Tel Aviv Diary - January 4-8, 2011 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 4, 2011

How wonderful that Shulamit Lapid's novel, "Valley of Strength" is now a film. Gai Oni should be out very soon. It is about a woman who comes to Palestine in the late nineteenth century with her baby, and makes her way, survive. When we get better we'll have to find it - it's supposed to be in festivals.

January 5, 2011

I'm supposed to be translating Hanoch Levin's play "Morris Schimmel" but I'm too out of it to get into it.

And I wasn't expecting much.

After all he didn't perform the play in his lifetime.

But it is Hanoch Levin and so I knew it couldn't be bad. And now I've read it a few times and it is good. I'm going to see it tonight if I can stop coughing.

It will be the fifth play of his I've translated and this experience promises to be almost as pleasurable as the other.

Well I coughed too much to get dressed so I got undressed and read the play again.

Then I read the papers. The part about Wikileaks discovering that Israel wanting Gaza to function on a sustenance level is old news - that's before Cast Lead - i remember that from 2008. But it's not about what Israel wants. There's something like 37 percent more building there than here, they say. And they're functioning at a much higher level than they'd like you to believe. And we're functioning at a lower level - sometimes morally too. But then there are some good stories: Haaretz has the story about a syrian bride crossing over to Israel to marry. We saw the film a few years ago that was the other way around.

January 6, 2011

First, the self promotion: my Hebrew poems on Ynet today. You're welcome to add a talkback.

Now let's get down to business. It's time to talk about politics, or at least sociology. A big celeb comes into a restaurant... to be continued

(later that evening). Anyway a political celeb comes into the restaurant with some friends and an entourage of security people. The celeb is modest and doesn't want special treatment, but suddenly around he everyone is unhappy with the quality of the service, demanding perks and free desserts. What is it? Were the other guests ignored? probably not. But because they were in the presence of important people they felt they had the right to demand more. That's the way I saw the official ceremony in memory of the 45 firefighters who lost their lives last month. Suddenly the widower of a police officer who was lost to the fire got up and demanded that the minister of the interior be excluded from the ceremony because he was to blame for the whole fiasco. The ceremony meant to soothe the families of 45 victims diminished into chaos and broke up, while the minister of the interior scurried away.

It's not that I think the widower was wrong, and not that i think people should be judged in their grief, but the feeling of 'rights' of the individual to demand - even if it can have no immediate positive results - seems a national characteristic. It transcends race and reason.

January 7, 2011

Today's Ha'aretz has an article about 'hate.' I think it is misinterpreting some of the evidence but makes the point. My personal experience is overwhelmingly positive, except for the agressive invasion of my privacy that occurs in clothing and cosmetics sales. I mean that when I am polite I am usually treated in a polite way. And on the rare occasions when I have had to show my quills, there is usually no confrontation...Although one day a few months ago Ezi was backing my car out of a driveway when I suddenly felt a thump on the rear of the passenger side. A man who had thought we should have waited until he passed the driveway first smashed his fist into the upper part of the car. Neither of us had seen his because he must have come to the driveway as we were backing out, but he released his anger on me. "Sorry," Ezi said, "We didn't see you." I'm pretty sure we had the right of way if we were almost out before he turned up. And I think he realized this, because he stopped shouting and walked on. Maybe not. Because it turned out he really dented the car and I haven't fixed it.

In any case, that may have been the most violent encounter I've had in a very long time.

In many ways this country is not only not aggressive, but it is also the most gentle civilisation in this area. Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian Jordanian correspondent, also points this out.

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