Tel Aviv Diary January 6 -10, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - January 6, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 6, 2006

My cousin told me she didn't sleep all night worrying about Sharon, and I must admit I too am oddly disturbed. With all my suspicion of him and ambivalence, he signifies some sort of stability, and his bold actions of the last year - because incomplete - arouse a sense of hunger for a sense of wholeness.

But the state that he will be in, even if he survives, will not allow for it, and the humiliation of that should be saved him.


My father fell in Babel
from the tower
and now every hour
tries a different way to let me know
something. What is it? I ask.
Do you want Mother?
Money? Does it start with m?
Ah you want the bathroom!

mmmmm and a nod. "Don't put words in his mouth!" My mother groans.
"He doesn't know what he wants," The aide
assures me. And then a smell
rises that proves he does.

In the nursing home
I kiss his quivering cheeks, lock
with those clear eyes so much like mine,
and leave him
alone, crumpled by the tower

in exile

Everyone I speak to is traumatized, whether they listen to the news or not. Today at the cafe, Nona, no one mentioned it, yet everyone was short, edgy. The vet - who always jokes with me - was silent after he told us that he was taking the news of Sharon hard, and when i told him of my father he asked about his fate as if he knew nothing of medicine. People are scared and hungry for even the most irrelevant details as if their own father were in danger. The regular channels are broadcasting the same news over and over.

What the media should be doing now is getting people used to the possibility that Sharon will not be PM again and that it won't kill us. We have any number of people who could fill his shoes - If I like others complain all the time that we don't have leaders, its also because people are not given the opportunity to lead. The only people I'm scared of are the ones who have led and failed, like Bibi.

January 7, 2006

Today's one of those days to erase. Didn't happen. Not that nothing was accomplished or nothing happened, but it is like what Emily Dickinson calls "hour of lead" where nothing is initiated. We arranged our day around some document that had to be delivered and signed, and we got stood up, having gotten dressed and made a trip to Holon and that was only an emblem of the general feeling of waste we had.

There's little news about Sharon, mostly half-sad music on the radio,but everyone knows it's just the suspension of shabbat.

We were talking about crazy poets this afternoon, like most of my best friends. Suddenly we mentioned Dahlia Ravikovitch. Why did she kill herself, Kobe asked, and I said, by the way, she didn't. They didn't find any drugs in her system. She just fell in the bathroom and hit her head. It didn't even occur to me that no-one knew. The articles in the papers were at the bottom of the page - it doesn't suit the image of the poet. But the truth is that she struggled with poverty and uncertainty and depression for many years, and it would have been understandable had she tried to kill herself.

And I'm sorry she's dead but glad that it wasn't by her hand.

The circumstances of one's death it seems is terribly important to their image after death, even when it is incidental and accidental. Sharon's prolonged uncertainty endears him to us as we wait in the waiting room with the rest of the world. Even Arab friends who have long presented him to me as a consumer of children are beginning to see him as the only solid leader in the region. Eyal Megged keeps complaining about this idealization, but it seems a natural reaction at this time.

January 8, 2006

Still kind of woozy from the elevents of last week, I think I forgot to mention that Seminar Levinsky invited me to read poetry this afternoon and to simultaneously subject myself to a handwriting analysis. It might be fun if you can make it.

P.S. In answer to a friend's question about the poem I began this page with - My father was trying to say "Mogen" or "Bowels" in yiddish.

January 9,2006

Sharon has moved his hand, and everyone is happy. But you and me know what that means - nothing.

Despite my demi-flu, we made this enormous effort to get to Raquel Chalfi's evening in honor of a new edition of her collected poems at Mercaz Einav tonight. I can't believe I had to leave in the middle - it was absolutely magnificent - the feeling of overwhelming talent on every level, coming from different and various directions. Rona Keinan, Ronen Shapira, Ohad Naharin, and manymany others, with the personality and words of Halfi herself. I kvelled the whole hour-and -a helf of the first part. And Raquel herself only was scheduled to get on the stage for the second half... Pictures tomorrow if we recover...

January 10, 2006

Not recovered yet - Pictures are still in the camera. But the echoes of the event are coming in. People who saw the whole thing (and every one but us DID) said that it got better and better.

How can I take such pleasure in poetry when the country waits half asleep for its Prime Minister to wake up (and wake us all up) like Sleeping Beauty? Easy. We're beginning to get used to his illness, beginning to see that it might be okay. Maybe he'll be back - and most of us will be thrilled (although both the right wing extremists and Palestinian extremists are praying for his death). But even if he isn't back - or back in full swing - the situation has brought out the possibility of continuing without him, that is, of participating leaders. We're so used to thinking lately that only one person can handle things - it will make the future easlier if we have a few smart people.

Today the report of what I saw and lived with last week emerges: hospitals at 120% capacity. No privacy, no quiet, no nursing.

Thank goodness the tests i have to take are in the health clinic - even though the conditions there today were not too great either. I don't know if it's done differently somewhere else in the world, but here blood tests are almost done on a conveyor belt. Not that it wasn't neat, painless, and professional. But that in the hour I was in the lab, taking tests in different positions - walking, lying down and all that, I watch at least 20 people come in, get their blood taken, and leave... without a word. without anything more than the mininal exchange of words. Me, I was right there in the middle, looking like a fool and feeling totally ridiculous. Me who knows how to turn even a hospital room into a gossip center....

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