Tel Aviv Diary Feb 2, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from February 2, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

Febuary 2, 2004


"Why do you say Arabs?" Yossi Agassi said to Ann Wyler this morning. "Say Muslims. Say Christians." This came a few minutes after a conversation about his efforts to delineate nationality differently on the Identity Cards: instead of Jew under nationality - it should say Israeli. It makes sense. May change our mentality a bit.

Appropos changing mentality: remember that story about the Jew who wanted to join an exclusive country club? he learned how to get rid of that ghetto accent, dress conservatively, read the right books, invested in the right stocks,etc. He joined the right church, drank the right wines, went to the right restaurants. But when he filled out the forms for the club he got rejected. "why?" He asked the president. "Didn't I do everything right?" "Yes, but on the line that asked for religion you wrote "Goy."

February 3, 2004.

I'm trying to do the paperwork for the Israel Association of Writers in English today - the amount of demands from the government is pretty amazing, and daunting for a tiny little writers group. Financial records, protocols, stamped, approved, etc. I think more people read the minutes of our meetings than the journals we publish.

When I first created the writers organization - according to the demands of the federation of writers organizations in 1980, we had to follow the laws of the Ottoman Empire. I remember going to the law school to look up the demands. Of course as soon as we were approved, two years later, the laws changed. I'm not made for this job.

When this persistent flu came back today, and I wanted to go to a rehearsal this evening, I suddenly remembered my mother's cousin Frieda Kutchik. She was born in 1905 I think, and had so severe a case of rickets that she had to wear a bone support system in order to stand up when she was a little child. But she loved to perform (guess where I got it from) and when the family gathered on holidays my uncle Mosharon would say "put on your corset Friedl and dance for us a kazatszka." So I was walking the dog and saying to myself in Yiddish, "put on your corset Friedl and dance for us a kazatszka " in order to get myself primed to go to rehearsal, when I suddenly realized there was a man walking behind me, keeping his pace even with mine. He was trying to hear what it was I was muttering to myself. I went home and cancelled the rehearsal.

If I feel better tomorrow I'll go to the doctor and ask her if I can donate blood - apparently there is a 1000 unit shortage of type O-.

Peres' leadership of Labor was extended today - I wish we could extend him - period. Vote to extend his active life for another 20 years. Although I'm not sure about his agreement with sharon about pulling out of Gaza unilaterally. It would be so much more wise if an agreement could be made with the Palestinian authorities - this way it makes it look like Hamas is the powerful group and the PA is nothing. And I don't know if the Hamas would ever negotiate with us.

February 4 2004

I have been hearing about the latest issue of "olam haisha" (women's world) that has a complete guide to adultery, a how-to book. where to meet, how do be discreet, etc. (one tip: if the lights go out in your apartment while you're doing it, don't go out to the hall to check the electricity - there may be a detective with a camera waiting) This morning there was an item on the morning show, that followed an interview with people from the settlements in Gaza fearful of being thrown out their homes after scores of years. Sharon has betrayed them (for some of them this is the second time - they were evicted from Yamit too) One guy said he's going to live on a boat so he can keep moving as the zionist dream collapses. Now it is clear that this interest in betrayal is the same thing, the need to widen your options, to keep the options open as the world falls apart. I actually think it is more theoretical than 'real.' And that old need for some system you can trust - that anger when it fails - that fear of another system -

Who doesn't feel the need to screw the framework that has screwed up your life?

Yesterday I mentioned the strengthening of the Hamas in Sharon's plan to get rid of Gaza. Now I hear Yossi Beilin says the same thing. "Why not negotiate this with the Palestinians?" he says. "maybe there's something to be gained by it?"

February 5, 2004

This morning they released Ofer Schwartzbaum, the taxi driver who took the terrorist bomber on Christmas Day to Geha Junction , where he blew himself up as well as four people and wounded twenty more. He was phoned and asked for a ride from Kafr Kassem to the Geha interchange - picked up two guys and charged them 100 shekel. Charged with aiding a crime, he talked today for the first time and said that there was nothing about these men to make him suspicious. They even had a conversation about politics and everyone agreed that terrorism was not the way!

This is the kind of situation I cannot get over and that is so much a part of our lives - the normal and banal alongside the horrifying and world-shaking.

And despite the fear of unequal treatment here of Muslim and Jew (because a Muslim taxi driver would not be believed) it makes total sense.

Yesterday as I was waiting for the doctor, totally absorbed in my little disease, some girl starting staring at me and said "weren't you on television yesterday?" i admitted it, and she said, "cool" and turned away to go about her business. The familiarity with the remote is similar in kind to the confluence of banal and earth-shaking. And it seems to be as much an integral part of our daily life as the confluence of ancient and biblical and contemporary and popular. (reminds me of some lines of an old poem of mine:

We are writing a rock song in Hebrew.
I say, now thatís a nice phrase.
You say, yes, Isaiah liked it too.

February 6, 2004

So is there enough evidence to convict Sharon? the police have finished collecting evidence and have to present this complicated case to the ministry of justice. It would seem to me that the moral responsibility is with Sharon, and he should be resigning. But he won't - i think he's waiting to be assasinated and then go out like a martyr trying to (but not quite succeeding) make peace.

Reminds me of that old jewish joke about the old man dying of dysentery whispers to the doctor, "write syphyllis on my death certificate." and when he sees the shocked look of the doctor, adds, "I want to go out like a fucker, not a cacker."

That's why he has no time to give to all the massive municipality strikes - people who haven't received salaries for months and months - are taking out high interest loans, suffering daily humiliation, losing their will to live - especially in the Muslim and Christian sectors.

For years Amal has been talking about the fact that holidays are no longer holidays - there is no money or mood to celebrate. A few months ago a student from Beit Zeit sent me a poem on this subject, but i had to wait for Amal to translate it in order to understand. And now it is impossible to ignore. The Muslim and Christian sector feel it more immediately - but the Jews are also very very much involved. No holidays. No celebrations.

Of course we in Tel Aviv are the last to feel it.

I was running my errands in Ramat Aviv - the shoemaker, the bread shop, the gift shop - and everyone is Russian. The shoemaker had the Russian station on his tv, the middle-aged couple sitting in the square were playing Russian tunes on their violins, the hairdresser (from Minsk where my grandmother's family is supposed to have come) was striping up a middle-aged lady from Kiev. It was a little community and seemed so solid, so secure. And then the news on the radio of a subway bombing in Moscow - 30 odd killed, at least 20 injured. The irony of the situation is overwhelming.

Oren's on the web - you've heard about him - now see him in action! here!

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