Tel Aviv Diary Feb 12, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from February 12, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

Febuary 12, 2004

That eathquake yesterday seems to have screwed up all of us. An earthquake in Israel! Why should we be surprised? We're on the fault line. And we identified it immediately... I mean Muma was leaning against her kitchen counter when she said - did you feel that? it's an earthquake! And i said, I don't feel anything. And she went to answer the door and then the refrigerator next to me jumped. I thought - lucky we're in a house built by Appy Gut - it's moving but it's moving in one piece. Then Dina came in and said - what do you know - it's an earthquake.

So each one of us identified it in some way - there was no way of mistaking it.

That afternoon and evening it seemed to me the earthquake had changed the composition of the people of tel aviv - everyone was out, everyone was on the streets, everyone was in action. No one seemed all shook up, or upset, and people only made minor references to the event, orienting themselves (I was in the bathtub and the water flew out of the tub, or I was in the office and the whole building shook or I was in bed and the earth moved...) But there was a different kind of energy, more frenetic, more active.

I couldn't get online - not because of the earthquake directly - i'm sure it was because everyone was reading the richter scale.

We capped off an amazingly event-filled day with a few glasses of Testamatta, a wine that would make the earth move for anyone.


February 13, 2004

I seem to have lost a whole discussion about the events in Gaza. and about the economic policy here. This is not the first time I erased when I thought I was saving, and in the past faithful readers have stepped in to save the situation with copies they made of the material before it was lost. But somehow this time I feel more creepy about it than before.

As if I were censoring myself - fearing to speak out or something. Just in case someone out there does have it, i won't try and repeat myself, but it is hard not to vent on Bibi and Sharon - the erratic and blind economic policies following the same zigzag pattern as the political ones. The only good point I can make is that it is clear that the Israeli government is not being any more cruel to the Palestinians than it is to the Israelis.

Hungry for bread, the poor are offered tax discounts on dishwashers.

Announcing we will be leaving Gaza, we kill off a few dozen Hamas, mess things up again, announce again that we expect only to evacuate settlements, not bases, and this all in the space of a week.

And what do I do while Rome burns? Why, club of course. Last night was devoted to gorging at Mishmish - so thick with people we couldn't get out. Should have left earlier to avoid the crowds,but as it is i go to sleep when tel aviv wakes p.

Eretz nehederet made one of those connections i wish i'd made. Sharon announces that the evacuation of Gaza hurts him more than others. Then the same footage is used as his first statement after the removing of his kidney stones. "Sharon knows the pain of evacuation," comments the moderator Eyal Kitsis.

After periodontists one always deserves a treat, and mine came in te form of the outlet center in Herzlia - a place i've been hearing about for months. On Fridays so many shopping centers seem to have something of a market- with people selling their baked goods and cheeses. My treat came in the form of an assortment of Druze sambosak - those small calzone-like pockets - spinach, hummous, or meat. I ate two on the spot, just in front of the Oui-Set shop, and two more on the way home. They weren't all that exciting, but the contrasts of culture gave me appetite.

Don't i see the whole country is crumbling?

it is and it isn't - certainly the government is running us headlong into hell. but there is still sambosak.

February 14, 2004

Thursday night, the literary editor and organizer Hilit Yeshurun answered the door of her apartment in Yaffo and was brutally beatan. She's still unconscious in the hospital. Because she can't be questioned yet, the perpetrators are unknown. My first thought was that it was a political act of terrorism, but then I remembered how many right wing writers expressed their rage to me at the literary festival last fall at the leftist exclusiveness of the list of invitees.

Could it be?

Just the fact that both came into my mind as equal suspects is horrendous.

I'd say more about it, but first, let's wish the beautiful Hilit recovers quickly and fully.

February 15, 2004

Apparently she is being kept under sedation - many of her injuries are to her face - which proves one thing i suspected - her beauty, perhaps part of her power to some people - was also under attack. This means to me she was specifically targetted, that it was not an act of random vandalism. An this makes me suspect even more that it was people who are angered over her political/literary power. Leftists beware.

Last night over dinner a number of media related people were talking about the way they are jerked around by the government, summoned by them to arrange photo-opportunities or talk show visits. Most of them agreed that the major concerns of the government are the deals they make among themselves, and that this is by far the most corrupt of governments in this concern. I come to the conclusion again that the only way out is to absolutely change the parties - this is the way I felt about 'Mercaz' - that the people in it were uncorrupted by dealing and should be given the opportunity to advance if only because of that one point. But the problem was that this quality rendered them incapable of dealing with their corrupt environment, like Amnon Lifkin-Shahak, and they faded into the grey area where they are heard from only by hearsay - they're not given their photo opportunities to influence people and change opinion any more. (I admire Amnon Lifkin Shahak greatly and wish he had a PR person.)

Ah yes the weather - snow over Jerusalem - schools closed, the media charmed by the sites. I come from Rochester and I hate snow. All I can think of is that it will melt into the ground and things will grow.

That's the way it is here - give the ground enough water and it will surprise you with crops - all kinds of plants. maybe plants that have been hibernating for generations waiting for good times.

Hilit Yeshurun has regained consciousness. On the news they interviewed Natan Zach for his evaluation of the situation, and he decided that only great hate and a disturbed personality could have caused this attack. Me, i think it could be hired hooligans. it could just as easily have been someone she knew - to whom she opened the door at 10:30 at night.

February 16,2004

Because I spent the evening watching catfish in an aquarium instead of concentrating on a rehearsal, I am less in despair about the world than i am usually when i read the news.

Catfish seem to have a sense of humor, an ignorance of violence for its own sake, and an ability to get along with other fish in the same tank.

We on the other hand, are not doing too well in our tank. Whoever it was who attacked Hilit, it is not a good sign.

A few months before Sara died last year, we took her for a ride in Yaffo. She hadn't been there in 30 years, she said, and wanted to see what it looked like. But her great surprise was at home little it had changed. We laughed bitterly at the street names - Rabbis and Zionists - even though the Arab residents still refer to the streets by their pre Israeli names. And there are a lot of luxury buildings - like Andromeda Towers in which HIlit lives. Otherwise, the buildings are just like they were, only more delapidated.

The result of generations of municipal neglect.

Now they're talking about violence in Yaffo. When I first came as a tourist, in 1965, my cousin Nachum took me to the police station in Yaffo, to show how Yaffo was being cleaned up. It had once been a red light district, but the more civilized Jews had come in and cleaned it up....

Maybe we did, but we brought in some dirt of our own. And not the least of that dirt was our attitude of superiority.

Appropos - the cover of my latest book (in Hebrew translation by Daffi Kudish) has a painting by Nachum Guttman of three ladies bathing in the pool of an orchard - it's part of his series (and is on my web home page, so you can see it) of ladies of the evening. I particularly like another one in this series of Yaffo - women waiting in doorways and windows. THE BOOK CAME OUT TODAY. The cover is smashing i think.

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