Tel Aviv Diary July 11-15, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary July 11-15, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

July 11, 2008

All right, because Adloyada is such a caring friend and gives me hope that something can be done, here's my little plan to upgrade the English Department at the university.

1. individual scholarships and fellowships - in the name of the donor. We need about 12 scholarships and fellowships at the first stage in the English Department for BA and MA students. At the moment there are numerous potential students who cannot afford the studies and could be enabled by funding. They in turn could contribute a few hours to tutoring and administration in the entire English department. The number 12 is a preliminary goal.

2. Phd fellowships for first year. Our Phd program is enmeshed in the School for Cultural Studies who determine the acceptance of students, while the individual faculty members of the humanities contribute their time to direct the students. The first year Phd students are not funded at the present time.

3. Funding for remodelling of empty space in English Department for student common room and poetry readings. (I estimate this at 35,000 shekel for a roof, paving, window and ventilation.)

4. Funding for open wireless access in Webb building, both for classrooms and student common room.

5. Funding for an expanded writing program, both technical and creative, for students of English Literature.

6. My personal favorite but least crucial program is to develop the program we've been working on for the past few years in poetry - bringing poets who come for a visit to Israel to read to the students, having more and varied voluntary student writing workshops, having more interdisciplinary creative writing programs with other departments.

All this has nothing to do with the government's plan for the university. It's all in my head. But it's the kind of the thing where a small, earmarked donation can make a difference in the life of a potential leader in the community.

"What's going on with Tel Aviv, Karen? Why have you suddenly turned all professional on us?" an old friend from Germany writes me just as I am saving my daily entry. "Where's the old description of fun city?" Have no fear, I'll be back. The city has gone on without me, and so has the poetry scene. But have no fear. I'll be back. There is even a panic ensemble show this week,

Robert Whitehill, has pointed out to me that I never explained what Ezi was diagnosed with. So here it is: Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, Stage 4.

Robert Whitehill is an American poet who writes in Hebrew. His linguistic perspective gives him a unique way of using the language and fascinating poetry. Here is here on a short visit and has a reading at the Little Prince on Sunday night, 7 p.m. on 3 simtat plonit off of King George Street.

July 12, 2008

I have a little home video of this space - on the night of the millenium. I got a phone call a few days before from Canadian Radio - a program called "As it happens" - they wanted a story about what was happening in the holy land. I couldn't come up with anything. After all, it was Friday night and new years is not a Jewish holiday. Then I remembered that Shlomzion Kenan had suggested to me that the big stone lion on simtat plonit was facing King George Street, and on the other side of King George Street was Bethlehem Street. So I told them we were going to visit the stone lion on the stroke of midnight and read it Yeats' "Second Coming" and watch it slouch toward Bethlehem to be born. They decided they wanted to be in on it and call me on my cellphone while the ceremony was going on. So we had to have a ceremony. But just before midnight a couple showed up, even as I was broadcasting, and proceeded to climb up onto the lion and make love. "Is the lion moving?" the interviewer asked. "He can't!" I shouted back, "He's got these people on his back!" I just asked Ezi to put it on utube. it's pretty much of a mess, but cute. Here: millenium. Actually, if you like the chaos, it is cute, and very prophetic.

July 13, 2008

It was not an unusual place to meet my neighbors - the cemetery - it has been happening too often lately because my neighborhood is ageing. And each time the eulogies are heartbreaking. Not so much because old people have passed away, but because their lives was so full of 'future.' So many of the people with whom I have been living for many years turn out to be survivors of one kind of another, who began living their lives when they arrived here. I never knew about most of them, they never spoke of their histories, their past. Today's funeral was particularly painful to me because Dan's debilitating heart condition led to strokes that reminded me of my father's own suffering in a non-responsive body and brain, But I felt sick and left after the eulogies, giving up on the usual long walk in the sun to the treeless grave site and avoiding the beggars who elicit change from you by praying for your loved ones.

July 14, 2008

It is possible that I may make it to the Panic Ensemble performance on Thursday night at Tmuna. It would be wonderful to be able to see it. But first we have to get through chemo tomorrow.

July 15, 2008

When Lisa noted to me that Talansky is a rabbi, I was reminded of a story I told three years ago in these pages about a woman who brings a chicken to the rabbi to ask if it is kosher after it fell into the chamber pot. "It's kosher," said the rabbi, "but it stinks."

It's not totally applicable. In fact it is the opposite. I am sure both Olmert and Talansky have done things that would be considered not "kosher" but have been acceptable if ignored for many years in Israeli politics. In fact, some people after Sapir would say it was the only way to get things done in this country - to work around the laws. Certainly Sharon operated this way, and Netanyahu and Barak do too. Now it's become out-of-date and therefore illegal. In some ways it is like the laws of sexual abuse. Where it was once rampant and a sign of power, it is now where it belongs - in the realm of criminal. But it isn't that there are more criminals now than ever here, it is that some pretty wild habits were developed here in the days when the old cultural laws were destroyed and no organized system replaced them automatically. I'm kind of optimistic that regulation is being introduced.

Appropos regulation - it is precisely the lack of it that is driving the U.S. economy wild.

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