Tel Aviv Diary December 30, 2007-January 3, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - December 30, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 30, 2007

Sorry to open a page and then disappear. I got caught up with Ha'aretz - which I am not ready to give up on and is not ready to give up on me. But I don't know if they will publish the sketch i wrote about the faculty strike.

I don't know how we concentrate on anything beside the constant threats to our existence. Individual acts of terrorism, nuclear warfare, Al Keida - we've got it all. And yet despite this, the tourists frequenting our neighborhood keep telling me, the joy of living remains at its peak. "Have you seen the walls of Jerusalem?" I asked a friend who works in that city, who works FOR the city. Yes, but I don't PRAY there." She was sure I was talking about the wailing wall, not the borders zigzagging through the neighborhoods there. And then when I made it clear, she said, "sure, you can see what's wrong with Jerusalem, but what about Tel Aviv?"

Well I have one piece of good news about civil liberties in Tel Aviv: In honor of New Years, we're calling off the immigration police for the day. Cool, huh.

December 31, 2007

Haaretz has agreed to publish the dialogue i wrote about the faculty strike. It's very low keyed but it has some of the facts and I'll try to edit another letter of someone else for the rest of the information. So maybe 2 informative pieces will appear - this certainly helps to return to me my original feeling about Haaretz.... but then again I'm a sucker for dialogue, and if someone listens to me once in a while I am sooo grateful.

"People back home think I'm in a war zone," my sister-in-law's second cousin, who has been here for five months, admits. But she's become a different person here, if I'm not mistaken, extremely comfortable and traveling around. Her feeling reminds me of my own when I came here as a tourist, the sense of being suddenly at home. I don't mean she'll want to live here, but she'll miss it.

Haaretz is really coming through. Here is a video they presented today about the universities. At the crowded faculty meeting this morning it was clear that all of us agree that the universities are on line here, and if we don't take the stand now, there is no future to the education in this country. But until the last few days, I wasn't sure. After all, the people who are deciding what to do with my university have been running underwear factories until now.

Ooh, that was a low blow. Sorry.

Don't mean to be boring you with one issue over and over again. There really is much more going on around here - new years' for example. But I think what we do most on new years' is statistics. Like how many people killed this year compared to previous years in tragedies related to politics.

I kept thinking of that song of Suzanne Vega:


Let's tell the future
Let's see how it's been done.
By numbers. By mirrors. By water.
By dots made at random on paper.

By salt. By dice.
By meal. By mice.
By dough of cakes.
By sacrificial fire.

By fountains. By fishes.
Writing in ashes.
Birds. Herbs.
Smoke from the altar.

A suspended ring or the mode of laughing
Pebbles drawn from a heap
One of these things
Will tell you something.

Let's tell the future
Let's see how it's been done.
By dreams. By the features. By letters.
By dropping hot wax into water.

By nails reflecting the rays of the sun.
By waling in a circle.
By red hot iron.
By passages in books.
A balanced hatchet.

A suspended ring or the mode of laughing
Pebbles drawn from a heap
One of these things
Will tell you something.

Let's tell the future Let's see how it's been done.
How it's been done.

January 1, 2008

May all the forecasts prove untrue.

"Start every year off with a smile,
and get it over with."

--after W. C. Fields


And to help get this over with, here's a film about Jewish Humor: shtick

Somewhere I have a poem called "Forgetting Jerusalem" that begins "I'm left-handed so it's easier..." Anyway I was impressed with a piece by Gershon Baskin today in the Post about Jerusalem and the problems a mayor would have to deal with in order to straighten the city out. A fine article.

Tel Aviv however is my haunt, and today i learned something new about it. On a site about Israel and the Environment.

January 2, 2008

Check out the botanical gardens of Tel Aviv University. I had to because we want to hold the student poetry reading on "Trees" on the 10th there. The whole idea is consciousness and cooperation. Here's my translation of Natan Yonatan's "GOLD ACACIA"

My gold acacia, Iím no longer so good
At describing beauty, but you are not what you were once either
And this morning on the sea road to Ashdod you poured
Your gold as then on the sands of your youth in a furor
Of beauty as if there had never been fires and floods
And all your breakers and waves, ready to forsake all
In the gold spilled on the sand. Who has strength
Can bear this beauty, may God protect me. For years
I fly madly on the roads, imperiling my soul
In smog within the smoke you will see me return
At turn of day. It is late, my flowering, late
The conflagration on the shore has died down
Soon I too and you too
Soon we will be gone.
Only your beauty...

I too have a poem on trees, but it is a bit different:

The Tree

There were times
I thought it would bloom
that strange graft down the street,
one of a row of experiments
planted by Tel Aviv
to line its streets with green.

But it was doomed,
placed on a crossroads
open on all sides
to the Mediterranean sun and wind
a newborn left in the field.

I would pass it on my way
and sometimes bring it water
because it always seemed dry, dying

Ezi even slipped it mulch at night.
Though it was a public tree
we were counting on it for shade
cover, a home for migrating birds

But now its roots dance
in the air, wait
for the trash

and who knows when
the dream will begin again.

The body of Asher Green was discovered today.

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