Tel Aviv Diary December 7, 2002 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Many letters came in today about yesterday's entry concerning the gypsies. A few people asked me (and I need to be prompted often because I never know what's important - i like the idea of a diary as dialogue) if there are any gypsies living in Israel. From what one person told me (I'll name him when he gives me permission) there are 600 gypsies, who before the '67 war pitched their black tents outside the wall of the old city of Jerusalem. After the Israelis took over they were asked to move within the wall, and they built shacks in the old city. Recently their buildings were torn down as illegal residences. but i don't know what they do, where they live, what language they speak...

A number of people also wrote about sympathy for the gypsies. Here's one example:

If they died for being part of the "human infection," as the Jews did, in the Nazi effort to "cleanse" Europe, isn't that what matters.

Here's a poem I wrote a year ago, based on an exhibit I saw at the Holocaust Museum:


As if her body stood

inside these layered scarves,

this bright skirt, its full

pleats ample across what once

rose and fell with breathing,

as if these silver coins

chimed faintly with her strong strides,

as if she stood behind this glass,

her veined hands folded, or open,

or holding a basin of maize, a needle,

a drum, a fortune, her life

Linda J. Clifton

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

And Alan Mumford wrote:

Here's a book review you may be interested in passing on, from today's Guardian. Written by a Roma who also happens to be an academic. It seems that people who put the experience of the Romanies as somehow less than that of the Jews are missing the point that both were regarded as untermenschen, not just the adults but the children as well. I would have thought that of all the groups singled out for vernichtung by the Nazis the experience of the Jews and Romanies are closer than any other. the guardian article

Some people also wrote me about the 'hate mail' i mentioned. With my passive, guilt-ridden personality, i assumed that the only response should be personal. I had thought to ask the sender who wrote "fuck you" - 'Is this personal or political?' not "fuck you too" or "why." A few people suggested i keep a record of the hate mail i get - and send it to o the ADL or some place like that. Or maybe write an article about it - then i remembered - i do have a record of a few - and they began long before i began the diary, or even before i began publishing poems about the intifada. it was my name and origin alone that was sufficient for hate mail. why am i surprised. i'm always surprised by hate - wherever it comes from and whoever the object. it's one of the most irrelevant emotions i can imagine.

December 8, 2002

With all the tragedies in our personal lives, my dying noble mother-in-law and friend, my hospitalized colleague and friend, the aches and pains that accompany daily life, and all the threats of war from the north, smallpox from the east, and cataclysm from the street, my heart is with the family of Hodaya Baron - the 2 year old who disappeared from her back yard in Jerusalem the day before.

A standup comedian Roi Baron the other night latched onto an Arab couple in the audience and wouldn't let them go, asking them if they wake up in the morning and ask themselves whether they want to blow themselves up today.... The fact that this can happen illustrates our insensitivity to others - our misuse of humor.

On the one hand i am appalled by this agressive unhumane behavior, on the other hand i have been appalled by the whole idea of the audience-attack that is part of stand-up comedy. Embarassing anyone in a crowd, even if they have come knowing the rules, is just unforgivable. It CAN work in a homogeneous society, a harmonious society, but in our society - it can't. And i believe that Roi Baron didn't understand this. And that education is desperately needed around here.

After watching me get silenced on a tv panel, my friend Mira is going on the same panel tonight and promises to talk about the culture of conversation. I put this item in this diary because i think it has wide cultural and political implications. the inability to listen to the other, to inquire of the other, to share with another, is part of middle-east society - Its one of the reasons i get hate mail from all directions, even though i'm as harmless as a marshmallow.

The little girl from Jerusalem has not been found - instead, a girl from an Arab village has also disappeared. With all the big tragedies daily here - this one strikes me most.

Today was Likud primaries. Tomorrow is Labor primaries. I must confess that I looked at the list of Fuad (ben eliezar)favorites in today's Haaretz and vowed to avoid as many as possible. I love Peres but i don't want a national unity government, not like the one we had. The one we had before had no dialogue, only servility on the part of labor. I want Mitzna to have as much support on the left as he can get - especially because his chances are so poor at winning. Why should he compromise his beliefs?

Why do i still adore Peres? Because he kept doing what he thought was right, even though he kept getting crushed by Sharon. But he kept getting crushed by Sharon. There is a lesson to be learned there.

December 9, 2002

We celebrated the presentation of Saddam Hussein's weapons' report yesterday evening by renewing our gas masks. Just looking at the display was a terrifying remembrance of 11 years ago. Especially since it was a comparatively tame war.

Even Sara's hospitalization did not keep me from voting in today's primaries. I voted as left as possible. thank you.

I will try to add more about the primaries - likud and labor - but first a word about my messy typing. In case you just joined me here you might be wondering why (even as an english teacher) i don't worry about style, spelling, caps, etc. My rule has been not to reread so i won't get all self-conscious and start lying and prettying things up. Perhaps it is time to become a little more proper and neat - Perhaps I should be thinking about the possibility that someone else reads this - someone who can't tell when a quote begins and ends because i forget to mark it clearly. I think the election date - January 28 - will be that time. Because whatever happens - it will be cataclysmic.

December 10, 2002

Hodaya murdered by her father. Nur still missing.


And the primaries proved Labor more conservative - Likkud has moved even more to the right and Labor has too. So there isn't as much of a viable alternative as I'd hoped. Once again the turn out was just over 50% - so who knows how it would have gone if people believed they could make a difference.

"i guess it isn't bad enough around here," one of my friends said, "since we want to continue the situation." And Eldad Ziv noted the other night on our tv program that we've gotten used to terrorism - incorporated the daily fear into our lives - and absorbed it. instead of listening to it, trying to change its basis, trying to keep it from happening...

December 11, 2002

Getting accustomed to our situation is terrible. When the news announces that a Palestinian has been killed, I am almost indifferent about the details they offer - perhaps because i don't trust the absolute truth of the details, perhaps because i doubt the possibility of getting at the truth anymore. And the agonies continue.

Ran Cohen only made third place in Meretz. In my estimation he should be first. Yes, I believe in him. And Naomi Chazan. So why am I not in Meretz? Because I wanted to have the option of chosing a candidate for prime minister. And I won't vote meretz in the elections for the same reason. But my heart is with certain individuals in Meretz.

So why do I always weigh the possibility of the Likkud being right? Because I think it is necessary in a situation as unstable and unclear as this to be open minded - to constantly rethink. And when I do come to the conclusion that the left is the only viable alternative, I am sure I have explored every possibility. And know the dangers. And realistic limitations.

What can I do to help Mitzna? Contribute money. Get everyone i know who has the right to vote to plan to appear at the election booth. Just think of the percentages - if the percentage of voters on the left goes up, the left wins. Simple. And as Yeats always says, the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of terrible intensity. I know I've misquoted that. But it means that the right gets out the voters and the left doesn't. And the left loses.

I'm trying this out. It doesn't seem to work, but if it is, you are visitor number


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