Tel Aviv Diary - January 12-16, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - January 12-16, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

February 3, 2009 With Liz Magnes The Bowery Poetry Club 308 Bowery (Between Houston and Bleecker) 212-614-0505

January 12, 2010

I don't do well with humiliation. The degrading meeting of the Israeli Foreign Minister's office made me squirm even more than the anti-semitic Turkish television programs and the gratuitously agressive remarks made by the Turkish leaders. The nastiness on both sides serves purpose except little boys' bullying. I so wish our foreign minister was of local or American parentage and didn't feel the need to take off his shoe and bang on the table. Or at least with a different kind of education.

January 13, 2010

The massive tragedy of Haiti makes the little contratemps around here seem so trivial. I suddenly remember the article Voltaire wrote about the disaster at Lisbon.

Look it up.

January 14, 2010

Haiti is so far away from us, yet we're already there. The lack of local organization and equipment for search and rescue demands that the rest of the world get to this island as soon as possible. I would think that dogs trained to discover life under rubble is the first priority, since they don't demand unwieldy equipment, then construction equipment to dig under the rubble, then food distribution, then makeshift hospitals. When you look at the buildings that fell they seem so fragile, so light, that there may well be many more than we imagine buried alive and waiting to be saved.

We have - unfortunately - much experience in getting people out of rubble. It is a bit of comfort to think that a team of ours will be there in a few hours.

January 15, 2010

Danza del ventre a Tel Aviv, poems of mine translated into Italian by Andrea Sirotti and Joanna Bishop, came out today. It can be ordered here

The estimate is 50,000 dead in Haiti, and there will be more if the dead are not buried and the living are not fed. But there is still hope for rescue of some. Abie Natan's daughter is still missing in Haiti and it would be terrible if she is not found alive. After all the wonderful things her father has done for others, including the radio station "Voice of Peace" I'm sure she was there trying in some way to help the Haitians. Let's hope she and many others will be discovered alive and well as soon as possible.

January 16, 2010

She was. She's fine and so is her family. But the number of dead are rising because we haven't been able to get there fast enough.

Why are we in Tel Aviv so obsessed with Haiti? It is not totally empathic - because after all we can be pretty insensitive when it's too close. But there is a great sympathy.

We have a pretty great fear of similar earthquakes, you know, living as we do on the Syrian-African rift. A few years ago I made a big fuss in our building about the weakness of our structure and we got some engineer to design something that would strengthen the place, without breaking the municipal laws. Because our house is on stilts (the mistaken theory then being that stilts would increase the flexibility of the structure in case of earthquake) we wanted to fill out the spaces between the stilts with concrete walls. But that would have looked suspiciously like we were adding on rooms and the city would have had us tear them down and pay a fine. So we made some crazy kind of lattice-like support that probably won't help when the earth opens up. But when I think of it I'm very proud to have convinced my neighbors of anything.

January 16, 2010

"You just tell your visiting tourist," my ex-Israeli friend tells me from NY, "to take an alternative tour of Jerusalem, and then he can walk around alone and see for himself." I know what she means - that the 'real' Jerusalem is not the one the Jews show their guests. But there are many Jerusalems and as much as we try, we can't hold all the perspectives at one time. You can never take THE tour, only A tour.

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