Tel Aviv Diary - February 8-12, 2011 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

February 8, 2011

Okay, here goes another try.

The problem is that it is hard for me to forget the old "if you don't have something good to say, keep your mouth shut.

And I have lots of good things to say about NY, but that's not connection to the subject of this journal.

One good thing to say about NY is the Ma'amakim journal and the poetry evening they had on the 5th of this month. Wonderful performances, great sense of Jewish identity. But they are shutting down for an indefinite period now, and there's a big wasteland out there.

Today we stopped by the gift shop at the JCC on 77th and Amsterdam. Great Jewish humor - of the post-borsht belt variety, and some gorgeous judaica. We bought a knife that says "Gut Shabbas" on it, but for personal reasons... What was missing? A sense of identity. Yesterday at Strand Book Store I saw tables of books on Jewish history, and thousands of books by Jews - including Kafka, Disraeli, Louise Gluck, etc.etc. Maybe the jewish identity is so ubiquitous it doesn't need to be learned. But something still seems to be missing.

February 8, 2011

Wandering through the park, we wound up at the Met, and discovered as we entered that there was a Roman floor from Lod being exhibited. Although there were so many other wonderful exhibits, and there was nothing 'jewish' about it, i stood there in amazement. why had i never heard of this before? why had i never known? I live not twenty minutes from where this floor was discovered - why should there have been no news about this in Israel? Non-Jewish censorship in Israel? or maybe i only pay attention to what I want? Anyway, this mosaic floor is something to see. And if I look a bit more carefully, I discover that the fault is all mine Even the Israeli government talks about it all the time.

Clearly I shouldn 't be talking and judging things outside the little realm of my own abode. So I will tell you what I thought about as I examined the mosaic. It was the amount of work a craftsman had to put in to do that floor, and the guy who put in our bathroom tiles. He was the first person I ever really could say that I hated. We had had palestinian workers in our house putting in the plumbing and tearing down the walls and doing plaster and all that, and the floor was nearly the last thing. The tile man was a religious right wing fanatic who kept talking about the sons of Ishmael (the other people working around him) and how I had no right to tell him anything because I was only a woman. I had to live with this guy because we couldn't leave it in the middle, but I refused to speak with him and wouldn't serve him coffee even while I served the others. So all I could think about in the middle of the Met was this tile man.

February 10, 2011

i promised to talk only about what i know and then leapt headlong into a daylong discussion of what is Zionism, what is Judaism in America, and who hates whom.

Let's all be friends, I say - but i understand the fear and the fears surrounding the statements of other who may mean well, but embarass us and maybe make our case weaker. We're not united at this moment. Even though it wouldn't take much to unite us. We don't even use the same terms in the same way. Sometime we define Zionist as recist, or zionist as one who lives in Israel, or one who just doesn;t care about the palestinians. It's all wrong and we should get our terms straight.

Aft i fell into bed exhausted by all day of talking, I turned on "The Believer," a Ryan Gosling film of a Jew who is also a neo-naxi.This did not help me get to sleep.

February 11, 2011

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