Tel Aviv Diary July 15 -19>, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - July 15 -19, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

July 15, 2004

Of all my plants the only ones which seem to survive this heat are the wandering jews, those flexible, ubiquitous weeds.

The national radio station gave two hours of Bialik's poems set to music in honor of the seventieth anniversary of his death. Yoram Gaon, Nehama Hendel - it was pretty exciting, and all the more exciting because it was a surprise to me. i was running around doing errands and suddenly discovered that instead of the usual masochistic political analysis my car radio was playing the most amazing poems.

And at a time when there is so much to be masochistic about! so much news - the politicians are corrupt, the surgeons on the take... Ah, Bialik, what a wonderful morning!

Got a concert tonight.

someone asked me if my poem about being conceived in Holborn Station was true. HERE is the proof.

Oh yes, they caught the suicide bomber that caused the big traffic jam yesterday. Blew up the belt and took the guy and his aide into custody.

July 16, 2004

We took a Friday evening stroll through Tel Aviv - a standard walk to show young American relatives the beauties of the evening and some history. Never Tsedek - the neighborhood born in the same year as Ezi's mother, the first school, the famous little homes, the museums. Were we not with Orit we would have stopped here, gone back into the car and maybe driven to Florentin. But she crossed the street, and we found ourselves walking on the beach. And there we discovered a completely different world - a sea of barbeques, families on the grass grouped around a cooler, young men dancing to drums from the car radio, girls strolling down the sea road - all Muslim. It soon became obvious that the Dolphinarium, the night club on the beach where 22 young people were blown up 2 years ago, was the border. North of the Dolphinarium we began to hear Russian, and even some Hebrew, but when we turned back to the car, it was all Arabic again.

There were no guards, no police, on either side of the 'border' except of course for the guards in the restaurants. In other words, this is a perfectly normal situation to Tel Aviv.

This must have begun after 2001, this movement north of the Friday night Arab leisure, as the delapidated Hassan Bek Mosque began was renewed and began to be used again.

Hassan Bek is opposite the Dolphinarium, across the street. Remember after the explosion, some Israelis started throwing stones at the mosque, and the worshippers were caught inside. It was also a Friday night and there was

No one I spoke to knew anything about this new Arab neighborhood, but it was wonderful to see.

We had brought Shusha with us, and the picnicners were careful to avoid such an unclean creature as a white terrier. I think that was the only disruption I saw the whole evening.

July 17, 2004

To contrast - we found ourselves in one of the shopping centers of Herzlia this afternoon. Whole families shopping... to quote Allen Ginsberg. Anyway, the contrastbetween shopping and lounging, between acquiring and admiring, was very big for me. I kept thinking of the 5 guys belly dancing next to their car to the radio in the parking lot, or the four guys sitting on a rock and leaning again each other like seals, or the pair of women walking slowly and talking in their long dresses and veils.

i am not romanticising the Arab culture. There were many Arabs in the Mall today too!

Rena pointed out that I wrote never tsedek instead of neve tsedek yesterday. Since tsedek means justice, the concept of "never tsedek" has numerous implications. Neve tsedek just means valley of justice...

An expert on urban culture responded when i asked him about the phenomenon of the northern movement of the Yaffo population that it couldn't be true. I must have been mistaken about the people on the beach. No. South of the Dolphinarium, where the monument to the 22 slain disco dancers is illuminated, and people still stand in silence, the beach is all Muslim. North of the Dolphinarium, it is mixed.

Teenage visitors from the US who stayed with us this weekend showed me how much we miss of this country by living here - for example, the Palmach museum: down the street from me. I've never been there. I had to have it described to me by two girls from New Jersey.

If I had a free afternoon, would I go there? would i want to see a dramatized history of the army in Israel? I doubt it.

And one of the experiences of being in Israel is to learn to shoot an M16. Would I consider this an activity characteristic of Israel? The last time I shot a gun was in the US.

With all the news - so many things going on here - the one thing my mind locked upon was the story of a terrorist who went to a cafe in Jerusalem with the plan of shooting the guard, pushing his way into the center of the people, and self-exploding. But he turned away at the last minute and went back to Hebron. And then was shot and killed by the IDF in a gun battle.

Now the focus on this story in the news here is how did he get through the fence -where is the fence unfinished, where did he slip past into Jerusalem. I figure that if he went back AND forth, it can't be a big deal to get through.

The interesting story for me is why he turned back. Did he lose his nerve? Did he see a woman who looked like his sister? Did he decide it was not the right time to die?

And how many others like him are there? How many suicide bombers get through, and change their minds?

What if in the very cafe I was sitting in a bomber walked in and stopped? And I was granted life because of some stranger's musings?

More important, what must it be like to be a potential bomber who thinks too much?

But now the television explains that this terrorist saw too many police, and decided it wouldn't be possible. They also show an interview with a guy who didn't blow himself up because he saw that it would be in a soccer stadium and he was a soccer fan. So some have complex thoughts, others have simple thoughts.

As for the upheaval in Gaza, the potential for revolution: I am certain that most of the people there want peace and stability. And I wish we could help and not just gloat.

July 19, 2004

Here's another personal terrorist story from the BBC.

The upheavals in Gaza make me want to hide under the table. I think of the families in Gaza who are only concerned with getting breakfast for the kids and keeping their house clean and the uncertainly around it.

After spending part of the afternoon at Nona watching an amazing pair of transexuals, whose perfect female bodies are wonders of modern science and real works of art, and thinking about how (sorry computer betrayed me ... allright i betrayed it first...) there is something wonderful about decadence because it is such a luxury in these terrible times, I came home to a program on television on the national budget and who decides where the money goes. My contemporaries are always commenting on the fact that in their day there was always money for education and culture, even when there was food rationing, and that the VALUES of those who are determining the budget are very questionable, and the extended program on channel one was based on this.

And then the judge was murdered, assassinated if you look at the technique - a gun to the heart, head, close range. It seemed to me that this too indicates a corruption of values - an intellectual judge who wasn't properly promoted for many years --- i suspect a kind of Columbo story here.

July 20, 2004

Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American poet, is staying in Ramallah and keeping a The intimate, the personal view, is worth ten newspapers.

And there is more! The first Internet Radio Station Israeli-Palestinian radio station here!

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