Tel Aviv Diary - February 17, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - February 17-21, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

February 17, 2010

When my first book came out, a tiny pamphlet called Making Love:Poems, designed and edited by David Avidan to be a little erotic-intellectual fantasy, with a little grey triangle on the cover, I sent a copy to my mother and my brother in the U.S. My mother immediately called my brother and asked, "WHAT IS THIS?" and my brother calmly replied, "Metaphors, Mother."

The other day I received a number of letters asking what kind of stupid and abbreviated description of the Shuk Hacarmel I wrote. My answer is the same, "Metaphors, Mother."

Rena, my mail to you keeps getting rejected!

February 18, 2010

You will pardon me, but the whole story of the stolen identities and passports everyone is up in arms about seems to me a very tiny issue. I would use the Arabic expression - a big noise in a small teapot - but there are so many other issues here that the teapot metaphor doesn't work. One issue is the fact that Dubai's publication of all the security films of the assassins - something one doesn't usually do in the middle of an investigation - indicates that they too have some kind of involvement in some kind of drama that has not quite played itself out. Another is the fact that Shahar Peled is planying winning tennis in Dubai. Maybe that's not related. A third point is perhaps personal. Long ago a friend of mine in Washington was gunned down in front of his home. He may well have had something to do with the same profession of the recent victim in Dubai. His killers were never found. In other words, there are some jobs that are problematic and may lead to trouble. And now let's get to the bigger issues, if Israel is responsible for the 'assassination' have we discussed the morality of it? Is it okay to kill a person if it prevents the killing of others? If so, who decides? And if it is decided....then what national borders.... ah, I don't know enough, i'm not wise enough...

Somehow I'm reminded of the question put to the Rabbi by the woman whose chicken fell into the chamber pot. "Is it kosher?" she asked. "It's kosher," he answered, "But it stinks."

February 18, 2010

I always imagine my doggie Shusha as an old woman from the shtetl. Her expressions, her personality, the way she treats others, all remind me of the way my mother described her grandmother Kaganovich. And since Purim is nearing, I began to sing her a Yiddish song about an incompetent balabosta from the shtetl. My crazy neighbor overheard me and chimed in. It was the first time I'd sung the song in years. But it needs greater coverage. Here's the Yiddish. You can follow along here

Hop! Mayne Homntashn!

Yachne-Dvoshe fort in mark
Zi halt in eyn pakn,
Fort oyf Purim koyfn mel,
Homntashn bakn.


Hop! Mayne homntashn,
Hop! Mayne vayse.
Hop! Mit mayne homntashn
Hot pasirt a mayse!

S’geyt a regn, s’geyt a shney
Es kapet fun di decher.
Yachne firt shoyn korn-mel,
In a zak mit lecher.


Yachne trogt shoyn shalachmones,
Tsu der bobe Yente-
Tsvey-dray shvartze homntashn,
Halb-roy – halb-farbrente!

Here's a rough translation:

Yachne-Dvoshe is off to town
She's very busy packing -
She's got to buy flour for Purim
to get her homentaschen baking

Jump, my homentaschen
jump, my white ones
dance with my homentashcen
for a miracle happened once

A rain is falling, the snow is falling
It's pouring from the roofs
Yachne is already lugging her corn-meal
In a sack full of holes

Now she's bringing Purim gifts
to the Grandma Yente
Two-three black homentaschen
Half raw, half burnt up

The melody - at least of the chorus - is a Ukranian dance - which lends a little irony to the dancing of the homentaschen and the 'hop' which accompanies a good masculine jumping dance. Dvosha is a diminuitive for Dvora, which was my mother's and my father's mother's name.

February 20, 2010

An old Purim poem of mine:


What if even one of the sons of Haman was not evil –
didn’t even carry the evil gene, and might have been
so much of a reaction to the evil he had seen
his only thoughts were of love.
What if he had been the one
to father the peace maker of Persia
in our time

how can I celebrate until I do not know the difference?

This one talks about the danger of collective punishment, something we do all the time all over the world. One thing we can learn from Purim is that this is the holiday of alternatives. That we have to try different identities, perspectives, and that distinctions are absolute.

And while we're into different identities, here are some excerpts from very recent readings in the U.S.

with Liz Magnes: Let me Think

with Joe Rosenstein: The Market

Falling Off The Camel

Expect more later.

February 21, 2010

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