Tel Aviv Diary December 30, 2006 - January 3 2007- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - December 30, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 30, 2006

Eid Mubarak

I don't know how Saddam could be hanged on erev hag.

Not because he doesn't deserve an ignoble death, but because we deserve a more dignified life.

We have been celebrating a number of family successes - qualifying exams, birthdays, etc. Tonight, for example, we are going to Mishmish for the last time since tomorrow night will be the last night before it passes to the new owners. And as with all rejoicing, there is a little sadness - after all, i had some really great parties there, some wonderful occasions, and some really great experiences. Thank goodness there is still Shesek and Nona. (There was some article about the sale of Mishmish on Ynet about this that was all negative - like how about Mishmish can't be sold- when it had already been sold. It makes me realize that you absolutely can't believe what you read. And it can be very evil. Gavriel Moked's name was smeared all over the press this week, and it was all news to him.)

We are also celebrating having made it through the year - there were some touchy moments here and there - politically, militarily I mean. And it certainly isn't over yet.

But if I can believe at all the lady who 'read' the soles of my feet today, I'm in much better shape now than last year. I have been much abused, she said, and have allowed and even encouraged it. While I am still 'overwhelmed' with taking care of others, and doing things because others seem to need it, I am beginning to take care of myself, and ignore the constant stream of criticism.

Now why would I put a spiritual reading in my Tel Aviv journal? All the time she was speaking (and she said a lot) I was thinking that while everything she was saying about me was right, it was right concerning my country as well as myself. We have been doing things with a concern for other people in mind, getting blamed and abused, and ignoring our own needs.

December 31, 2006

I thought I could be celebrating last night, and then avoid the final evening of the year. But we didn't get to go out, and now i'll have to put together a new year's package.

January 1, 2007

What are you doing tonight? I asked one friend after another - just a little on the last minute side... "We don't celebrate THOSE holidays," said my warmest friend. "We're invited," said my coldest friends, a bit fearful that we will try to butt in on their party. "Come on over, we're having take out for dinner and will be in bed by 10." said my practical friends, since we all have to work in the morning. But what I really wanted to do was be at Mishmish, to say goodbye to a place i love.

But by the time I finished reading papers it was close to midnight and sadly we called Mishmish and listened to the nostalgia.

We should be celebrating Eid El Adha anyway - so what if they believe it was Ishmael who was going to be sacrificed and we think it was Isaac? What is important is that it was the lamb who got it. I think we should join in here on the simcha. It makes more sense than celebrating some anti-semitic pope's holiday...

January 1, 2007

This is the time for statistics - apparently in this country there are 1,000,000 visits to prostitutes per year. If there are, what 6,000,000 residents and half of them are women that means... oh my goodness. How many prostitutes are there here? I don't think it is known. How many are in the business for themselves - how many came here thinking they would be working as au pairs - how many amateurs. i don't think there are statistics on that - they must have counted the condoms at Tel Baruch.

(Where is Tel Baruch, you ask? about a fifteen minute walk due east from my house. There have been times in the past when I could tell by a drive-by who was in the bushes or in cars working and at what time at night the road advertisement became more and more daring. I could tell who was on drugs, who really didn't want to be there, who was overworked, who was working to have a sex change. A while ago, when I found myself at Levinsky College at night, it was raining terribly, and all I could think of was how to get to my car with a minimum of wind damage to my umbrella. Then suddenly I saw a girl getting out of a truck. The truck pulled off and there she stood in a shiny raincoat, on the edge of an empty parking lot, in the middle of a storm, waiting for another customer.

January 2, 2007

I've been discovering myself on the web. More than 31,000 entries in English and only 500 in Hebrew. I'll never read all of them but from a quick sampling I discovered that in Hebrew I'm a different person - a rock singer, a poet, a tiny celeb. In English I'm a scholar. Of course in my field my academic publications are in English and with a focus on English poetry so the Hebrew audience would be less interested, but can it be that speaking a second language (like Hebrew) makes me stupid? And if that's true of me, is it true of the millions of new immigrants who have come here in the past 60 years but are still feeling strange about expressing themselves in Hebrew?

Strike tomorrow - students are protesting the graded students' fees and the strange reforms that would turn academic institutions into bargain basements. Given the extent of the corruption in our government offices, it would seem to me we would do well to invest heavily in education, particularly ethics, political science, and the humanities.

January 2, 2007

Ovid says, “Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.” It is like that with corruption. All these years, I’ve heard people say, ‘don’t worry - I know someone in the … office. He’ll help you out.’ Or ‘I’ll talk to someone about this in the government (or in the army or in the municipality).’ Okay, I’m beyond help – I don’t know how to call in favors like that. But it has always been somewhere in my mind that things work like that. When one of my kids got into trouble with the school system and it eventually became clear that we knew the system had behaved illegally, I got invited to one official after another, each one trying to cover up the truth and revealing to me a tiny bit of the corruption that I could easily have worked into a big case. But I just wanted to get my kid through the mess and kept quiet. And that’s what we’ve been doing for generations. Getting through and keeping quiet, even to ourselves.

So today I sat in Café Olga, where I haven’t really been for over 30 years, and while I was waiting for Orit, I overheard the same conversations I had heard 30 years ago. About corruption in high places.

The food was the same too. Chopped liver, krupnik soup, goulash. Delightful.

But as i passed the university the whole picture came back to me. That we have no money for education because people like me have not let the corruption enter our consciousness, the corruption that channels money and attention to personal gain and makes the progress in the absolutely essentials, such as education, impossible.

But what's my position on the student strike? As a lecturer I can't evaluate the question of tuition fees. But it seems to me that many students have already paid heavily in the army and deserve respect and serious consideration. And the differential 'reforms' in which an economics professor gets five times as much salary as a philosophy professor makes my blood boil. Since it should be clear from this page that it is precisely ethics we need to learn, I didn't think I needed to make this point.

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