Tel Aviv Diary August 4, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 4-8 , 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 4, 2005

Even if i am silent
I am thinking

even if i do not utter a word

never take me for a wall

There is just too much to digest - the strange fanatics who have invaded the vacated homes of settlers and are now screaming about being deported, the exhausted silent majority, the growing poor class who look out with impotent rage at the flourishing rich .

I'll give an example of each later.

In the meantime more immediate crises. While the police are busy down south with the demonstration of the settlers, some guy goes up north and kills three Arabs, innocent riders on a bus. Not enough police to control him or to stop him from being killed by an angry crowd. It is a terrible act of terrorism and is even worse given the fact that something in the national atmosphere makes an act like this possible.

But the acute and terrible crisis is one of many many chronic crises, greater and smaller. We're in the third week of municipal strikes of the Druze and Circassian villages because money promised by the government hasn't been delivered. No garbage collection. etc. to a people to whom we owe so much.

We've got hundreds of thousands of all kinds of people living under the poverty line. We've ....

Geula Cohen said today on the radio that Uzi Dayan was not only smart but daring, and that there we had enough smart people but were lacking in daring leaders. That was all she said that I agreed with. And even that only partially. Because we have Bibi. And in the long run he is not only not smart (not only because he's screwing the poor, AND going against disengagement, but also because his policies are not going to work for anyone - poor or rich - in the long run) but also because he's chicken.

August 5, 2005

But, as they say in Beit Levick, the Yiddish House I spent the afternoon with yesterday, "lomir reden fun freilecher zachen." "Let's talk about happier things." This comes after a long conversation between Tevye about the tragedies in their lives and their families, about Hodel's marriage outside the faith, "Let's talk about happier matters,.. what do you think of the cholera in Kiev?"

Actually, you might expect me to weep now over the sad state of Yiddish, but I was very impressed with the board members I met there and their dynamism. Beit Levick itself no longer looks like an old age home, and feels very good. The new lighting, plans for an elevator, sound system, etc., and most important, there are numerous younger members, plans, and willingness to head committees.

Beit Levick can be seen here.

Click here to visit Leyvik house web site

Now Yiddish writers number in the 50s because of the new immigration from Russia. They need contributions, and you can donate from their website. Tell em i sent you.

The English Writers also has a site, but because we don't have a house and an amazing secretary like they do, our site is less impressive. Nevertheless, it's good. Here is the IAWE. We too need donations - for our journal, our

And get ready, we have an evening for the next arc in English on August 25, 2005. It will be at Beit Levick, 30 Dov Hoz Street, at 6:30 in Tel Aviv. There's another evening on the 31rst of August in Haifa. Details to follow.

Why do I get so involved in Writers' organizations? Because they are so basic to society, so deeply part of the culture, whether the culture recognizes it or not.

I learned to prepare my kitchen today for Kosher le-Mehadrin guests - well, more or less. But they were gracious, my guests, and ate carefully but warmly. It turned out to be more logical than I had thought. Most food here has a badatz label, and new utensils and paper dishes make it pretty much possible. Shabbat Shalom

Augus 5, 2005

The decision was suddenly made. We're going to California at the end of September. Even though there's a conference I really want to attend, I was going to cancel my paper because the other things I was supposed to do was cancelled. And then we realized we need a break from this place. Perspective. So I'm open to reading and lecturing invitations. Anyone out there interested? Usually when I go somewhere I'm pretty booked, but this is an adventure.

Apparently I've been blocked in some Arab countries. Some of the people who used to visit my site, and sometimes even comment, have disappeared, and I miss them.

I was amazed by how many letters I've received asking me to convey sympathies to the families at Shfaram. I'll publish only one press release, but there are many more individuals who feel this way.


Friday, August 5, 2005
NEW YORK: The Jewish Labor Committee unequivocally condemns yesterday's attack by 19-year-old AWOL soldier Natan Zada against Arab citizens of Israel in the community of Shfaram, in which at least four people were murdered.
JLC President Stuart Appelbaum said that "this act of terrorism by an unstable right-wing religious extremist, nurtured in the cauldron of hatred and intolerance, is an outrage condemned by the majority of Israelis, as well as the Jewish community world-wide."
"Our hearts go out to the families of the bus driver and the other victims of this attack. It is our hope that this horrible act by a deranged individual does not further inflame tensions between Jewish and Arab Israelis."

Why such an outpouring of condemnation? We need to distance ourselves from an act that we want to be so alien from us.

Robert Rosenberg at Ariga certainly has a good analysis of the problem.

Hillel Schenker wrote me an interesting evaluation as well:"The morning after the horrible murder by the AWOL IDF soldier Eden Natan-Zada of an Eged bus driver and three other random innocent Druze civilians from Shfaram, in a vicious, misguided attempt to stop the disengagement, I was in Jerusalem, getting ready to go to an Israeli-Palestinian-Latin American dialogue. I stopped to have coffee on trendy Emek Rafaim Street, before heading up to the Vatican-run Notre Dame Institute. Cafe Neeman, you get 9 cups of coffee, only 8 shekels a cup, and they give you the l0th for free. I've been working at it for over a year. Finally made nine cups.
"Sitting next to me were two locals, immersed in conversation. The younger one, mid-40s, wore an orange ribbon tied to his belt. He was telling the older guy sitting across from him that it "was impossible to say whether the majority are for or against the disengagement." At that point, I couldn't resist, so I joined in, saying - "You can tell, the majority is clearly in favor, and there are at least two criteria for that..." Before I could get into such peripheral things as public opinion polls and repeated votes by the majority in the Knesset, the orange-ribbon bearing fellow turned to me and said "this is not a public conversation. It's just between the two of us, and you're not invited to join in." His companion clearly didn't agree, but we left it at that, though a few sentences later the veteran pointedly turned to me to get me involved. The orange guy soon left, and the veteran proceded to tell me the following:
""I fought with Sharon back in 1948, in Latrun, and I never imagined he would reach the point he's reached today. I have my views, and they're clearly not the same as the other fellow, who I only met in the neighborhood, and sometimes have coffee with."
""I want to tell you a story. My son is a Lt. Colonel in the IDF, a psychologist, and I recently got a phone call that he was wounded, and was in Soroka Hospital in Be'ersheva. When I asked what happened, the doctors said that I'd better come to find out for myself. I rushed down to Be'ersheva, and found my son lying in a hospital bed with heavy bandages on his arms. He told me that he had been assigned to head a team of three IDF soldiers who were sent to Gush Katif (in the Gaza Strip) to talk to the settlers about IDF plans for the evacuation. The idea was that the IDF wanted to show sensitivy towards the settlers, to make the process easier for them. When they arrived at one of the homes, they were greeted by the woman of the house, carrying a thick grated iron rod. Her way of welcoming them was to start beating them with the rod, causing major gashes in his son's arms, which required hospitalization. So much for sensitivity."
""But I also want to tell you what happened to me yesterday," he continued. "Yesterday I was walking in the heart of Jerusalem. A young guy approached me and insisted that I take an orange ribbon for my car. When I refused, he hit me. A high-ranking police officer who was standing near by saw this, and grabbed the fellow. He told me that he had just spent the entire previous day facing the anti-disengagement demonstrators trying to break into Gush Katif. He back to Jerusalem to spend the night, and now has to arrest this violent guy, and then he'll be heading back to Gush Katif on Friday morning. As far as the police officer is concerned "they've gone crazy." So is it any wonder that Eden Natan-Zada, the Jewish terrorist, decided to take things into his own hands?
"I blame all the leaders of the anti-disengagement forces, both religious and secular, for helping to cultivate this state of affairs. They keep on insisting that some miraculous act - from on high or down below, will stop the disengagement. So there are individuals, and maybe groups out there, who want to carry out the act which will stop the inevitable. The anti-disengagment rabbis, settlers council heads and Gush Emumin leaders are all cultivating an irrational belief that the disengagement won't take place. They are the ones responsible for the traumas that the children in Gush Katif will experience, including the threat by a group of teenagers to commit collective suicide, surfing off into oblivion. They are responsible for the acts of the "Jewish terrorist", as he was labled by everyone from PM Sharon to the headline writers of mass circulation daily Yediot Ahronot. And I'm afraid that they will be responsible for an almost inevitable attempt on the prime minister's life. Two experts on European history, Prof. Zev Sternhell and Prof. Michael Harsgor recently wrote that we are in the midst of a revolutionary situation, reminiscent of the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe. It's only the steadfastness of the IDF, the police and the government (minus a number of minsters like Netanyahu who are trying to undermine the disengagement) that have so far held back the danger.
"I finished my cup of coffee, and headed up to Notre Dame, on the border between East and West Jerusalem. The official representative of the Holy See seemed very pleased to host the representatives of the quarrelsome Jews (Israelis) and Moslems (Palestinians), gathered for the dialogue.
Yes, we continued to talk, despite the traumatic events of the previous evening in Shfaram, and the concern about what might happen in the Holy Basin in Jerusalem later in the day at the time of the prayers. "Just a few snippets from the dialogue.
"Danny Rubinstein (Haaretz) said that unfortunately religion plays a primarily negative role in the conflict, reinforcing the forces of conflict escalation, rather than conflict resolution.
"Ziad Abu-Zayyad (Palestine-Israel Journal and a member of the PLC), though a member of the secular Fatah movement, is a religious Moslem. He said that the Koran, just like the Old Testament, contains passages which can be quoted to promote understanding and reconciliation. The problem is always in how the religions are interpreted. He reiterated the Palestinian Authority's goal of a two state solution, based on the 67 borders, and regretted that the disengagement was a unilateral act.
"Dr. Walid Salem, Director of the Panorama Center for Peace and Democracy in Jerusalem, said that it is vitally important that the both Israeli and Palestinian participants in dialogue and joint activity should appear to be patriotic in the eyes of their respective peoples. It is only when people are fully connected and respectfull of the concerns and interests of their own people, that they are capable of entering into a truly productive dialogue. Prof. (former MK) Naomi Chazan said that the role of intellectuals in civil society should be to throroughly analyze the options, and to place scenarios on the table that can help to resolve the conflict. She believes that until now, the majority of the intellectuals, on both sides, have not fulfilled this role. And since this was a dialogue with representatives from global civil society, many of the speakers emphasized that it is the role of the Diasporas of the two peoples around the world, and global civil society in general, to try to promote an inclusive understanding of the needs of both people in their agendas. And they are invited to take an active part in the quest for peace. When organizing study tours and missions to the area, make them not only pro-Palestinian, or pro-Israeli, but make sure that they include visits to both Israel and Palestine.
"And finally, a comment reiterated by Salem, Chazan and some of the academics from the U.S. and Latin America, any activity by civil society activists in the Middle East, and around the world, should not be divorced from the decision-making echelons. Civil society must also have impact on the political level, to be effective.
"Unwinding after the very intense dialogue, I had a brief talk with Dr. Paula Green, Co-Director of Conflict Transformation Across Cultures at the Brattleboro VT School for International Training. She just completed three weeks of training programs with Palestinians and Israelis. We all cast our bread upon the cross-cultural conflict resolution waters. Step by step, hopefully, despite everything, some progress is being made."
Hillel Schenker
Co-Managing Editor
Palestine-Israel Journal

I do know a couple of soldiers who got injured in a similar manner as Hillel described, by the way.

If you want to rinse your eyes, take a look at the site of David Najar. We've got a picture of his in our living room.

August 7, 2005

Why not do something actual and positive to stop terrorism?

Personalise and send to your local or regional paper please let UAT know about any successes.
Press release
For Immediate use
In a small number of days a largely unpublicised web site has attracted over 2,000 people from around the globe wanting to “Unite Against Terror”. Signatories include internationally renowned academics, journalists and authors plus (insert local signatories/yourself from) from (insert location).
Some have contributed short articles explaining their reason for joining the campaign
. These are many and varied including survivors of 9/11, London train drivers, philosophers and poets.
One of the most moving is from Alan and Franziska Norman who knew one of the victims of the London bombing Afghani refugee Ateeque Sharifi. Dedicating their signatures to his memory they explain he came to the UK after the Taliban murdered his parents only to die on 07/07 at Kings Cross. The go on to say:
“People are debating 'links' between the bombings and the conflicts in the Middle East. For us the link is very simple. Ateeque's killer acted in solidarity with the killers of his parents. Signing the statement is the least we can do to show sympathy and solidarity with his friends and his remaining family”.
Their full contribution can be read at where the main statement is posted. Individuals can also sign here to demonstrate their opposition to terrorism.
Further information from:
Simon Pottinger +44 7970 494805

Diana wrote to me to ask how the army let a crazy soldier get away with deserting, much less run around with a weapon and murder innocent people. I have only a tiny example of my contact with the army.

When my son went into the army, he looked down at me protectively and said, "Do not worry that your role as a mother has now ended. It is now your duty to become intimately acquainted with my commander." And indeed I discovered more and more what I had originally felt with my other children, that the Israeli army is run like any other family, that it is composed of sons and daughters, and leans - usually - toward mercy, lenience and even turning a blind eye to irregularities.

There is much more to be said on this subject, but I have only a few minutes and have to say something about Bibi's resignation.

When one of my guests on Friday afternoon asked me if I was sure the disengagement would take place, I exercised my power as venerable hostess and virtual auntie and stopped the discussion by answering that I was sure it would, but that I was disturbed by the lack of dialogue in the process. This is the kind of sentence that can only be agreed with or inquired about, and therefore does not open an argument unless the 'other' has a lot more daring than most. It is not something I usually do, but it seemed to me that the question was unrealistic. How could it NOT take place? Only the fanatics seem to believe that something will come down from the sky and change the course of history. But Bibi's sudden resignation today was an attempt to play this kind of deus ex machina part, to pull down the government, to stop the process. And many say that he will now become the next prime minister, because everyone will forget that he signed the Oslo agreement, that he went along with the disengagement at first, and will think of the fact that his conscience made him pull out. Maybe it did. But it is a strange conscience that rises to the surface at strange times and then disappears.

Anyway Barak is beginning to look good to me. Even though he always has to prove how smart he is.

In any case, with all these enormous events troubling my life, I'm feeling like this picture:

without the smile - Rodin's cast iron models here are tickling me, but they're bigger and much more powerful.

Anyway to get back to the disengagement, I now see how it is not be inevitable, and could be stopped at the last minute. But not by Divine forces. They wouldn't intervene. Sorry. I imagine that if God is involved he'd like to see Isaac and Ishmael give honor to their father together.

August 8, 2005

People are asking why Netanyahu quit now - after having been part of the government and disengagement for so long - but I suspect he quit because the poverty report is coming out - and he is going to get even more flack than ever on that. This way he's avoided the confrontation. He keeps saying that he doesn't want history to say that he was involved in disengagement but what will history think of a Minister of Finance who created poverty?

August 8, 2005

What could I have been thinking of? Has this situation driven me mad? Whatever could have made me think of Barak?

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