Tel Aviv Diary Jan 8, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from January 8, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 8, 2004

Although there was the usual three ring circus in the government yesterday - what with the 'budget' getting passed, misinformation leaking about contacts between Israel and Libya, more secret tapes of Omri Sharon brassily manipulating the government - i was unable to say anything. it is probably only the graphics card that is gone, but my computer was incapable of cooperating.

Anyway I was too tired - didn't even hear the interview I did on the radio about Walt Whitman because I fell asleep. What with the new book coming out, the disk coming out, and other multimedia projects in the tube, i barely had time to plan my latest gum operation.

I know I'm totally involved in me me me when all the world is turning upside down again and again, but sometimes even a narcissist has the right to express herself, no?

Anyway here are some of the revolutions: 1) 5 extra billion shekel by mistake got given to Mafdal for yeshivot by mistake. 2)Said Kashua's second book is coming out (about returning to live in Tira) and he announced he's leaving the country. 3)the sea of Galilee is rising and rising with all this rain (but we're still buying water from Turkey).

A friend of mine, who's even older than me, is serving as a voluntary reservist at a checkpoint. With all the stories about soldiers not letting women in labor get through in time to give birth in a hospital, old ladies not being able to get to Israel for treatment, etc. and on the other hand, terrorists disguising themselves as pregnant women, and so forth and so on, it is good to have an old, wise friend intervene there as a judge. But even he is probably not a culturally neutral decision maker. "What do you work at, my man?" He asks a youth. "I'm a geography teacher, sir." "So where is Micronesia?" "In Africa, Sir." "Go home, young man - you will not be crossing the border."

Remember how in Richard II he's called to John of Gaunt's deathbed and he says, "Pray God we may make haste, and come too late!" So it is me with the news lately. I keep saying I have to catch the news but I just manage to miss it each time. And am secretly happy of it.

If there were no news I would be thrilled all the time to live in Tel Aviv - there is so much excitement, so many opportunities, so much stimulation.

Unfortunately, however, we have not seceeded from Israel yet, and we are stuck with all its dangers and stains.

All right, I do love all of Israel - but there are parts I love less, and parts I wish were not connected with us.

Nevertheless I find myself strangely infuriated with scholars who signed the academic boycott. I really wanted to go to hear Judith Butler, who is a pretty brilliant scholar in her field, and found my feet taking me elsewhere, despite my great desire for openness - because she signed the boycott. By what right does she silence me - or say i do not do enough to stop the occupation? How as a seeker of knowledge does she exclude me? Why does she think she knows more than I do about the politics here? Now of course she is not boycotting me - or Israel - because she is here. And the fact that she will not take any money for her talk because she won't take money from the same state that builds the fence is - honorable. But the fact that anyone could assert their moral superiority by signing a boycott against an academic body drives me wild.

Forgive me. i'm not logical when it comes to people who try to control me.

January 9, 2004

Today, on my way home from the Journalists' House Cafe, where I had been listening to political arguments for an hour, I got into a traffic jam in front of the Army Headquarters where a demonstration was being held by disabled war veterans - wheelchairs, prostheses, crutches standing opposite the Rabin entrance.

It wasn't in the news - so i don't even know what exactly their demands were.

There are so many events here that don't even get into the news - positive and negative. And even if they do get into the news I don't get to read it all. How can I collect all the information necessary to make decisions, to develop opinions?

And this is a land in which i am deeply invested and spend a great deal of time trying to understand and discover.

When I came home, in the time before Yonatan's mother's funeral, I tried to read my email about yesterday's entry in which I admitted I couldn't bring myself to hear Judith Butler (not willingly - I didn't 'boycott' her). This email was concerned with educating me - with giving me facts about Butler, about her recent publications, her opinions of the middle east. It was with the ME as it is with her views on gender - often I agree and sometimes I disagree. The difference is that when I disagree with her (and other academics) about gender, I can close the book and think differently and forget it. It is a matter of the quality of life and philosophy. But when I disagree with her about the Middle East, it is a matter of life and death. But I think she (and others) bring the same armchair philosophical approach to this issue.

This is true for Right and left wing academics alike. I would like to see more of the old fashioned hands-on research involved in this. Even in the use of statistics.

Not that I think that a scientific analysis will lead to a solution of the problems here.

On the contrary - only some good will and forgetting of facts can get us in gear.

We've got a tradition of this - think of this week's bible portion, Vayehi - Jacob got told a way back by his sons that his son Joseph had been eaten by animals - and then he meets him in Egypt and doesn't even ask -how did you survive? its a smart move - forgetting - not going into the whole sibling rivalry shtik. Bless everybody. Forget the crimes.

January 10, 2004

A joke to counter the previous shmatlz:

In Jerusalem, a journalist heard about an old Jew who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, everyday, for years. So she went to check it out at the Western Wall and there he was.

She watches him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turns to leave, she approaches him for an interview.

"I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"

"For about 50 years."

"50 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Jews and the Arabs. I pray for all the hatred to stop and I pray for our children to grow up in safety and friendship."

"How do you feel after doing this for 50 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a wall."

Oren is on tonight at the Heineken Habima Club - i shouldn't go but who can resist the comeback of an amazingly talented singer?

January 11, 2004

Oren was amazing last night - this is one of the medium-sized clubs in TA - and as Habima theatre and the Mann Auditorium empty out in the evening, there is plenty of room for parking for the beginning of night life. Just standing in the parking lot is an experience - the Russians leaving the concert, the groups of Israelis leaving the theatre (of course i'm exaggerating) and the crowds of young people entering the basement club.

But all those crowds were nothing compared to what was mobbing Rabin square tonight for a right wing demonstration against returning the west bank. We found ourselves there at 6 in the afternoon - 2 hours before the demonstration was scheduled- and already the hired busses had already left high school kids carrying plastic-wrapped boxes of leaflets, and the avenues leading to the square were all blocked off. We had to give up on our idea of running errands and go home.

What was great about Oren - his power and his openness - as well as his musicality. no doubt about it he's a pro

of course i'm objective.

January 12, 2004

120,000 settlers demonstrating in Tel Aviv. And we lost the opportunity. didn't lock them in. didn't send them to develop the negev.

seriously folks. their organization and single-mindedness was admirable. my side is a bunch of anarchists who can't even get a party together.

Not true. Here's a theatre worth visiting.

And there are lots more.

But the best actors are in the government, especially our prime minister. Forced to explain his position in Parliament today, he gave a speech that didn't say anything to upset the right. that didn't say anything actually. Here we are - with all kinds of possibilities before us to make peace and on the other hand all kinds of terrible and serious dangers in the absence of peace. And Sharon acts like Roadrunner.

Shimon Peres, who spoke after Sharon, was brilliant as usual. But not only was no one listening, he was impossible to hear because of all the coarse interruptions, cackles, and screams.

Sometimes we say to each other that apparently we got the government we deserve - but the people I know - almost without exception - are thoughtful, humane, aware, and desiring of peace. This includes individuals to the right and to the left, and they are logical and caring.

So how did we get the government we deserve.

So it turns out i have more than one friend who is volunteering at the borders - helping the soldiers make decisions. One of them is a woman 40 years old. She told me yesterday that just before target practice she was warned that an average 'incident' had a duration of less than 8 seconds, that she would have to make up her mind before those 8 seconds were over if the situation warranted opening fire.

Yesterday a terrorist blew himself because he saw the roadblock. if it hadn't been there he would have blown himself up in highly some populated area. So the block under these circumstances is necessary. But these circumstances should not exist.

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