Tel Aviv Diary January 11 -15, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - January 11, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 11, 2006

i must say sharon's recovery is not like my fathers - he seems to go forward by leaps and bounds. Maybe the prayers of so many people do something.

Haaretz: Israeli police said crime in the country had fallen 50 percent since Sharon's stroke. ``It's hard to explain, but since the prime minister became ill there seems to have been a change in people's behavior patterns, their way of thinking,'' police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

An another appropriate statistic: Israels are first in the consumption of toilet paper in the world. The boring truth that our paper is just bad is not colorful enough an explanation and the radio today has been full of alternatives: We need more to cover our asses...."

January 11, 2006

My brother, Joe Rosenstein, has been involved in creating a new way of prayer. Here's a link to his New Siddur It is simple on the surface and usable, but with multiple depths and alternatives. I think it is amazing in its concept of the necessity of understanding, of individualizing, of prayer as meditation and enabling profoundity of life.

A motorcycle ran into me today. This is the second accident i've had in the past 2 weeks. Both took place while I was not moving. In both cases, the other party was apologetic and concerned. In both cases I was messed up mentally for the day. Today was worse than last time because the motorcycle skidded in the rain and ran into my from behind, shaking the car and me to the core. The guy, who was wearing an orangee suit indicating he was a delivery boy for Kangaroo, was spread out on the road, even after the few minutes when I was pulling my nerves together and got out of the car. Within minutes he was up, and picking up some of the pieces of his shattered bike, gave me all his details and the insurance with great politeness and apology even though he knew i was just being a hysterical old lady and there was really no damage to my car. The damage last time, by the way, was a broken fender and bumper, and i haven't been able to have it repaired yet.

January 12, 2006

What to do this weekend in Tel Aviv? See Time Out. It's on page 18. There's a clip of me playing a shrink who tries unsuccessfully to seduce her patient and as he is running away, you can catch shots of Ishay and Roy and me and Shusha watching him pass. There is an article about what I think of turning a poem into this clip here.

The rain - last night we got caught in real traffic jams because the lights weren't working what with all the flooding. Today a friend of mine calls up that she's flooded.

January 13, 2006

And in anticipation of Friday the 13th I lost the computer connection last night and couldn't get it back. Couldn't get the purpose of this story either.

So I'll go back a few days to when i stopped at the Land of Israel Museum to pick up a few gifts for a dinner party. I was thinking about my elegant friends and our Tel Aviv lives so removed from the politics of the near-by territories, and how I could actually do something besides vote in primaries. And there was Ran Cohen being interviewed on television in the parking lot next to my car about the uprooting of olive trees. "A crime," he said, "a sin." He spoke on and on with great ardor as i held the remote from my car, afraid to beep into his speech. Later, I couldn't find it on the news and thought of his passion and his impotence. Talking just isn't enough. Writing journals isn't enough.

But what with all the other dangers we face in the world i can understand our inability to act all the time.

January 14, 2006

As the news about Sharon diminishes in its dramatic development, and Sharon himself doesn't wake up, we begin to wake up ourselves from our dependency on him - as you wake up from a abusive relationship. Our next PM we seem to be vowing, will be a bureaucrat, and will respond to us, and we'll be happy about it. See Hillel Shenker's evaluation in The Nation. aw - here's the whole piece. He said it was okay

January 30, 2006 issue

Israel After Sharon

Hillel Schenker

Tel Aviv

An Israeli Rip Van Winkle who went to sleep in 1982—the day after 400,000 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to protest against then–Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s responsibility for not preventing his Lebanese Christian Phalangist allies from entering the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, where they massacred between 700 and several thousand Palestinians (the estimates vary according to the source) —would be astonished to wake up in January 2006 and discover an entirely different attitude toward “Arik, King of Israel.” He would be amazed to hear left-wing Meretz Party chairman Yossi Beilin, architect of the Oslo Accords and the recent Geneva Initiative, which advocates a two-state solution based upon the 1967 Green Line borders, declare that after the next elections his party was ready to provide a safety net for Kadima, Sharon’s new party, to enable it to carry out further moves toward Israeli-Palestinian peace. And now, suddenly, the Sharon era is over, even if the man is still alive.

The soundtrack for Israel today could be Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”—a frantic series of events that have dramatically changed the political landscape. Last summer’s disengagement of Israeli military forces from Gaza and the dismantling of twenty-two settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank was followed by Histadrut Trade Union leader Amir Peretz’s surprising victory over Shimon Peres for the leadership of the Labor Party. While Peres had been a loyal (some would say docile) partner for Sharon’s Likud in a national unity government, Peretz, the first Moroccan Jew to lead a major party, former mayor of the southern development town of Sderot and a firm believer in the creation of a genuine social democratic alternative to the free-market policies of Likud Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately took the Labor Party out of the government. Unlike Sharon, Peretz believes there is a Palestinian partner for negotiations, and he considers the settlement enterprise to be a tremendous drain on Israel’s economy and society. The loss of a Labor partner, coupled with constant attempts to undermine his authority by the anti-disengagement Likud “rebels” led by Netanyahu, triggered Sharon’s decision to split the Likud—which he himself had initiated back in 1974—by forming a new centrist party to carve out Israel’s “permanent borders” based upon the international road map for peace and a two-state solution, with or without Palestinian agreement.

And now, suddenly, Ehud Olmert is the acting Prime Minister, and everyone is trying to understand the implications for the upcoming March 28 elections.

Kadima (“Forward”) was based around Sharon’s tremendous popularity and reputation as a man of his word, someone who could act for both security and peace, the most experienced player in the field. Yet while Sharon had begun to assume the mythical (and also dangerous) proportions of a de Gaulle or a Peron in the eyes of the Israeli public, Kadima is not just a one-man show. It’s a product of what is called the “Big Bang” theory, the idea that a realignment of the Israeli political map by the creation of a large, pragmatic centrist party would, in cooperation with the left, be able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in accordance with the wishes of a consistent majority of Israeli public opinion.

At 60, Ehud Olmert is one of the most experienced politicians from the middle generation. The former Jerusalem mayor and current finance minister lacks Sharon’s security credentials and charisma, but if the experienced, pragmatic (and opportunistic) politicians from both the right and the left who joined the new party will unite behind him, Kadima may still be the dominant party after the elections. Olmert was also one of the first Likud politicians to enter into a dialogue with PLO figures, and he understands the need for a resolution of the conflict.

On the right, Netanyahu has taken over the Likud, but he’s caught in a bind. If he moves toward the center, he’ll lose the militant forces who opposed the Gaza disengagement. If he remains on the hawkish right, he’ll lose the pragmatic majority, many of whom are suffering from his economic policies.

On the left, Peretz may build a successful social democratic alternative in the long run, but for now he is perceived as being too inexperienced on the national stage to be “the leader,” who has to overcome a tendency to be a one-man show. Peretz has tried to rearrange the traditional political agenda by focussing on socio-economic rather than political-security issues, in response to the declining economic situation of most middle and working class Israelis and the growing gap between rich and poor. However, Israeli voters continue to rank peace and security as their number one concern, and expect that to be the leader's first priority as well. If Peretz will be a quick learner, there is hope for a revived Labor Party in the future. One way to understand current Israeli politics is to recall the “Group of 8” ideological circle that set out to revolutionize the Labor Party in the early 1980s. Its ideologue was Yossi Beilin, and its pragmatic wheeler dealer and presumed prime ministerial candidate was Chaim Ramon, the ideologue behind the “Big Bang” theory and now a prominent member of Kadima. Its key Mizrahi player was…Amir Peretz. All three are committed to promoting the peace process as a key to Israel’s future.

Of course, the outcome of the Palestinian elections, scheduled for January 25, will have a major impact on the Israeli scene. A victory for Hamas would strengthen Netanyahu’s hand.

Part of Sharon’s legacy is the fact that he did everything possible to undermine and destroy the institutional infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority, to prove that “there is no one to talk to” and that unilateral moves are the only alternative. This, together with corruption, chaos and generational clashes, was the backdrop for Hamas’s achievements in the Palestinian municipal elections. But that’s another (part of the) story.

Hillel Schenker is co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal

Got a show tonight - it cramps my style for the day - but surprisingly the long rehearsal yesterday revealed to me the potential for mining the depths in the poems i thought i'd outgrown.

January 15, 2006

And the potential was fulfilled.

In the meanwhile, while we are getting used to Ehud Olmert as acting Prime Minister, the rain continues and conties to cause serious problems, whether it is merely traffic or houses falling apart. I got caught again on the road in a rain-induced snarl, and when I finally got out of it, had no patience for the scam the gas station attendant tried to pull on me. You know it, the one where they tell you you've got something wrong with your engine because of the white smoke coming out of the exhaust and you need.... I just brushed him off but i have to do something about this. I get some similar song and dance every time I pull in, and I am fed up. Now where do i complain?

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