Tel Aviv Diary December 17, 2002 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

How many times in these pages have i referred to Sara as embodying the history of this city? If only to meet her again in my memories I am tempted to break my rule and read this. There are so many stories I want to tell about her that perhaps i have already told... I have promised myself to wait for the elections - but on the eve of January 28,I will begin to read what has been written here and begin to see if anything makes any narrative sense. this is the time to tell you - if there are parts that seem particularly confused or parts that seem wonderful, tell me about them soon.

Amichai's poem that I quoted yesterday in this diary gave me great comfort, and I mentioned it to my neice. She said: yes, that's the one you read at Bandi's funeral, 8 years ago. That's the great thing about having a bad memory, everything is always a new experience.

Today's Ha'aretz notes what oren said a few days ago - that Arik Sharon (what Arthur calls our National Teflon) has never had any accusation stick to him. He was always able to blame everyone else for anything even though he has never proposed any plan for alleviating the situation. All the corruption in the Likud party, and the sales of votes, have nothing to do with Sharon. All the evils that have befallen us - the economy, the security, international antisemitism - are all the fault of the world, not us.

Apparently my problems of memory are characteristic of my people.

December 18, 2002

With all the corruption in the Likkud Party coming to the front now, it begins to look the like 'balance of power' within the government may be restored. Ir is quite amazing how Sharon has managed to keep the dirt from sticking to him or his wheeler-deeler son, but he has a history of his, as I think I have mentioned. Everybody's selling votes in the party, and he is enraged - not involved. Actually I think that the procedure has been in place for many years but the arrival of a backer with a great deal of money who has a personal interest in promoting a family member has turned into a three ringed circus. i'm afraid to say the name of the person i suspect.

Of course it is impossible to stay out of these messes in this country because it invades every element of private life. I would prefer to keep to my private mourning, at least for this week, but i don't see to be capable of it. Here and there I sneak into the news, turn on the radio.

December 20, 2002

My access to a computer is limited this week and my commentary even more unfocussed than usual. But there are some things I am sure of. The money trail of the Likkud's voting bribing scandal will lead to the highest places - in business as well as government. So much of the politics in this country in recent years has been in part determined by the greed of a few weathy people and their influence on corrupt politicians. No. Not < i> will . Many others with whom i have spoken have laughed at the possibility of the truth coming out.

But I'm beginning to sound like Barry Chamish. From the opposite direction. He's got all these conspiracy theories that have the scent of right wing paranoia, and i'm catching the antithetical disease.

But the root cause is the same. A sense of distrust in the people who lead the country - and the cure for a disease like this is the simplification of life through truth and honesty - to get people into the government who tell the truth for a change. No, I don't think I'm being naive. And I agree that the situation itself here is extremely complicated. But I think that the simplification of the political situation is entirely reasonable, and possible. A constitution. Clear rules. Borders. A peace plan. These are all do-able.

Of course all of this may not be relevant when Saddam drops his anthrax on us. We seem to have no plan for this either.

I have discovered a major gap in my education. I never read Theodore Herzl's utopian novel of Israel, "Old New Land," which describes a society in which Jews and Arabs and other peoples live together in a kind of socialist harmony - I'm going to right this wrong in Hebrew translation because apparently the English translation is out of print. Where have I been? I mean the very name of Tel Aviv comes from the original Hebrew translation of Altneuland - the ancient dig and the new spring... (Sokolov's translation)

Why did I think of "Old New Land"? two reasons - there was a review of the new hebrew translation by Shlomo Avineri in Haaretz - and a new political party in israeli is using a version of Herzl, "if you will it, it is not a dream." But just to show the difference between then and now, It's the party for legalizing marijuana and its version is: "if you will it, it is not a crime." Now what an amazing analysis can be done over that.

December 21, 2002

The news about Iraq, the fact that the war is 'planned' for mid-January to mid-March, and we'll be told in time to get ready - the fact that there are terrorist attacks all the time here (Yesterday monring a father was killed in front of his 6 children. A bomb was dismantled in mid Netanya) - The fact that we are getting investigations of every one in government right now - All these things are out of control. How absolutely logical it is that Israel is going crazy of plastic surgery right now. Control what you can. You can't keep the war from happening or killing your family, but you can get that wrinkle right. A perfect body instead of a perfect life. A woman in my belly dancing class had a few 'alterations' even though she is a single parent on a very limited salary. She looks great too. Me, I'll stick with my wrinkles for now.

And can you imagine being caught in an air raid drill in the middle of a face lift? Wind up looking like Boris Karloff.

In lieu of Herzl's utopia, I have been reading Tschernichovsky's poetry. Tschernikowsky, who published his first book of poetry in 1898, studied medicine (1899-1903)in Heidelberg and then pediatrics in Switzerland, before he moved to Palestine. As a military physician (WWI)he was decorated by the Russian government. But he had this dream, and came to Palestine. Apparently he wrote and practiced medicine like William Carlos Williams, but I think he wasn't sufficiently appreciated in either field and didnt make a good living. As a poet, he makes me cry with his naive and beautiful faith in the ideal country. (But I heard from some of his former clients that as a pediatrician he was a bit of a DOM. Ada, Ezi's cousin, says she knows nothing of this, but her mother was a colleague of his and he was a wonderful man). He's hard to translate - because he's in the world of the kind of meter and rhyme that sounds children if faithfully adhered to, but he himself was an amazing translator - Homer, Longfellow - I think we admire the same idealism in writers. I mean, The Song of Hiawatha is a pretty amazing poem. Ada just sent me a translation she did of a few verses of "they say there is a land," and she points out that it is faithful but not beautiful...

I asked her to translate the rest for these pages.

An old student of mine had a criticism of this diary - why a new link every 5 pages? the answer is - just so it doesn't follow any regular schedule except my own - no week, no month, none of those foreign units of measure.

to return to Tchernikovsky: Alan Mumford, who is (i think) always on line and willing to help out, just wrote: "I thought you may be interested in the last stanza of Tchernikovsky's "Shir eres" which is also known as 'Nitshu tzalim' ('Shadows are falling'). It sheds some light on the myth that all early Zionists believed that they were in the business of redeeming "a land without people for a people without land". The third line is interesting too."

On the Jordan and in Sharon

Where the Arabs camp,

This will be our land!

You, too, are among the builders!

And one day the standard-bearers will arise,

Do not betray them!

To your weapons among the heroes

Our sun shall rise.

Since this is the spirit of Herzl's novel, I am particularly grateful. The translation, he points out, is Chanita Goodblatt, my good friend. I will now go and call her about other translations.

you are visitor number


Back to Karen Alkalay-Gut diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home