Tel Aviv Diary January 27 - Feb 1 , 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from January 27, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 27, 2005

Listen, I'm supposed to be at the Dead Sea this afternoon, and wound up spend all morning in chores that shouldn't have taken quite so long. First off I was supposed to bring a Catecholamine urine test in - a gallon jar of urine - to the health clinic, but i was half way there before I realized I'd forgotten it on the ... dining room table. Once there with my gallon jug the clerk asked me for my health clinic card - it was at home, as was my license and all identifying papers. Why I don't know. I never leave home without papers. Then I stopped to breathe deeply and figure out the shortest and more efficient way to go through all the banks, insurance offices, grocers, offices, and everything went smoothly, even quickly. It was really only the jug that threw me off.

Now we're off to the Dead Sea and the big political question is which way to take. Why is it political? Because the short way, near Jericho, was considered dangerous the last time we went, but the other way adds on at least a half an hour to the trip. And there was a horrible accident on that road yesterday where a busdriver suddenly felt sick and drove his car into the waiting crowd, killing 2 people.

We went the short way – only 2 hours really from Tel Aviv . Once you turn south from Jerusalem the scenery quickly changes – from minute to minute it becomes more and more arid and stark and beautiful. A few sidewalk stands with elegantly dressed camels, a military guard post with bearded soldiers with submachine guns and guitars peering in, a gas station called “Last Stop.” Then the smell of salt begins to fill the air as date palms appear. And then you’re in Ein Bokek, another checkpost, and a row of hotels.

We arrived just in time for the lecture – a sexologist from Beer Sheva, with unpretentious wisdom and a great sense of humor. I mention this in these pages because his talk was particularly Israeli: The sex part was clear and direct and visual, but subordinated to the big Israeli problems – the need for communication, listening skills, organization of priorities, and so on. I was impressed.

January 28, 2005

Last time we went to the Crowne Plaza at the Dead Sea with Ezi’s coworkers I hated the food, hated the atmosphere, hated the cheapness of the rooms, although I had a great time shopping for all the cosmetics. This time I ate like a horse because everything was so delicious, did some of the treatments, and even bought something in the hotel lobby.

Here’s a draft of the poem:


60 years after Auschwitz

I am naked, covered with mud

in a tiled chamber, waiting

for the Russian aide

to release me

from the warm

invigorating wrap.

If only Aunt Batya could see me now.

(Batya by the way is one of my aunts who went up in smoke there.)

Been reading Lisa's blog again. Highly recommended.

January 29, 2005

My friends were calling me from the beach at Tel Aviv, while we were making our way from the Dead Sea home. What a great day! The weather felt like a Divine blessing - and we had had such a magical morning it was beyond belief. First, the Dead Sea. The hotel has a pool that's even more concentrated than the sea itself and all my aches and pains and scratches and tears disappeared there. I cannot imagine why people dont spend every month there. Salt is for healing.

The spas really are wonderful, and the shops are great. We're not great shoppers but I love the Russian girls at Premier Cosmetics. They have great products and I buy enormous jars of Aloe Vera gel for 10 shekel, serums, creams, all of which have repeatedly proven their effectiveness to me. I brought Jamaica Kinkaid to this shop and she came away with big plastic bags of stuff.

When we were in Jordan on the opposite side of the sea (which you can not walk over if you dare) we also bought large quantities of mud and stuff, Jordan soap, I think it is called, but the industry was not as refined - at least then, 3 years ago. They had more products for lightening skin and keratosis, products which are not terribly popular in Israel, but I personally, have great need for. The emphasis in Israel seems to be on serums and anti-ageing. This emphasis speaks worlds for the values... but I'm not going there unless I have someone who knows something to discuss this concept of sociological and pecuniary canons of taste in skin care.

January 30, 2005

All week we have been discussing the 60th anniversary of the freeing of Auschwitz - how come we have never mentioned it before? Does it take 60 years to be able to speak of these horrors? I think so.

And one night I watched the aerial photographs and films of the American airforce as they flew to other bombing missions - you can see people walking to their death - and I couldn't stop thinking about - not my heroic shomer hazair aunt Batya or the others in my family who ended up there - but poor childish deceived Kurt Gerron.

Gerron was no more of a hero than I would have been in that situation, more of a schlemiel, and I like him would tried in some perverse way to use my talents to alleviate the situation for myself and others, and it may too have backfired on me.

Ephraim Kishon is gone - one of the greatest writers in this culture died in Switzerland - known to the world but unapplauded by us. Sometime I'll try and delineate the weird way we treat our writers, in which the most influential are trampled upon as populists.

January 31, 2005

Get used to it. I'm going off line on Friday for a bit. Maybe even as long as 2 weeks. Although I doubt that Ezi won't find a way to hook me up at some point. if not at all points.

I woke up this morning and thought I'd been dreaming - Then I remembered that it was really on TV last night. Ahmed Tibi, one of the more charming of the Arab representatives in Parliament (Bishara also does it for me), was actually on a satire show last night. Now that wouldn't have been strange, but he played himself straight while Tal Freedman, in a chummy and simplistic parody of the daytime talk show hostess Odetta, projects all the standard Israeli prejudices about Arabs. First she assumes he is Jewish because he is important, then when he notes that he isn't she adds, "of course, you're Druze!" He explains that he is Muslim and she immediately gets the security guard to check him for weapons, then tries to turn to trivial subjects. Tibi insists on turning the conversation to the economic plight of the Arabs, despite repeated efforts to divert him...Now Tibi has a sense of humor, and it was very effective that he played himself straight here.

Tal Freedman is quite a comedian and really gets the Israeli personality down straight (although Odetta is often really admirable and only sometimes the 'Omletta' parodied). But the parody and criticism of Israeli society is becoming stronger and less gentle every day. Songs on the radio about the violence that has invaded our values, humor turned against the lack of open-mindedness, even commercials that work on the silliness of stereotypical thinking, all show that the values are there and people want them foregrounded.

And so you recognize me if you see me in hte street, here's a picture:

photographer: Amit Ghosh

Okay, so I don't like exactly like this.

And now I've been reassured that I will be online no matter what. It's like a challenge to Ezi. To feed my obsessions.

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