Diaspora September 20-4

Hard to keep a journal on Tel Aviv in the diaspora. But despite the temptation to become like many of the Israelis I meet who live here and ignore the daily news – just in order to maintain a semi-normal existence – I remain a news junkie – desperate in the diaspora. My heart is in the east, as the medieval Judah Halevi said in all his ambivalence.

And what good does it do here to know who it was who was killed, who is being bombed now? From here, the feeling is lost with the details. I catch a glimpse of the Mukhata under fire in Ramallah, but it only means something to me when Yitzchak Laor sends a letter filled with all kinds of details about an old couple who live near there.

- two old people on their own right behind the Muqata'a ( the

president's compound) with all their home's glass shattered because of

the detonations of the past two days, swimming in dust. The woman

has just come out of hospital and now she has an attack of coughing

and they need to be evacuated to their son's house, but they cannot

even step out, and the ambulance is not allowed to reach their area by

huge tanks that threaten to shoot

what good does it do to know details – even if I put them into political perspective – to say that ambulances are commonly used as means for transmitting weapons, terrorists, bombs – and therefore cannot be trusted to be performing humanitarian tasks when they appear? What good does it do to explain the situation. It doesn’t' explain away the grief, the pain for any of the sides.

Sometimes it does. Apparently the story of Mohammed Al Dura, the young boy who became the focus of attention in the media battle when he was killed at the beginning of the this mess two years ago, was fabricated. Like many of the funerals in Jenin – remember the one where the body fell off the stretcher during the funeral procession and the guy got back on and lie down again?

But while my proximity to the action is diminished, the demands upon me to define an Israeli identity are increased. The politics of Israel are all that people want to know about from me. So even if Dalia tells me on the phone to forget about what's happening back home because I can do no good anyway, no one here will let me get it out of my mind.

more when I can fix the server.

September 26

Upstate people ask me questions – what will be? All I want to say is you guys who have the vote in Israel – get back there before the elections – make sure no one railroads this one. Last time the silence of the Arabs and the absence of the leftists in the country caused Sharon's election. Simply. Clearly. Completely.

people complain about israel and leave, instead of staying around to fulfill their basic responsibility.

but they never really leave. They sit around complaining, sometimes publicly, in an organized way, sometimes just to everyone they find who'll listen to them.

Liz points out that it is too painful to live there – it's an experiment that failed, and it is true that she gave much of her life and her energies to Israel and feels cheated.

September 28 – As usual I feel much more of a jew in the united states and less of an Israeli. Today is Simchat Torah, and if I didn’t have a gig I'd be sorely tempted to go to akafot in the synagogue. The end and the beginning of the book. The rejoicing in the torah. Remember what Yehuda Amichai said about Simchat Torah and the annual re-cycling of the torah:

The Jewish people read the Torah to God

all year long, a chapter a week,

like Sheherezade who told stories to save her life,

and by the time the Celebration of the Torah comes around,

He forgets and we may begin again.

So even if I am not in synagogue I felt a strong sense of the need for a beginning again – the eternal chaos, the sudden arbitrary imposition of order, creation of life.

September 29

It can happen, you know.

Belly Dancing at Cafι Figaro. I sniff at the Americanized sounds of a great band, and am transported by the dancers. But when it comes time to join them, only Ezi gets upg

September 30

All Americans want to talk about it Saddam and Bush. A few minutes of speculation, and then a scared silence before the next subject. I recognize the pattern from Israel. The helplessness of the individual in the face of unreasonable forces. Powerful and illogical forces. Sometimes even evil forces. What can someone small as me do. What difference does my intelligence make.

Let's hope it doesn't come to this, we say, sometimes in unison.

what is the difference between Israelis and New Yorkers, my Arab friend asks me in Manhattan. They're nice. We're buying a camera in one of those Hassidic superstores. But then we think about it and realize that the same people in a different country take on different characteristics. In Israel if you are not tough you don't survive. In new york if you are not polite you don't make it either. So the Arab and Jews in Israel scream and shout and in New York we become friends. Good friends sometimes.

That was a Simchat Torah lesson, wasn't it. Something to remember for a new beginning. As I find myself saying at breakfast with Sameh – good will can change everything. He nods. I'm not sure whether he agrees, but it's more helpful to agree than disagree.

October 3

De La Garda – the NY spectacle that's probably more like an acid experience to most people than a religious one, affects me do individually, so personally, I am shocked. The thin paper spread out over our heads above which we begin to detect strange beings moving above us, in the light of a seeming firmament, was to me like the creation story. And then the sudden appearance of humanlike creatures breaking through the paper ceiling – a visit from the gods. But the sound of popping balloons and the feeling of the control of the beings in the balconies upon my life began to remind me of the politics I live in every day in Israel. The gods of this theatre are benevolent, fun-loving creatures, only a tad intimidating when they pull out my sweater an peek down, but I am measuring my steps out of the pressing crowd and to an exit. "I'm sorry," Gilya says, having thought this would be an ultimate pleasure for us. "But it's wonderful!" I tell her – it's only me who's ruined for pure pleasure."

October 4