Tel Aviv Diary February 10-14, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - February 10, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

February 10, 2006

A few discussions with local waiters seems to conclude overwhelmingly that U.S. tourists want familiar food and in quantity. The complex delicacies the Israelis have been working on for so long are invisible to the tourists. They may know they're there, but they're not interested. When I asked one waiter in jerusalem what do americans want in their food, she said 'a lot.'

English too, she added, usually. Now Israelis, they are particular. Maybe they're just not polite, I noted. Americans won't tell you the food is just so-so if they've gotten a fair deal. Nah, she said, the Americans, especially the religious Americans, just have no sense of taste. They've never tasted meat that hasn't been de-flavored.

Now I cooked kosher for many years, and I was a much better cook than I am now. So I don't trust this generalization. But I pass it on.

One thing i don't suffer too much from around here is errands. We're at the post office sending a very late birthday present to Ilana - when our turn finally comes the clerk begins rolling out the methods of sending it. 'We want the fastest way' I interrupt. 'Oh, then I'll give you the short version of the speech,' he says, shuts up and starts immediately sending it out.

February 11, 2006

My brain is filled with soda water - it may be a flu or just the strange medication i'm taking. but i can't think straight, answer emails or remember when to take out the dog. So don't expect me to report even on poor Arik's condition or the Israeli reaction to it. We've gone on without him anyway. Most of the people i know are clear that they are voting for his party and the others are clear.

So while i'm sitting around kvetching Ezi is keeping himself busy by reading the papers - especially the local municipal papers. Since so much of what happens in this city has roots in his childhood, in people that grew up with him, his reading of the newspaper is always a journey into his past. Today it is the architecture of Tel Aviv, and all the major buildings were designed by friends or acquaintances of his family - people with whom he grew up. What I find particularly appealing is the way he can check the article against his truth.

Parashat hashavua - how did i hold off watching this program for so many weeks. To take the Bible portion of the week and make a contemporary series of it - why didn't I think of it? You can see some of it here.

February 12, 2006

Shoshana Damari. Say that name all together. Maybe she'll hear you and wake up. Shoshana Damari is the mother of all singers in Israel. Born in 1923, she came here from Yemen and her strong and beautiful voice is one of my first memories of Israel. She's very ill now and on a respirator. Think of her. Keep her strong.

For well over a month the entrance to our building has been undergoing renovations. Every time I walk by the deserted mess that doesn't seem to change from week to week, I wonder how our tenant board thought of choosing these people. The last group of workers who were supposed to strengthen the columns under our building were just as bad, and i still wonder who the next suckers were who hired them and whether there was some way I could have prevented it. But now, as of today, Israel has a Better Business Bureau. Long time in coming, you think? Too long. But at least it's here.

February 13, 2006

Tu Bishvat is here. This is a draft:

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

February 14, 2006

For personal reasons Valentine's Day has been cancelled. We were supposed to be going away, but work has made it impossible. Sorry about that. I had envisioned a temporary escape from the holy land, a night in a room overlooking Vesuvius. But we'll just have to do vesuvius at home.

Shoshana Damari has just passed away. Her voice echoes throughout my house.

And the last sentence I remember her saying in an evening in her honor, "I don't want to disappoint you, and I'll keep singing until my last breath." I think I saw her for the first time when I was eight - I remember her blue silk dress with the Yemenite embroidery I tried to copy when I was old enough to choose my own clothes.

Valentine's Day.

Not cancelled.

A student today told me he and his friends celebrate it to the hilt in his village. The whole shtik, he said. After all, it is beyond religion, beyond nationality, beyond everything but romance.

And I'm thinking that the same of our show in the Israel Festival should be called "Love Soup" because the possibilities of learn to combine the tastes is what its all about.

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