Tel Aviv Diary Dec 24, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from Dec 24, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 24, 2003

As the plane settled down at Ben Gurion airport, the voice of the Captain came on:

"Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until this plane is at a complete standstill and the seat belt signs have been turned off."

"To those who are seated, we wish you a Merry Christmas, and hope that you enjoy your stay.

And to those of you standing in the aisles, we wish you a Happy Chanukah, and welcome home."

Now this joke is meant to be a gentle reminder of the basic pushiness and impatience of Israelis, but of course the message is also that all Jews are home in Israel, and others are visitors.

Very interesting.

Ezi is reading Alan Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel" and relishing every page. I get it next.

Here it is christmas eve and I remember when we used to go to mass in jaffo at midnight - up to 3 years ago.

But we're not even celebrating Hannukah - the flu is taking its toll.

What did I say last week when Libya announced it was giving up its weapons of Mass Destruction? That it was a ploy to get pressure put on israel to do the same. And now Egypt and Jordan are beginning. And our big-mouth general having threatened Iran is getting similar sabre rattlings. All the world seems a bit crazy, off kilter, and yet and yet we've had some real hannukah miracles: the release of the colombian prisoners, the reunion of post-holocaust brother and sister after 60 years, my father's birthday, the completion of our anthology...the capture of saddam,

December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas.

Why didn't I write about the bombing on Geha? Like most people in this area I had to make sure the people I'm close to are alive. Of course I gave up my plans to go out after that - not just because of Ezi's flu - but because the taste for pleasure was gone. And instead I talked with a friend about security, and how at least 22 bombings have been prevented since the last one in Jerusalem a few months ago.

The bomb went off near where the old mental institution used to be, the one that looked out on the traffic light before there was the overpass (under which the bomb went off). I used to get stuck at that traffic light every time I came home from Beer Sheva, sometimes twice a week. And there would always be a sad looking man staring out from behind bars. Ezi always tells a story about him that I sometimes feel happened to me. About a guy who had a flat tire at that light, and when he took off the plate and put the screws in it, a car whizzed by and scattered the screws. As he stood there, totally lost as to what to do, the man behind the bars called out: "unscrew one of the screws from each of the three remaining tires and use them to screw on the fourth." The driver followed his advice, and as he was about to take off, called out to the inmate:"What a great idea you had!" And the inmate called back, "I may be crazy but I ain't stupid!"

The story suddenly came back to me tonight, when I thought of judging terrorism - of people who have written me that terrorists are victims, and that it is not their fault. But no matter how I twist it there is no way I can justify suicide bombings - to say that they are fed up is just not an answer. I cannot hold the Arabs to lower standards than I would hold myself. And I am positive that no matter what my life was like, i would not kill others indiscriminately. People waiting for a bus yet. I may be crazy but I ain't stupid.

December 26, 2003

This might be a good time to contribute to the Magen David Adom. Remember, the Red Cross doesn't recognize the Magen David Adom even though it does recognize the Red Crescent. Explain that one to me.

I was going to donate some of my rare blood (O-)yesterday but I have a touch of flu. Now that I'm writing it down, it becomes a promise to do it this week.

While I'm on the subject of blood and terrorism, sometimes I hear the statistic of 3 palestinians dead for every israeli loss. It sounds like a condemning statistic. but once you break it down into components, the situation alters. At least a quarter of those Palestinians are killed in terrorist attacks (I suspect that the number is close to half). Almost all of the palestinian victims are male, over 30% of the Israelis are female. More than half of the Palestinians are combatant, etc.

This is only a confirmation of what i read and hear every day - All Palestinian losses are reported in the Israeli press (even though they don't always mention NAMES which bugs me).

On a different subject, my poem about Brooklyn is in Poetry Magazine this month. I'd totally forgotten I'd sent it - which is characteristic of the poem -

December 27, 2003

a photograph almost made me cry today - it was the sculpture of Gideon Graetz called "phoenix" that will be in Potsdam Platz in Berlin later this month in Ha'aretz. The way the shine of its surfaces will catch the little light in Berlin, the way it strives and strains upward, the way it seems to defy the logic of gravity - all reminds me of the renewal of the jewish people after the holocaust. i saw the sculpture in progress and then its technical attributes were most apparent to me, but now it is simply moving. Now all i need it so see it in Berlin. Tomorrow I'll have to talk with Boomy about a visit in the summer. It's time I started looking through the local papers for stories about Gerron in the 20's.

Why do i always write about the Holocaust or Israeli politics and not much about what i'm up to? I am a bit uncomfortable about writing about - not myself, but people with whom i'm involved - without their prior approval. and one or two people have voiced discomfort at having their activities aired in public. i don't want infamy to be the price of friendship with me.

So we went to visit friends this morning, and when we got there it turned out we'd been invited for the afternoon. this was probably unusual for them, but typical for me.

December 28, 2003

Such a strange country I live in. On the one hand we're forbidden by the Iranian government from coming in with our helicopters and helping to save a few of the 30000 people buried under the rubble of their mud houses, their hospitals, university, etc. And there is great pain here at this. On the same hand we are involved with launching the Amos 2 (the communications satellite developed by Israel originally developed with military goals in mind.) I mean that we are eager to use the knowledge we gain in defence for peace and the saving of lives. On the other hand Israeli soldiers shot 2 demonstrators who were protesting the fence - endangering those exercising their right to seek peace.

My view on the fence? we need a fence - but not this fence. Before i built a wall I'd want to know what i was walling in and walling out. i think we have a right to try and wall out the terrorists. A wall itself is a pretty acceptable way to divide territories. There's a wall between the US and Mexico furgudnes sake. But the wall should be built with some consultation, with agreement, or at least on the green line.

Another word about nuclear disarmament - about Iran and Libya. I'm pretty astounded that we're just beginning to realize that maybe Libya doesn't really HAVE any weapons. Remember the story I told you about the radar signs?

Iran, on the other hand, put all of its money into these things. And none of it into social development. California just had an earthquake near the strength of the Iranian quake - and 2 people were killed. There has to be a difference between biulding in mud and building in concrete.

Why does this interest me? The building I live in was apparently built on moving sands. It has taken us a few years (2? 3?) to get the city to approve building changes to we can strengthen the columns so that the house won't fall down. Then we got an engineer - who decided after a few months that he didn't know how to finish the job. Now we have another engineer coming today. In the mean time the cracks on my walls get larger and larger - as does the recognition that I am living on a fault.

So who am I to complain about the readiness for earthquakes in Iran?

And yet I still have a problem with the fact that Iran has refused help from Israel. We're really good at getting living people out of rubble. Ezi even used to work on that in the army. And we offered help. It really bothers me that the Iranian government would refuse the help of Anyone at this point.

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