Tel Aviv Diary -February 1-5, 2014 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - February 1-5, 2014 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

February 1, 2014

it has happened. i have given up on Mac and have brought in a new lenovo. the acer is a workhorse but its battery is gone and the (expensive)replacement we bought was faulty. We'll get our money back but the money we spent for tech help before we gave up. I feel like a fool but can't handle it. And now i'm trying to figure out windows 8.

I might have tried to escape from all the computer problems and maybe even Kerry's political hatchet against our necks and gone to Eilat but the rockets are falling there now and that can't be much fun.

A refugee guy I know escaped to somewhere in South America. He was called for a hearing and knew he wouldn't get his visa renewed and would be sent to that place in the desert, so he took off. After 10 years here. Another guy is still here because he wouldn't be able to disappear with a whole family. he's going to have to get his visa renewed next month and it doesn't look like it will work. not under the present government. what can i do for him? I ask everyone i know but no one has an idea that could possibly be legal and/or work. My parents were thrown out of this country. Back to a land they knew wouldn't let them live.

Want to see one of the men I have been in love with ever since I met him in 1992? Naim Araidi speaks in Oslo about hatred.

February 3, 2014

The grocer and I have decided we're not going to watch or read the news any more. He was awakened at 4 in the morning by an explosion that turned out to be some bombs in the car that were in transit. He watched the incendiary scene, heard the repeated "shma yisrael," and is still shivering from the trauma. He's not a soft guy, went through the toughest army duty there is, and is not a child. Sometimes you need very thick skin around here.

February 4, 2014

Who are our role models in Israel? We're trying to work it out. Let's see, we have given up on politicians pretty much. The few young ones I really like will take a few years to grow up. Lawyers and Police? Don't make me laugh. We're holding on to what we have by keeping our eyes and ear shut. Well the women are pretty great - itach maaki i wrote about a few weeks ago. What of the celebrities? Take Eyal Golan and Ariel Zilber. One is up for statutory rape and tax evasion and the other is so right wing and so homophobic it's almost impossible to take him seriously as a person. What else do we have? to make ourselves into what we consider heroic. and that in itself is a heroic task.

I don't know who the audience will be for this but The Times of Israel is in Arabic as well. Arabic is the second language of Israel but very few Jews in Israel trouble ourselves to learn it. It's a requirement in school for a few years but it isn't really retained. Why? In the old days when there was only one tv channel and only in black and white, we used to watch the Friday afternoon Arabic movie.

The Friday Afternoon Arabic Movie

For almost thirty years I watch them,
the old Egyptian films with Hebrew subtitles.
Friday afternoon when Tel Aviv winds down
Cairo comes alive: the long-robed servants
cooking their master’s goose in the back yard kitchen,
the sly taxi drivers meandering the narrow streets
promising the visitor all manner of delights
in this mysterious city… the squint-eyed mothers
wringing their hands over what will happen
when Father
finds out.

Even if I miss them for years,
nothing changes.
They still keep the tradition for me.
Shukri Sachran still wins my heart
as he bends over the balcony longing for the girl who disappeared
for no
apparent reason.

(We know
her misguided father has locked her up.)

Omar Shariff is still seducing
the sophisticated daughters
of the fifties.

(We know
he’ll marry them, in the end.)

Tahiya Carioka still circles
the still body
of Farid Al Atrash

as he sings
of eternal love
in the lush Cairo night clubs.

I love the way all the emotions blend –

there was a poor orphan,
renounced by her ward, and sent
far away to an orphanage,
where she learned
from the cold nuns
to be a teacher.

But she longed
for more
and found employment
some where
in the outskirts of Alexandria,
at the lonely home
of a strange widower.

Only after she woke to find
his room burning
and pulled him out of the fire
did I recognize

our little Jane Eyre.

was easier to spot –
roaming the Arabian night streets
and quoting Dostoyevsky

Do not tell me there are better things to do
with a Friday afternoon.
For me it is like shul:
even if I do not go,
what would Shabbas be
without it?

During the week I used to watch an educational children's program.


Confined to the couch by a bad back,
I watch Israel TV with my son.
There is an Arabic program on
and we slowly learn that the man
at the final fitting for a suit
("Mabrouk, Jamil!") and the woman
showing her new dress to her best friend
("Mabrouk, Azziza!") are getting married.
We watch the men come in to shave the groom,
the women warm the bride with dance and song,
the separate dinners with ululations.
More congratulations, then:
the two groups bring the couple to the square.
And when Azziza and Jamil look at each other
slowly, shyly I begin to cry.

I always cry at chasenes.


funny how I always mixed Arabic with Yiddish in my mind. The language of the other. And the language of the heart.

February 5, 2014

Our first lady of the bank, Carnit Flug, visited some Arab villages and declared that there is a growing spirit of economic participation. She only had to go to the neighborhood drug store or boutique to see that. I haven't seen a Jewish pharmacist in a long time. It hit me late this afternoon when Ezi was calling the phone company and got a receptionist who wished him a good evening. Her name, she said, was Leila. A beautiful Arab name that in Hebrew means night. I kept urging Ezi to say, "Erev tov Leila," or "Good evening, night" but he was ultimately unsure of her sense of humor and just discussed his telephone problem, but finally parted with "good evening."

I figure that until you can really exchange puns and jokes easily you know you have not achieved anything near normality.

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

write me

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home