Tel Aviv Diary Dec 14, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from Dec 14, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 14, 2003

please sign the petition protesting the 45% budget cuts for culture in Israel: Here

News: As i was driving back last night from the airport, the news that there had been over 40 separate warnings about terrorist attacks came on, that the Hamas plans many more - everywhere the zionist evil lives.

And there was a message on my phone from Estee about more news - Kurt Gerron's film was featured on the television news just then - a jewish film festival (she didn't catch where and when - she was too excited to see him on the screen after having seen the powerful film only yesterday). He's finally getting his audience!

Why did he disappear? The Germans must have been a bit embarassed and they way they treated him and murdered him, his hollywood friends must have felt guilt at not doing enough to save him, and the Jews must have suffered just a bit at the fact they he made the film that - even if was never used - degraded them so. Unlike some of the reviewers I don't think his choice to make the film or not was ever a question. He had to make the film or die. What was a question was the choice the rest of the world made - to let it happen.

Then I went back to the real news.

The differences are not great.

This is what Kurt Gerron in his great portrait on my wall reminds us: standing there in his theatrical attire, decked out, he has a handkerchief in his breast pocket - shaped, almost, into a star. The Jew in all his decadent stereotype. Proud, successful, integrated.

That image was one of the reasons for the intense hatred Hitler had for the Jews.

Just think, when they went to make a propaganda film about how incidious and dangerous the jews were, they used Gerron and the parts he played in movies as the example - he was always the banker, the instigator, the high-liver, the degenerate, the jew.

But I must be repeating myself.

Still, it's the very same situation for antisemitism today that was there only sixty years ago.

Saddam: the weeks coming will show if his capture changes the nature of the opposition – if his capture has made a difference on the ground. But certainly the international degradation – the televised flashlight in the mouth, the lice-search, the intimate coverage – is meant to show the victory of Bush, and the humiliation of his enemies.

But I hesitate to write about him, even in these pages, because I fear the linkage vetween Israel and Iraq. Saddam himself made a lot of book on creating a false linkage between the two countries, and even threw a few missiles my way. I would rather concentrate on the 400,000 people he’s killed and the fact that that part, at least, is over. Let us hope that this will open a new chapter for the people of Iraq.

December 15, 2003

People have been asking me where Prisoner of Paradise can be seen. In NY, Boston, SF, Toronto and Jerusalem Go see it and tell me for yourself. Remember, I live with this guy in my dining room. He talks to me all the time.

Alan Mumford reminded me that I hadn't said anything about the passing of Fadwa Tucan. I had always wanted to meet her, but she apparently was not interested in contact with Israeli poets. I don't remember what exactly the were circumstances. Nevertheless, she was a great poet and her voice will be missed greatly. Here is what Alan sent me

Enough for Me - Fadwa Tuqan 1917- 2003

Enough for me to die on her earth

be buried in her

to melt and vanish into her soil

then sprout forth as a flower

played with by a child from my country.

Enough for me to remain

in my country's embrace

to be in her close as a handful of dust

a sprig of grass

a flower.

The Palestinians are very unhappy about Saddam. Here's an example. But I too must admit that I am squirming about the way Saddam was captured. The Zubu, as it is called, the public humiliation, was perhaps advised by the experts, but I was ashamed.


1) Fadwa Tuqan: When Melanie asked me who Fadwa Tuqan was I wanted to point her to some poetry on the web – and only found two. In English.

Besides the wonderful poem Alan sent, there was this magnificent verse:

The Deluge and the Tree

When the hurricane swirled and spread its deluge of dark evil

onto the good green land

'they' gloated. The western skies

reverberated with joyous accounts:

"The Tree has fallen !

The great trunk is smashed! The hurricane leaves no life in the Tree!"

Had the Tree really fallen?

Never! Not with our red streams flowing forever,

not while the wine of our thorn limbs

fed the thirsty roots,

Arab roots alive

tunneling deep, deep, into the land!

When the Tree rises up, the branches

shall flourish green and fresh in the sun

the laughter of the Tree shall leaf

beneath the sun

and birds shall return

Undoubtedly, the birds shall return.

The birds shall return

There are more in Hebrew. But all I can remember is the story of Moshe Dayan who read the poem in 1968 about wanting to eat the livers of the Jews and decided to meet her. He had to explain himself in parliament for it. As Shlomo Avineri recalled, Dayan said: “Look, this poem is as terrible to me as it is to all Israeli Jews. But it inspires: it moves people to kill us and it moves people to put their own lives in jeopardy. So we should listen to the poet. Because if we don’t understand the poetry of the other, we will never understand what motivates them and therefore we will never understand how to make peace with them. One day, let’s hope that they will listen to our poetry, too.”

2)Richard really called me on the carpet on my supersympathy for Saddam. Due to a temporary technical problem my email is not on the same computer as i am writing now so i can't quote it - but you can imagine the gist - and of course he is right. Here is what he said: "The fact that either Arafat or Saddam is an Arab leader is in and of itself a public humiliation for all Arabs. "

I hope he doesn't mind my quoting - i'll have to remove it if he does.

The thing i cannot bear, though, is taking pleasure in the suffering of the enemy.

December 16, 2003

More about Fadwa Tuqan: Apparently, even though Sasson Somekh had translated a number of Tuqan's poems, that line about wanting to eat the livers of the soldiers (it turns out my memory was faulty and i thought it was all jews) really injured her reputation here. Darwish is much more read here than she is even though politically they are about equal. But anyway we won't like overt politics in poetry in Israel - we seem to prefer the more personal.

Did she ever meet with Israeli poets? I've been asking all over and no one ever seems to have met her.

But then perhaps the ones who met her are no longer alive.

Seriously, the only one who met her was Moshe Dayan. And I don't know how that meeting went.

Probably Rony Somekh knows. I'll have to ask him at Shira's Bat Mitzvah.

December 17, 2003

Nothing changed today - I woke up with the certainty that Saddam Hussein's capture will make no difference whatever in the world, that peace will never be achieved, that corruption will never be uncovered. The only thing it seems can change is the rate of traffic accidents (now that we have Rudolf Guiliani advising us about how to treat offenders here). So I turned away from all the important tasks on my desk and went out for some retail therapy (as Debby calls it).

I was not alone. Not only Orit, but many people I know - most of whom can afford shopping as much as I can - were in the mall buying overpriced and overdesigned items along with me.

It's not Christmas here, and Hannukah is more a holiday of celebration than gifts. So there was no reason except - perhaps - the same despair into which I am sunk about the future.

December 18, 2003.

What Do we do for Hannukah, you ask? Eat of course. And take the kids to the theatre. My own great memories of Hannuka are connected with gambling. The four hebrew letters on the dreidl spelled: Ness Gadol Haya Sham. A great miracle happened there. You begin by putting a penny in the pot and spinning the dreidel. Nun stands for Nisht. Nothing. If it falls on nun nothing happens. Gimmel stands for gans. whole. You get the entire pot. Hey stands for halb - half. shin stands for shtel - or place. You have to add another penny. With each round of players all add another coin.

Thus i would lose my hannuka gelt back to my mother...

or earn much more.

The only problems with this game are that it is based on Yiddish and who knows yiddish now, and that the dreidel was based on the diaspora: here we have dreidls that say - a great miracle happened here.

nevertheless i highly recommend the game - as a way of preparing children for the real world.

We're going to play it the old way in Nona every night - candle lighting at 8. Got some Hannuka gelt to lose? Join us.

Turns out I am not the only one who found the zubu of Saddam demeaning. Today Ahmed asked me, "what we were looking for with a flashlight in his mouth? weapons of mass destruction?" And more and more friends, mostly Arab, voiced their indignation at the humiliation of an Arab leader, despite his questionable status. This is not the way to do diplomacy.

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