Tel Aviv Diary January 12 - 16 , 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from January 12, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 12, 2005

It was one of those days when I decided to play the part of the writer. I went to Tolaat Hasfarim, "the book worm" book store, and had coffee with Sabina. The literary conversation was hot and heavy, and i remembered the many many years when I sat in the cafe of the Writers House and met with all the writers. There were afternoons with Yakov Orland, or Dahn Ben Amotz, or Sandu David, or Zyggy Frankel, and hundreds of other writers -- beautiful Friday afternoons.

"Tolaat Sfarim" is a nice, but yuppy, substitute. It's like a Barnes & Noble on a tiny scale.

Tiny, because books are so expensive here - and imported books are very expensive.

But I was in a rotten mood because I discovered that my latest hebrew book hadnt sold because through some glitch it wasn't on the computer and so couldn't be ordered by bookstores. Even tolaat sfarim didn't have a copy. So I went home downcast.

January 13, 2005

All the people in the arts I talk to - media, museums, etc. complain that their funds have been cut, their 'agendas' questioned, their freedom totally curtailed. Palestinian artrists, on the other hand, are developing a new culture. Great stuff, they say. Wish we could get their spirit.

And now the very subject of religious agendas is being discussed on channel 2. There are no real conclusions about it - which is common for Israeli tv, but the feeling I get is that although it is true that the non-religious arts are dying here for lack of funds, and it is a silly suicide Israel is committing, we are fighting with ourselves too much - that the left should be raising as much money as possible to counter the millions of the right - with a little less conflict.

lily livered pacifist that i am

Moshe asked me what can be done about the sales of my book. Short of suing the publishers, I think the only thing that can be done is for everyone to stop in every bookstore they can find and ask if they have Taavot Shuliut. Then ask them to check if it can be ordered. Then see if it is on their computer. If it isn't - ask that they inquire at the distributor. And tell them you'll buy the book elsewhere.

Notice I am not asking anyone to buy my book. It took me this month to discover what went wrong because I was sure no one WANTED "taavot shuliot."

And while I'm into self promotion, why not check into Amazon and look up "SO Far, So Good" - If you know the book and like it, and have something to say about it, why not tell them at Amazon?

"Did YOU like it?" a friend of my son asked me as we walked out of the theatre. And unreservedly I said yes, "Very much." We were talking about "Grandpa's Braid," a very funny ehtnic sitcom kind of play about the dying old Moroccan whose son is a healer. The son decides that the only way his father can die happy is if he tells him he's getting married and his fiance is pregnant. When I was asked, I realized I was supposed to say that it was shallow, but I had enjoyed it so much I didn't even notice the time. Rami Danon and Amnon Levi wrote it and Danon directed as well, and there is a sense of a really well-polished play. But I went mad for the actors, especially Itzik Cohen who plays the old man so well I didn't even remember he was the founder of the first Israeli Drag quintet, "Pessiah's Daughters" less than a dozen years ago and Tchiya Danon who plays the lame daughter who belly dances in her room.

I was enthralled, but by the time I got to my car the news was on and there had been another terrorist attack...

January 14, 2005

This megabomb at the Carni crossing, was clearly intended to tell Abu Mazen that Hamas is not listening to him. What a terrible shame that 6 people so far had to be killed for that.

It make powerful retaliation a necessity, doesn't it. To tell Hamas that Abu Mazen is right.

Back to the play. Why was it so fascinating, "Papa's Braid," ? I think what impressed me so much was the writing across cultures that is integral to Israel, that performing "Inti Omri" a classic Arab song, is the means by which the old Moroccan man transcends the potential cultural barriers with his Russian-Hungarian daughter-in-law to be.

And tht the audience stopped the play to applaud the performance of "Inti Omri." All right, so Itzik Cohen didn't really sing "Inti Omri," but he became an expert at lip-sync when he was doing his drag show, and it helped him here!

I was also impressed with the way the shrink - who sits on the side while the patient, Amir, keeps going back and forth to him family troubles - is a amalgamation of all the shrink-techniques - he's jungian, he's rogerian, he uses all the techniques in sequence - but whoever wrote the part has studied them all. Then the healer - with his genuineness and his pretensions - a common personality in Israel (what Orit calls "Ruchni" for "Ruchani" - and I have translated - badly - as "spiritchul". This combination of characters in a single room is common in this country.

Something Lisa said last week has been bothering me. When we were talking about her visit to Ramallah and the cultural gaps, she noted that we are totally mixed up even about things that seem simple. Remember that old expression "Every dog has its day" that I have used as an example of how an idea goes from Arabic to English and Hebrew? Lisa pointed out that it means the opposite - not that the good people will be rewarded someday, but more like "You can laugh now, but you will get what's coming to you." The sudden ominousness of the expression, suddenly showed me the difference in cultures, a difference we must keep in mind, even after these transformative elections.

January 15, 2005

Lisa G gave me a lesson in Blogging tonight and i think i'm going to try to change things on this site.

Bear with me

Lisa G is not the same Lisa previously mentioned who visits Ramallah and stuff like that. Lisa G's blog is great because it gives you a view of someone who is actually living in Tel Aviv, unlike me, who only gets away from my books and screen occasionally. She's the one who knows where to buy hawaig and white coffee and stuff like that.

Me, I know how to cook. At least the forgotten knowledge is beginning to re-surface after all those years struggling with a faulty kitchen.

As always, I try to find out as soon as possible who was killed in a terrorist attack - primarily because i know so many soldiers and worry about them all the time. Here are the names of those killed in the recent one: Munam Abu Sabia, 33, of Daboriyah, Ibrahim Kahili, 46, of Umm al-Ghanem, Dror Gizri, of Sderot, Herzl Shlomo, 51, of Sderot, Ivan Shmilov, 54, of Sderot, Ofer Tiri, 23, of Ashkelon. I'm sure not one of them wanted to be there.

And now today children on both sides killed and injured.

January 16, 2005

"Papa's Braid," ? hasn't left my mind so I thought I'd exorcise it by explaining the fascination of this Cameri comedy - Where else in the world can you get a performance of "Inti Omri" as a matter of fact in an unpretentiousness play? Would you believe that in an Israeli play on an Israeli stage there were at least five proverbs in Arabic? It's not that this is a great play, but that it reflects some of the complexity of Israeli culture. Will it ever get produced off broadway? I doubt whether it will ever be translated. bridging cultures costs money - and who has money around here except for old-fashioned tradition?

Appropos no money: the museum I've been raving about for 3 years, Zman Leomanut, or Time for Art, is closing its doors for lack of funds. No fuss, no protests, no complaints. It's over.

Wait a minute - maybe i'm wrong. The site of Time for Art is still up and running. I hope I just misunderstood. (Why is it only in Hebrew, you ask. I suspect it's ideological. Only the restaurant has an English site.

What about Abu Mazen? I think he needs our support precisely now. With all the funerals in Sderot today, the terrible losses, he's a chance for some kind of agreement. Let's all hear it for Abu Mazen.

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