Tel Aviv Diary December 15 - 9, 2006- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - December 15, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 15, 2006

Tonight is the first candle of Hannuka. For some reason we've turned this holiday into a miracle of lights. This is the season when olive oil flows like water,and yet we're surprised there was enough oil for eight nights. Someone pointed out to me next week that this is an example of a religious hijacking of a military holiday. That is, the fact that the Macabbis won the war is overshadowed by some 'miracle' of oil. But the victory was the real miracle.

Here's a poem to go with the portion of the week:




How could I have known even his

brothers found him an insufferable prig

when I saw him in the doorway

his boyish torso framed by the light?

How could I have known it was a game

he played with everyone: ‘more innocent

than thou.’ I see a kid

striking poses in the field whenever I look

out the window and say, “Hey I know guys your age

are hungry and shy, and I’ve seen the way

you look at my thighs.”  And he says, “Oh, lady

I’m in charge of your husband’s house

but it wouldn’t be nice to take his wife.  We men

have an agreement about sharing chattel.”

You’re right, I should have known enough

to stop there – if I’m the boss’s wife

my body’s not mine to screw.  But who

would have thought a slave could refuse

the offer of an equal? 


So I got left holding the robe

that reeked of his refusal

feeling like a fool and wishing I’d had sense

to dress up as an anonymous whore

and get my reward

like Tamar did

only a few pages before


December 16, 2006

If you live in the U.S. you have to watch 60 minutes tomorrow. There's a program about the 16 miles of holocaust records recently discovered and the 17.5 million people killed by the Germans. I got to the site by going to CBS news ( and following the links -but i think it works directly too. Tell everyone you know. Here's the annnouncement from CBS:
Good afternoon. I wanted to give you a heads-up on a story that will be running this Sunday, Dec. 17 (7PM ET/PT on CBS) on 60 MINUTES about a long-secret German archive that houses a treasure trove of information on 17.5 million victims of the Holocaust. The archive, located in the German town of Bad Arolsen, is massive (there are 16 miles of shelving containing 50 million pages of documents) and until recently, was off-limits to the public. But after the German government agreed earlier this year to open the archives, CBS News' Scott Pelley traveled there with three Jewish survivors who were able to see their own Holocaust records. It's an incredibly moving piece, all the more poignant in the wake of this week's meeting of Holocaust deniers in Iran. We're trying to get word out about the story to people who have a special interest in this subject. So we were hoping you'd consider sending out something to your list serve and/or posting something on your website. Further information will also be available on our website (, which you're welcome to link to from yours.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and thanks for your consideration.

Robin Sanders
CBS News 60 Minutes
phone: 212-975-7598

I finally got to see the film on Robert McNamara, The Fog of War, today. Three years too late. Well, forty years too late. His incredible and developing intelligence not only on the Vietnam War but the concept of war in general has informed every moment of my being since i saw him. In the sixties we thought of him as a murderer, and then when he quit the johnson government, we couldn't figure it out. But when he talked in the film about negotiating with the Vietnamese, I realize how little we understood then. And then this afternoon when i heard that Syria wants to negotiate with Israel - no preconditions - it seems ... (to be continued)

December 18, 2006

The Sixty Minute Film is Here. Fifteen minutes on sixteen miles of records.

December 19, 2006

For some reason we didn't get to a Hannukah party. Last night some friends came by for candle lighting, but that doesn't count. But today we get it all at once - grandchildren, neices, nephews, sisters-in-law - at our place. I take a break from the preparations to return a stupid sweatsuit i bought in Ouiset on Sunday. I don't know why I even bought it, except that I'd been waiting for the doctor for a long time and wanteda distraction. Ramat Aviv Gimmel is not a place to buy anything - and Ouiset there is absolutely the worst. But I figured at the very least there wouldn't be a problem with returns - especially since the new national policy is money-back-no-questions-asked. But I go into Ouiset knowing that I'm going to get an argument so i decide to exchange it for something else. I'm told the manager will be back in a minute and it will be fine. But I can't find anything in my size at all and no one is helping me (more out of stupidity than bad will) so it takes me a half an hour to find a neutral black sweater (and this is not a large shop). I'm in a rush by now and cursing myself for ever ever entering that store, but my problems with them are only beginning. When I finally get to the counter, the girl,who has been studiously ignoring me, tells me that she is not authorized to make the exchange and I have to wait for the manager. "Can't you call her?" "She has no phone." "When will she be here?" "Any minute." I wait another ten minutes, go away, come back. The same blank look. "Wait. She should be here soon. Wait patiently." Another ten minutes. "I'm not only never going to buy here again," I hear myself saying, "But I'm going to write about this on the internet." Suddenly the manager's phone number is found. On the speed dial. Suddenly with a few pressed buttons, the exchange is made. I go home with 300 shekel less than I came in with, and very dissatisfied that I got into this situation when I should have known better.

Oh, and I still have to try and get a party together having wasted the morning.

And all this trivia is going on while the clashes in Gaza rage. I know the personal is the political, that everything is interrelated, but these are definitely minor when the major troubles are so great and so near. Nevertheless it seems than if only people behaved as human beings on a simple level, the bigger problems would be easier to cope with.

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