Tel Aviv Diary January 3, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Every day it seems Palestinians are killed. Most of them, we are reassured, were caught trying to attack us. A few are just in the way. But the numbers are staggering. Why aren't all of us tired of this already?

It is Friday afternoon and I am missing the traditional Friday Afternoon Arabic Movie. In September, when I was abroad, the Israel station stopped a tradition that began with TV in Israel - a good old Egyptian or Moroccan film. I only watched some of them, and part of the time, but I loved them and never forget on Friday afternoons how it felt to wander the streets of Alexandria. I even have a poem and an audio about it somewhere.

Scriberazone: The Friday Afternoon Arabic Movie

The audio is here under recordings.

I'm going to listen to it now even though i never listen to my own voice, just for the memories...

January 4, 2002 - Shabbat Morning

My longing was alleviated by a wonderful Tunisian film that is playing all over Israel (and probably all over the world) called Red Silk. It is - appropriately for me - about a middle-aged belly dancer. Middle-aged. We're talking late-thirties here. The absolute concentration on intimate experience is such a delight and a relief. It's nothing like the traditional Arab movies because it is ultimately wonderfully perverted and has no moral - Nevertheless it made me feel at home.

Should you be very curious about THIS belly dancer check out the picture on my corner at Pookh records .

Check out Roy Yarkoni too who is doing a disk with me. And Tamar Agnon. And the others. It's a pretty interesting site for a window into alternative music in Israel.

And now for something totally different. When my father-in-law, the legendary Bandi Gut, was alive, he would make us Sabbath lunch every week and Sara would serve it in the dining room. There was one constant guest, an overwhelming presence: an enormous oil portrait of the German actor, Kurt Gerron, by the Israeli artist Shalom Sebba. Sebba was a good friend of Bandi and Sara and they had many of his works scattered around the house, works that eternalize the simplicity, conscious naivete, and hope in Israel after WWII. But the painting of Gerron was different. Before the war Sebba had made his living in Berlin painting stage scenery and it was there that he met this amazing character. He had probably already made the film of the Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich and had many other reasons to be admired, and stands very secure and self-satisfied in his tuxedo and top hat, a long fat cigar between his lips. Only yesterday - after all these years - Ezi began to explore the history of this man with whom he had his meals for many years. It seems he had been in a concentration camp in Holland with a group of actors for the first years of the war, and they continued to act and put on plays there. After they were forced to make a film, "Hitler Builds a City for the Jews," they were sent to their deaths.

A film was recently made about this event - very different from "The Pianist" - I'll warrant. But all this demands more research. First we have to see "The Blue Angel." In any case, the portrait of Gerron - the comfortable German Jew in Berlin before the war - is directly related to the wonderful Sebba "Shepherd" or some of the other kibbutz paintings and drawings that were exhibited a few years ago in Ein Harod museum. For a tiny taste of what I'm talking about, check out the Hammersite auctions or Farkash Gallery. And if you know anything, let me know.

Ezi has already complained that I do not provide all the facts about Sebba. maybe i'll let him write the section. maybe that will shut him up.

No - he won't. When I suggested it, Ezi just smiled and started talking about Sebba as he knew him as a child - Sebba the socialist who stayed with his parents when he came to Israel before WWII and gave them paintings and sculpture in gratitude - Sebba whose wall fresco in the entrance hall of Beit Hamlin was painted over a few years ago... None of the facts he said I was missing.

So here is the portrait of Kurt Gerron.

In Ehud Barak's interview just now on TV the fact that most of the opinions we have about the news are based on the partial knowledge the media provides has once again become clear - From the first moment when he denied he was making the comeback the newspapers announced the other day, and claimed no one had ever asked him if there was any truth in the matter, his interview attempted to clarify misinformation about the past two years. (For example he noted that he lost the last election to fewer votes for the Likud than the previous election when he won over Netanyahu - that is to say that he lost the last election because the left didn't come out to vote...) Azmi Bishara's earlier interview on a different station tonight basically made the same case - that we have drawn out conclusions about recent politics (and about him as well) from insufficient information. He also pointed out the problems we all have with interpreting information from sources we perceive as enemy.. He's a smart guy, that Bishara. You can check out his home page on the knesset site here if you like. You can also find there some of the others I've been talking about.

January 5, 2002

i was about to write something just now - some trivia about Barak - and Orit calls to say she's all right. she heard the explosions just now but is at work and not on the street. i tell her her brother is home sick. she says, great. great - he's not blown up. that's how i hear about terrorist attacks in tel aviv. we don't know how many, who, how - yet.

an hour later - and most of the people close to us who might have been in the neighborhood have been checked. i'm worried about a few illegal workers - one in particular - although she usually avoids that area. the number of dead keeps rising - now it is 20 - there are 4 they are fighting for in the hospital - but if i understand their situation they would be better off dead.

As usual witnesses describe arms and legs flying in the air, glass in eyes, inconceivable brutality.

Why are the foreign workers more vistimized than others? because they are in neighborhoods where it would be hard to identify a stranger. So it's the story of the guy who lost his keys in the bushes at night and looks for them under the lamp post because it's light there. Terrorist attacks target the easy places - the easy victims.

why in Tel Aviv? These people don't differentiate between the territories and Israel. It's all the same to them.

January 6, 2002

I'm only writing today to ensure that you and I know everyone I know here is okay. So far.

Everyone I know is freaking out.

People don't admit to themselves it's because of the bomb I think so they complain about everything else in the world - boyfriends, lovers, mothers, consumerism, domestic duties, unemployment, madness.

Me, i'm just psychosomatically ill again. and so off to bed.

January 7, 2002

At 6 a.m. the paper is delivered. I postpone opening it because I'm afraid of the dreaded photographs - the victims. But at 7 I forget that's why i didn't want to look at the paper, and settle down to read. And there is Safi. The top right-hand photo. The first woman I ever saw (besides the instructor) dancing with a cane. And because she's so easy and approachable I ask her about where her fingers are when she twirls it. She confesses to me she doesn't come to class every week because of the money, and complains that her ex doesn't pay child support. We talk about the joys of grandparenting, even though she's much younger than me. And teeth. She's got to fix that tooth on the left side. Every time I do see her in class I am overjoyed - we kvetch about children, aging, how our bodies don't listen to us any more.

But her body was blown up while she was waiting for a bus.

Here are some of the people who are no more.

from Haaretz Sapi is the 4rth down on the left.

Just a little face to the terror.

May their families and loved ones know no more woe.

I say it and know they will.

As will we all.

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