appear next week at Levontin 7.

August 7, 2007

Yesterday I was moseying around Tel Aviv University, trying to undo some administrative tangles. There were many little groups of children, dressed alike, together with the counselors, moving from one activity to the next, full of team spirit. It was a pleasure to see them, and I forgot for the moment that almost none of my colleagues were around. They are all abroad, trying to make up the discrepancy between research facilities here and elsewhere. The students in the neighborhood were primarily Arab, although exams are still going on and one would expect to find all kinds of students studying together in groups. But there is no place to meet, no places to sit in groups, no student center to gather in. There is no faculty center either, but if there were perhaps some of my colleagues would be around. The sleepy, dusty, underequipped library certainly issues no invitation.

Today I was in Bar Ilan University, which, by virtue of its numerous trees on campus, offers much more shelter from the sun and therefore greater opportunities to sit and chat. And indeed there were far more students.

There were no cats, however. At least I didn't see any. And my Ecclesiastes returned to me: "For what befalleth the children of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other, and they have all one breath; and man hath no pre-eminence above the beast"

Anyway I went home and visited my next door neighbors yard, where seven cats were waiting for lunch. And I thought how unusual Tel Aviv University is, and how unusual Tel Aviv is, for seeing that interrelationship. (I know I have quoted Ecclesiastes out of context, but I am quite mad about the cats, and how they don't let me forget that there are other souls in the world who need to be acknowledged.)

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