Tel Aviv Diary December 2-6 2002 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 2, 2002

Today Meretz had its primaries - I was listening to Ran Cohen on the radio and thinking he'd make a wonderful Minister of the Interior for Mitzna. His simultaneous awareness of the situation of all the different peoples in this country, their trials and needs, makes him the perfect antidote to Shlomo Ben Izri's fascism. Even though he isn't the antithesis of Ben Izri - he's just an expansion - Cohen sees all humanity the way Ben Izri sees the Jews.

Now with the alarming statistics on Beduin, Ethiopian and Haradi Jews, and the increasing numbers of people living below the poverty line, I think there is a need for reform from two areas.

First of course in the government: increased spending in helping unemployed to create jobs. 1. By this I mean to open up closed factories and allow former employees to share responsibility and control for their operation. Even if they operate at loss and have to be staked, the possibilties of creating a working developing system is helping to create a future. 2. to invest (through employing unemployed workers rather than doling out allowances) in building fast local train networks, bringing people to job centers. 3. to encourage retired people to volunteer as advisors and teachers in local educational programs - in practical areas such as first aid, home economy, day care center management. 4. to establish a weekly television program of the unemployed, by the unemployed and for the unemployed -

From the other direction I would recommend the establishment of small local community organizations to examine and pinpoint problems, needs and potential grass roots solutions. If it's in an area of apartment complexes, for example, it could go through each co-op. what's important here is to reempower the individual and the neighborhood and to wrest control away from the goverment over daily lives.

There is a psychological factor here in that we have become a people who believes in professionals - and this reliance upon professionals causes individual passivity.

Just to take some of the single parents and reorganize their lives into cooperative units by offering a more interactive system of living quarters - communal and convenient to work and school - with evening communal courses - 'private lessons' in small enterprise, sewing, bookkeeping - could turn around their lives even on a small scale.

Feedback on this would be appreciated.


December 4, 2002

I need a new computer - but we've finally got the old one back on its feet. To continue.

I have been wondering whatever happened to that pillar of the community, the yente, the woman who knows everybody's business and interferes. The neighbor who complains that this child is being beaten and this father is out of work and that woman has a degree in nursing that she isn't using because she can't find a job. And when the right person hears this he says - wait - i have a grandmother who needs someone to look after her and give her injections. Maybe that woman can do it for me. We have relegated the communication and the facilitation of this kind of information to the government - which isn't functioning. But instead of complaining that the big government agencies are unwieldy and incapable of solving our problems maybe we can bring back the concept of the yente. not the yente - the concept. the intervention.

And add to that the concept of organization that the new immigrant Russians do so well. If there is no school for jazz that will employ you, found your own. The children have nothing to do on the vacation and the parents have to stay home to take care of them? Pay the unemployed neighbor to have a holiday camp at home - and maybe go on a neighborhood trip. Not to the mall, but to round up stray animals,to feed the cats, to chart the residents in the area.

The idea of paying attention to the neighborhood is another issue. We have become so sophisticated that it is considered bad manners to pay attention to our neighbors or neighborhood. It's not that there is no one in the streets, but they are all on the phone, or involved in a conversation with a partner, or listening to the radio. It is assumed that there is nothing to see on the street.

But there is. It is a neighborhood and there are things happening all the time that affect us and we are responsible for. Even the most exclusive street in the country is a teaching arena. By living our lives as if sights and data are only important when they are presented to us on television, we miss our lives. This allows terrorism as well as social injustice as well as ecological disasters to take place under our noses.

And this country is bigger than our noses. And we are responsible for what goes on here - hungry children are our fault and our responsibility not just the government's. We should be organizing PTA groups in every school in Israel to invite local children fo0r lunch, and to bus lunch out to distant schools. It isn't a big deal - As a mother my kids class would be responsible for another class in another school and 2 mothers a day would wind up bringing lunch to another class once a month. Spaghetti. Meat Loaf. Even if its McDonalds at a discount. We are told that the numbers of hungry children reach 300,000. I'm not sure about those statistics - but then i don't know the Haredi community, the Beduin, the Ethiopian. If it was me - i'd overcome the problems of kashrut and kitchen mess by bringing the ingredients in their packages to the school yard and cooking right there.

These are not difficult tasks to accomplish. They just demand a sense of responsibility and organization.

For years I've been longing for a leader who would put us all together and take us in the right direction. Now I think whoever the leader is, we are topheavy, and have to learn to do for ourselves and our community.

But who are we responsible for. Who is our community? I read in the Forward yesterday that the group of - ah = i'll copy and paste it and you can draw your own conclusions:

According to Yediot Aharonot, many of the olive pirates are recruited on a Web site established by a movement called "This is Our Land," headed by the radical rightist Moshe Feiglin, who mounted a darkhorse campaign for the Likud leadership this month.

"The Jews will defeat the Israelis," Feiglin said. "Those who do not accept the authority of a Jewish state have the rest of the world to go to."

As a Jewish state, Israel must tend to its own interests and cease trying to enfold itself in the sickly embrace of "the family of nations," Feiglin said. Creating a Jewish majority is paramount among those interests, he said, or at least a Jewish authority across Israel and the territories.

So these people are zionists, eh? was that a typo? did he mean the palestinians instead of the israelis? or is any group not exactly in tune with us an enemy?

You tell me.

In the mean time I'm watching movies on the local russian station.

The best station in the country. And certainly not something imposed from above, but created from within the community.

December 5, 2002

Every day here pulls at your heart.

How many times have I said this - how many days have I felt that every hourly news broadcast brings another surprise, a shock, a little revolution. Today Arik Sharon made a quick step to the left, agreeing to the U.S. resolution which recognized Palestinian independence. Ha'aretz says:Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Thursday that with the implementation of the plan proposed by President George W. Bush, Israel would create a contiguous area of territory in the West Bank that would allow the Palestinians to travel from Jenin to Hebron without passing any Israeli roadblocks." But he isn't talking about returning land, or an independent state. It takes me a minute to realize it is all an election ploy" Elsewhere he talk about the infiltration of El Kaida into Gaza. It terrifies me - and then I have to think again - ploy? truth? combination?

Then the Palestinian Swiss bank account managed by Yossi Genossar to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars - invested in straw companies - ripping off both Israelis and Palestinians -

Then the killing by police of an Arab from Kfar Canna, because he tried to run them over - and seriously injured one officer - protested by Arab-Israeli Parliament member Darousha -

Just a few of the headlines.

How much can be born?

Friends with high blood pressure have been advised not to watch the news. I don't tell my doctor that I read newspapers so she won't suggest a detox program.

But I have doubled my medication.

Last night on channel 8, where I participate in an occasional live panel about current events, a few of the panel members suggesting leaving the country as the only sane option. A few othrs were infuriated by this - including myself. I said nothing at the time, and didn't realize how I felt this negativism was an empty pose - but at night it hit me full blast.

I should say more about this, but I can't at the moment - life calls - so i shall elaborate later.

December 6, 2002

It's kind of weird the paradoxes that envelope us - the fact that there were 10 palestinians killed in a refugee camp near Gaza last night wrenched my heart - then i saw an ex-student of mine whose become an army spokesperson explaining that there was a heavy battle and nine of the ten people killed were armed and shooting. Her explanation was so much more plausible then the one on CNN - the suggestion of a kind of random terrorism on the part of the israeli government.

Here's another illogical one - i've been getting hate mail from people with Arab addresses. No arguments - just - fuck you. I don't answer because Ezi suggests i will not get anywhere by trying to encourage political discussion, but i'm puzzled.

And then Rena just sent me a strange illogicality from overseas : "Canada is in the process of possibly banning Hizballa as a charitable organization after a big scandal where the Canadian government refused to ban the social wing of the Hizbala, in spite of explicit declaration of intent of suicide bombings by the head of the Hizbala, because the Hizbala is a large representative in the Lebanese government. Bnei Brit kicked up a stink, and rightly so (as we know, Hitler was also elected democratically and had a youth and social wings). So magen david adom isn't eligible for charitable organization status, but Hizbala currently is. Nice, no?" The Canadian government has often surprised me in its mental limitations, but this is particularly illogical and dangerous.

And one more: There was a conference this week at Tel Aviv University on the Gypsies in the Holocaust. The foreign researchers who came to Tel Aviv University were surprised to discover at the opening and closing speeches - made by TAU proessors and researchers - denounced the whole concept of the suffering of the gypsies in the Holocaust. One American researcher says there were at least a million killed. TAU people say 100,000. As one man, who has been living with the gypsies in Cosovo for the past 9 years, noted to me - the ashes of the gypsies are mixed in auschwitz.

As for my blood pressure - thanks to all of you who ask - but i've been in the bl medication consumer business since 1986. The insomnia and IBS are recent.

December 7, 2002

I had barely entered the passage yesterday about the gypsies and the holocaust when i started getting responses- about how the gypies had not been targeted as a race, but just as part of the vagabounds and undesirables... i still don't see why gypsies who were killed in the holocaust aren't part of the holocaust...

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