Tel Aviv Diary - January 27-31, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - January 27-31, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

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

January 27, 2010

"What do you do?" says the woman sitting next to me at "View from the Bridge," where all I want to do is slobber over the ticks and twitches of Liev Schreiber. "I teach literature." "Modern? American?" "Yes." "Like Philip Roth?" "Yes." "He ruined an entire family with that Goodbye Columbus of his." At last she gets my attention. I was so focused on the idea of community in Arthur Miller's work, the sense of responsibility in society, and she reminded me of how Philip Roth first 'betrayed' the Jewish community when he wrote disparagingly of Jewish life in the U.S. The question that had kept coming up in my day about Israel and all the dirty laundry in its politics was invading my entertainment as well. Where is my responsibility - to the truth or to the protection of my community? And if to the truth, then whose truth?

January 28, 2010

We stayed home to watch Obama. After walking the streets of NY - from Brooklyn and Atlantic Avenue to Fifth and Madison Avenue - I was in despair. The empty stores, the homeless and sick, the unemployed - What can Obama do about all tthis, I asked. Keith laughed, "Makesv you think that maybe Hillary might have been a better choice..." And here we were, sitting in a house that was painted with "I love Obama" from Red Hook to Manhattan.

Sí we stayed home to see whether Obama's State of the Union speech could give us some hope. And - yes, he could. Although he had almost nothing to say about foreign policy, his economic plan cheered us considerably. Now let's see what happens.

You may remember that I have written about Partisan fighter Rachel Margolic and her persecution by the Lithuanian government. The following notice was copied from today's entry in this site: The Margolis family today released a letter from the United States Congress to the prime minister of Lithuania, protesting in no uncertain terms the campaign being waged against 88 year old historian, museum builder and biologist, Dr Rachel Margolis; 87 year old Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky, librarian of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute; and 83 year old Holocaust scholar Dr Yitzhak Arad, who was founding director of Yad Vashem. All three have been the subject of ongoing 'investigations into war crimes' by Lithuanian prosecutors and extensive defamation by the country's mainstream media. Since the saga got underway in the spring of 2006, none has been charged, and not one has been cleared. Holocaust studies specialists increasingly suspect a ruse to create a bogus paper trail of 'investigations' of Holocaust survivors as a diversion to the documented history of massive Baltic participation in the Nazi-led genocide of the Jewish popoulation, as well as to the region's dismal record in not punishing a single Nazi war criminal since independence.

The three page letter is signed by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman; the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe, Robert Wexler; Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, and Congressmen Paul Hodes and James P. Moran. The letter addresses the Lithuanian prime minister, Andrius Kubilus in stark terms: 'Prime Minister Kubilius, we request your written assurance that Ms Margolis can return to Vilnius without fear of being questioned by the prosecutor.' It goes on to say: 'Ms Margolis and other partisans should not have to live in continued fear from reprisals, media defamation or harassment from authorities. As the leader of Lithuania, please take this opportunity to speak directly to your citizens and set the record straight on this critical issue.'

January 29, 2010

The router went down in the hotel last night and it took me hours to get them to reset it. In the mean time my neice took us to the Turkish kitchen which was amazing. I'm afraid I'm mad about Turkish food - reminds me of my ex-mother-in-law's cooking - it has a nobility and delicacy that i adore.

We seem to enjoy 'being taken' and learning, even though it means we miss a lot of what we should be doing. Yesterday we found ourselves at the Jewish Museum for an exhibit on Man Ray which was amazing as far as Man Ray was concerned but not so much as far as Jewishness was concerned. Why? Although it may be hard to document, estrangement and defamiliarization is as much a part of the Jewish experience as anything else. In Ray's case, it allowed him to deconstruct everything he saw, even the fundamentals of art itself. At the same time it created the need to be accepted, and the hunger that comes from the impermanence of acceptance. I would have liked to see more about that at the exhibit, but perhaps it was so obvious they didn't have to spell it out.

January 30, 2010

In the Turkish Kitchen on 3rd Avenue I went totally nostalgic. The names of the foods are different, but the food itself is just like my ex-mother-in-law's. The bamia - little okra with tomato sauce - and maybe some lamb -oy. The cigars and the kubbe are pretty similar around the middle east, but the custard pie - what Margalit called mehina de leche in Ladino and i keep forgetting in Turkish - is only different in the amount of rosewater, almond oil, and cinammon. I promise to go home and make it immediately. But don't wait for me - try Turkish cuisine.

January 31, 2010

I'm sure the paper sculptor didn't mean to insult me. Nevertheless, Pietro Ruffo, whose German tank made out of xeroxed pages from the siddor, tore my heart in two. To see the words of prayer cut and folded into some form of origami insulted my senses to the point that I wanted to jump on it and crush it. Perhaps the implication that prayer leads to racism may have some basis to it, but the use of Jewish prayer is contemptuous. Another piece with the psalms in English didn't have the same effect. It had an entirely different purpose and did not use prayer. The apologetic explanation of the respect of the artist for the religious nature of the materials meants nothing to me except that he understood the implications and chose to chance it. Worse yet, the exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design was in part sponsored by the Israeli consulate. The title of the installation, "Youth of the Hills,” makes sense to someone in the know about Israeli politics, because it refers to the religious extremists who have gained strength in the past few years, but work against the government, against Israel, and there is no explanation about that. A blurb about the title would have slowed down my beating heart.

January 31, 2010

I've been too busy having fun to tell people about my reading with Liz Magnes on Wednesday, with Alicia Ostriker as guest. If you know someone who might be interested, please let them know.

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