Tel Aviv Diary Jan 28, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from January 28, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 28, 2004

I was just getting ready to write something this morning when Ezi walked in the house - after 2 hours of trying to get through the striking workers to his work, he gave up and came home for lunch. These were Lod city workers protesting at El Al junction over the fact that they have not been paid for 5 months - this keeps happening all over now. Everyone has a justified beef. But who are you going to complain to? Our leadership is lights on noone home.

So Ezi loses almost a day's work (he's gone back, but will soon get into the bomb scare traffic at the Azrielli towers), and the economy suffers further.

I'm so glad I'm not committed to writing about politics and war here - because today there is so much confusion I wouldn't know where to begin.

Look, even in the little day-to-day events i write about there are so many complexities and lies and misunderstandings and attitude it is difficult to sort them out. When Lord Hutton gave his findings today about the Kelly affair and the BBC I wanted to weep for the way he clarified so many of those complexities and lies etc. Not so much because he was clearing poor Tony Blair so much (although that was nice) as because he was able to pick out the strands - and showed it was POSSIBLE to pick out the strands of truth and seperate them from the lies.

But let's get closer to home. The talk Jamaica Kincaid gave last week that made me fall in love with her - remember I sent you to Ha'aretz on that? Well someone else sent me to this site for Smadar Lavie's take on that talk. It was pretty appalling how a brilliant scholar (and I don't remember what I read of hers but I remember it was brilliant) can be so subjective and opinionated. The imposition of race and prejudice on the scene - when Kincaid was not trying to avoid that subject but to go beyond it - was quite astounding.

In my head I hear the criticism - but what do YOU know of prejudice? I am an Ashkenazi woman - and therefore 'privileged' according to Lavie, but remember I grew up with anti-semitism that doesn't distinguish between Sephardic and Ashkenazi (and I never KNEW there was supposed to be a difference between the two until I came to Israel (and I was MARRIED to a Sephardi). Okay, when did I realize there was that kind of prejudice here? When my daughter wasn't reading up to her first grade level in school (which had more to do with the fact that she had come from the U.S.) and the teacher told me that perhaps I should have some books in my home. I sat opposite her for a minute - suddenly understanding that the name Alkalay meant to her uncultured. Then I said, very softly, "We do have a few books at home - some of which I wrote."

Most of the other teachers I met in the Israeli school system were not prejudiced in that way, but they were almost all STUPID. And I was reminded of the way they made simple easy generalities that they imposed upon their pupils when I read Lavie's piece on Kincaid.

As for going beyond race, I realize this is also potentially a simple-minded approach, but the end result is much more productive than the polar stereotyping we see so much of.

As for antisemitism, when I was doing my graduate work, my Jewish professor was not granted tenure (just after his wife died) and the rumor was that he was 'too jewish,' using too many jewish expressions and making too many jewish references. My own graduate studies career was inaugurated with a little speech about how I should realize that I was taking the space that a male bread-winner might have occupied, and I should take that seriously.

Tennenbaum on television - with all his teeth and looking very much like what he looked 3 years ago. He claims he was in Beirut looking for info on Ron Arad - something I don't think i heard before.

January 29, 2004

What do you want me to say? The Tennenbaum family may be the only family whose day came out well. The other 3 families whose sons' bodies were returned to them today - who were tortured with not knowing for 3 years - are mourning. And the families of the 10 people who were murdered today, including Eli Tsfira, 48; Chana Anya Bunder, 38; Baruch Hondiashvilli, 38; Dana Itach, 24; Avraham Albert Balachson, 29; Natalia Gamril, 50; Octovian Floresco Viorel, 42; Rose Bona, 39 from Jerusalem; Yehezkel Goldberg, 42, from Beitar Illit, will never recover from this day.

I have often written of the degrees of connection in Jewish geography, and how this is more true in the case of victims of terrorism. There are never victims who are not in some way connected to people we know. It sometimes takes a few days to find out how.

Every day there are terrorist incidents prevented in some way - so when the Hamas says this incident was in retaliation for victims of a gun battle yesterday I simply don't believe them And it is hard for me to answer the contentions of people who say that if there had been a fence in Jerusalem, this wouldn't have happened. Very hard.

Back to Tennenbaum. He's being treated and questioned now. He looks to me much older and artificially cleaned up.

In the local grocery, they were still keeping low key, barely speculating on his fate. Of course the only reason i use them for a source of information is that so many neighbors know him more or less.

January 30, 2004

Tsruria Shalev was injured 'lightly' in the attack yesterday - had an operation on her knee - So she's one of the 44 still hospitalized - but not one of the 'seriously' or 'moderately' injured. And yet I am sure she will be busy with this wound for years. How about the 'moderately injured'? and those fighting for their lives? How much more that "10 killed" is here? Do the math.

Tsruria is not someone I know well - I used to know her husband well but lost touch when he moved to Jerusalem to marry her. (It was during the Gulf War a dozen years ago - he's in one of my poems about the war and now that I think about it we haven't spoken since)

On the roof of Gaza the Palestinians danced as usual yesterday at the horrendous deaths and injuries inflicted in Jerusalem. The more death, the more mutilation inflicted on us, the better. Whatever the consequences for them.

Every time I go to the big hardware stores I always wind up with a (different) young Arab salesman whose Hebrew is perfect and colloquial and who knows all the little specific needs of local clients. I was standing next to two Arab personnel at Office Depot who were unloading some boxes and discussing their planned evening in their village in Arabic, and a few times a woman came up and asked them for stuff - a pencil box, invitation stationary, etc. and they switched effortlessly to Hebrew, from a party in Nazareth to a socialite's or school child's needs in Tel Aviv. I know this is characteristic of Israel and indicative of nothing, but I am always amazed by these incidents.

I was also amazed when the Haifa University Theatre Company started doing Hanoch Levin's "The Luggage Packers" in Arabic. Because i wondered what kind of audience it would have. Now I've heard the company may be going under receivership and Oz has been fired (I only heard it because Randy Kaplan at Geneseo sent me an email about a protest against Oz's firing organized by Judith Butler). Anyone know anything?

January 31, 2004

I was about to write something about the amazing weather today and the great party we went to last night when I spotted this item in the news: "Forensic institute reexamination of body parts from J`lem attack shows another woman killed, death toll at 11." And I remembered the photos I happened to catch from the Tel Aviv Bus Station bombing where Sappi was killed - how the bodies and separated, mutilated, burnt beyond recognition. And I suddenly remembered again how afraid Sappi had been of bodily injury in a terrorist attack. Who are these two women who had been thought to be one? Who else is missing? And how many more of the 11 seriously injured will die?

Last night I was talking with this guy I know pretty well who told me he just came back from Gaza where he had been one of the soldiers in the unit that killed a number of palestinians the other day. What about the school children? I asked him. Did you fire at school children? No, he said, "I was under orders to fire BACK whenever we were fired at. This was a battle, and we were under attack." He shouldn't have had to be there i thought, but didn't tell him. In his situation he had no choice. But I would have loved to keep him in my kitchen where he belongs.

Okay, if he weren't defending me i wouldn't HAVE a kitchen. i know that too. But it's still possible to change the construction of all this situation in the middle east so he doesn't have to be in that position.

February 1, 2004

Big strike of municipalities today - so in addition to the rain and thunderstorms and the general malaise, there will be problems with schools closed, etc.

Since Ezi is still in the air and will be flying around for rest of the day, the airlines scare is most in my mind.

But I've been thinking about Tennenbaum too - about how he was pumped up with steroids for his trip home and that interview and how he's got a very long way before he recovers from the physical and emotional torture he underwent. There are so many rumors about him - in the news on tv, in the papers, and not at the grocers' - that it's impossible to understand. But in his case, unlike the important case with how Arik Sharon has been jerking us around for the past 3 years, the details are tangential.

Although there's nothing about it in the papers, apparently, the clip i did for Tal Gordon is supposed to be shown on tuesday night at 11 p.m. on channel 1. I hope i'm not misleading you.

It is so wonderful when there is nothing to talk about - nothing immediate and heart-rending. I went back to my Belly Dance class this afternoon after months of being too busy and too sick and all that and i couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Despite the fact that my clothes all shrank and are too short and i haven't combed my hair in days and i had to spend an hour and a half looking at myself that way. Despite the fact that the rest of the dance studio looks through the large window while i gyrate - just a bit after the rest of the class - Despite the fact that i have a very large pile of work to do on my desk. I even forgot for a moment that Ezi is still in the skies and there are all kinds of threats.

Studio B has a very interesting mix of peole - now that i think about what i saw from the big window. There is a class of ballet directly opposite ours, spinning on the left, and some heavy aerobics beyond my vision but not my sensation. And all the cultures are very big - belly dance and ballet. They never quite come together, but the exist side-by-side in the culture as in the studio. I know, I know - there are no visible Arab women in our class or in the studio as far as i know, but they are still part of this society, this culture. And for me a very respectable part.

Even if Haifa University is trying to get rid of the theatre that features both cultures.

I've actually been trying to find out what is going on with the theatre - and as far as i can tell, despite the politicization of the issue by the theatre, the issue is a procedural one: the necessary legal protocol for establishing a theatre was never followed.

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