Tel Aviv Diary - January 2-6, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - January 2-6, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 1, 2010

It is very strange to see films in Israel. Not as strange as it used to be, but I remember when it was the wild west. The first movie I saw in this country was in 1965 in Beer Sheva. I think it was a Belmundo film but the film itself didn;t matter – the and everyone laughed, or threw things at each other over the rows… ah, the film didn’t matter at all. Tonight we saw the Coen Brothers, “A Serious Man,” which is completely different when the audience knows all the languages and linguistic references, but few of the social references. America of the sixties is strange to Jews who grew up here. So my laughing sometimes echoed hollowly in the theater, and sometimes was countered by a silent accusation of antisemitism. But everyone understood the Yiddish, the Herew, and the religious references. I myself thought the film the Jewish version of “No Country for Old Men.”

January 2, 2010

Somehow I seem to have lost the last two days - i mean either i forgot to save the entries or i saved them elsewhere. As Lady Bracknell said of parents, to lose one is a tragedy, to lose two is carelessness. And these were

January 3, 2010

It's not the computer, it's me. I'm sick. Nothing serious, nothing contagious, but enough to make me want to stay in bed. I went to a reception this evening but I raced back to my quilt. Just in time to watch a little program on Amos Oz, and to revel in his magic, his absolute intellectual beauty. His overt criticism of Israel's policies has diminished in the past years, but not because his beliefs have changed. He is simply unwilling to be associated with 'the other side'. Why do you love your country, he's asked. Because it is flesh of my flesh.

January 4, 2010

What do I know from profiling? Almost every time I go abroad I do something wrong, like forget to sign the customs form in the right place or cough too much or say something stupid and wind up getting more than a once over, while people who look suspicious to me waltz past me to the luggage. One time I waited forever for Ezi to get searched because his back brace set off the alarm. So my idea of profiling is a bit skewed. And when some American asked me - the day I got there - what I thought of profiling about 10 years ago, I said "wonderful!" He turned around and walked away. For years after that I would examine and reexamine my answer. It must be awful to be picked out of a crowd because of your race. What is really needed is careful individual evaluations by trained, intelligent people. January 5, 2010

With orders to stay in bed I enjoy a day of television. I like to skip most of the programs and go right to the commercials. The one where the burglar breaks into the window and then says to his cell, "I'm inside. I'll call you on the landline." The rap song about a chocolate pudding (milki). The slaves in Egypt regretting that they're missing their tv programs. The commercials are definitely better than the programs.

January 6, 2010

Egypt and Gaza have a long, rich and unhappy past. Egypt has never been happy with Gaza, and gave it to Israel just to get rid of it. Personally, I liked the people I met in Gaza - stubborn and strong. When I was there in 74-5 they were also often friendly and as excited to meet me as I was to meet them. I think about each person I met there - here's one example from back then:

Gaza 1974


After dinner I'm alone with the grandmother,
while the men talk business
and wives feed the children
bumping each other in the hidden kitchen.

I am a guest, an English teacher new
to the Middle East, without tongue,
and I cannot play in pantomime
like my daughter with the children and the goats.

In this bare room
the old woman talks
as if eventually I must understand
her language

since she speaks in the feminine.


When I cannot answer, even after her long
probing looks, she shrugs,
takes her crochet hook from a pocket,
and points out the window
to a girl
dancing solemnly alone.

Her gnarled hands, wound with pink wool, move easily,
and soon she is making lovely rosettes in the bodice.
I take the hook and try to imitate, slip,
slip again, finally latch through the last eye
to pull the rose together. She smiles,
I show her a stitch of my own
which she examines, unravels,
then duplicates with a flourish.

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