Tel Aviv Diary Jan 13, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from January 13, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 13, 2004


After my musings on the road blocks I turned on tv for comic relief and there was a program on channel one - about the road blocks, about Calandia. Interviews with soldiers, people trying to cross, volunteers, politicians on both sides. A great deal of footage of the suffering of Palestinians trying to cross, a few words about the fact that these blocks did not really exist until the terror began and the number of bombings that were prevented by the blocks, an interview with a soldier named Yochi who is simply confused by the whole thing: "they play with you - play on all your emotions - confuse you"

So I had nightmares all night, and then woke to an interview (channel 2) with Said Kashua - that Arab writer who writes in Hebrew about Arba experiences. A delightful man. A human man. Was he a student of mine? He could have been. And he is one who is capable of transcending the differences, in the way I hope more of us will become.

So he restored some hope for me.

A friend of mine called to say she wanted to tell me about her refugee dream. I thought immediately she meant the same dream I have had since I can remember – the one about living in a camp, waiting for some country to take me in. She said no – “the other kind” – “Oh” I said, “the Palestinian refugee.” “No”, she answered, “the one about leaving Alexandria. There were many more of us then there were of them, you know – nine hundred thousand.”

I’d forgotten, because all of those Jewish refugees from Arab countries were incorporated, like those from Europe, into Israel somehow. In fact, most of my generation here are refugees one way or another.

no wonder i feel at home here -

January 14, 2004

I'm trying to collect sites and journals about Israeli literature - in english for furren readers - Here's one: Jerusalem Post Literary Quarterly. As you know the Jerusalem Review is coming back soon. You can send submissions to me - even though I don't make final decisions.

Roy Yarkoni, who is my partner in Thin Lips, has a new disk out.

look at the reviews he's getting:at The All Music Site

Although this is the debut recording from Israeli band Ahvak, the music is tight, complex and mature — not the sort of result normally associated with a fledgling band. But age (and experience) are relative, and band members had been working and rehearsing together for at least two years prior to this recording. No harm, either, that several of Ahvak's principal members are conservatory-trained composers and musicians, and the drummer is expatriate American Dave Kerman, a veteran of art rock bands 5uu, Motor Totemist Guild and Thinking Plague. These diverse ingredients add up to a very nice piece of work, characterized in part by the dissonance and sledgehammer intensity of Zeuhl-style Goth groups like Univers Zero or Present, but with legitimate art rock and even chamber music pretensions as well, and a musical scope and dexterity that is superior to more narrow-focused musical kin. Tricky polyrhythms and chromatic instability are the norm. Middle Eastern rhythms and motifs are sometimes evoked (but not excessively), and the group's use of dynamics is exemplary. The powerful throb of Ishay Sommer's bass and Kerman's drums, and the distinctive howling of Yehuda Kotten's electric guitar are quite capable of bludgeoning the listener into submission, but Ahvak knows how to wield a scalpel also, and pieces like “Regaim" (essentially a duet between Udi Susser's flute and Roy Yarkoni's acoustic piano), have their own cultivated sense of quiet dis-ease. “Hamef ahakim" opens with a jaunty (but slightly demented) organ and calliope sound, and after a rather austere middle section, breaks into a ragged waltz tempo, samples the sounds of children at a carnival (?), moves into a quiet but ominous interlude and then builds to a climax in an fashion that is almost symphonic. It and the title piece (also the group name, which translates as “dust") are the longest and most complex of the seven selections, and they wander through nightmare dreamscapes that are alternately euphoric, portentous, violent, funereal or just quietly twisted. Udi Koomran, on “computer," is in effect a sixth member of the group, and his subtle electronic embellishments add a welcome touch of mystery, adding to the music's slightly sinister edge. The music on this CD is hardly a romp, but it can be recommended unreservedly for its creativity, intelligence and emotional conviction. - Bill Tilland

Roy worked on thin lips and on ahvak with ishay sommer - thin lips was printed today. it should be released really soon.

Since I started writing about how bad the road blocks are, at least 4 people have been killed by suicide bombers at the road blocks. instead of me. (not to mention the father of newborn triplets who died last night in a shooting. now tell me how i can complain about borders.

as i was taking shusha home from the vets i caught an interview on the radio - the interviewer asks a reporter in Gaza about the woman who blew herself up today - she's the mother of 2 children, says the reporter, and her husband has disappeared. "So who's taking care of the kids?" the interviewer asks. It was just what I was thinking. her father is in Mecca, her family is away. where are those kids and who's going to take care of them?

January 15, 2004

Her estatic look in the shihad video doesn't leave me - the chosen one. She was such a convincing actress, playing the crippled, poor Palestinian woman with metal pins in her leg, and then blowing up the soldiers who believed her. The headline of Yidiot this morning was "the price of mercy." She is as complex a symbol as you can get. She begged for the chance before the Hamas leaders. Now she's a great heroine in Gaza and her funeral was attended by the masses. On the one hand it's a simple way of being transformed from an ignored woman to a saint. it's also a symbol of the terrible absence of hope in the real world in Gaza. But it's such a warped destructive path for her own people.

For us too. 4 boys 19-22 years old.

We don't have time to deal with these issues, though. We're much too busy prosecuting our wayward leaders and getting ready for the Hague. I don't know how guilty and how right or wrong we are. but i know that we shouldn't be in this situation.

January 16, 2004

The Darbuka class I participated in the night before at Susie's party continues to tell its toll on my typing fingers. I got so into the tak dum drumming my ring finger swelled up. But it was worth it.

The need for local rhythms is very strong - most of the people who happens to be at this class were european born and not particularly attached to music. But, sitting in a living room overlooking the town of Furadeis we were so involved in our drumming, it began to sound good, and even powerful.

And my finger is still sensitive.

Now I understand why my daughter often joins drumming groups.

Yes, yes, I note the irony of the situation.

January 16, 2004

Friday morning in Tel Aviv. How often have I praised the idyllic mood. The cafe I found myself in was crowded - mostly couples who looked like they hadn't a care in the world - and after a long while Moti got a call from his wife reminding him that he had to do the shopping before everything closed. But the stories he was telling me were about the time he spent in the army in Lebanon, trying to keep other soldiers from getting killed. The discrepancy between the life-and-death memories and the carefree atmosphere around us was typical of Tel Aviv.

On the way to Tel Aviv I heard a song on the radio by Benny Amdursky, written by Ben Zion Tomer, and when I parked the car I realized it was next to the house where Ben Zion Tomer lived - this studio book-lined porch - where he would plan with me the literary anthologies that never got financed (even though the money had been promised by the government). That's another part of Tel Aviv. Because it's so small and intense, you have layers upon layers of experiences in the same place. The other day, for example, I was passing by a greasy shawarma place on Rabin Square called "Rabin's Place" and saw that there were all kinds of tv cameras there. Of course I crossed the street, and ignored the whole production. But that evening, while I was watching a news program with Shulamit in order to catch her sister's erotic cake feature, there it was, a whole feature on the name of "Rabin's Place." It is right across the street from the very spot that Rabin was murdered. And there were many who were outraged by the demeaning of the name of Rabin. But that is Tel Aviv - everything has different levels, every place has a variety of significances, every place has had different memories and meanings at different times. Some of them are more intense than others. at different times.

oh i'm over doing it again, aren't i.

but i never go up horkenos street without thinking that Tirza Atar jumped out of the window at the head of that street, and I never pass the ghostlike Cafe Oslo at the north edge of Tel Aviv without remembering that it was once the place of choice for suburban housewives to meet their businessmen lovers because of its location on the cusp.

just discovered you can hear more clips of Thin Lips here.

It's Ishay Sommer's site. My favorite here is Cellular Phone. But you can tell me what you think.

Here's something I can't quite believe: a singles' festival in tel aviv this summer.

January 17, 2004

An article on Sabena Messag in Ha'aretz magazine. She can be found on my site here

. Sabena is a poet of the nature and the places of Israel - the Sea of Galilee, the monestaries, the places integral and unique to this land. She translated a book of my poetry while in a convent in Jerusalem. For the past few years she's been living in Klil and writing about that place. I find her very unique and difficult to translate because of the ties to the specific history, the specific geography, the unique experiences.

There's also an artile about Israeli blogs, here but I think it was translated from Hebrew and doesn't discuss anything written in English. So I'm not sure how useful it is for the rest of the world to learn about Israel.

The article is about blogging as therapy. Now that got me thinking - You will remember, I started this blog (don't think they were called blogs back in those days) because I wanted to let my friends be able to check out discreetly if i'd been blown up yet. I was getting news to people who were getting to be afraid they were hounding me about my survival.

Most of those people it turned out never checked in here - they began to believe i was invincible. or that if i stuck it in tel aviv out i must be asking for it and then it was MY problem.

So why do i continue? It's a question i come back to every once in a while. what am i trying to prove. and i don't know the answer.

or if i do i'm not telling.

no wait. i do have one of the answers - that there are some people in the world who are homesick for this life - who miss tel aviv and want to get some of the smell of it - and i empathize with them. (me who miss New York like crazy). Yesterday for example we dropped in on our favorite truck stop restaurant - Ahmed et Salim's - with Jake. Now normally the waiters and the managers join us for some fantasiot (my favorite activity - it's an Arabic word but I use it to mean - making impossible plans. Last time we planned their website and having belly dancing on friday afternoons. The time before we corrected their english menus. nothing ever goes beyond this stage.) But when they saw Jake (who we'd never brought before) was not in the mood for fooling around - mourning his mother as he was - they stayed away. They brought tons of food and didn't charge for half, but they stayed away.

I was impressed.

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