Tel Aviv Diary July 21-5, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut
July 21, 2008
Strange how I can't say anything about anything today. Not only Amos, but everything else that seems trivial in relation to him. Amos was one of the guys I would have wanted to run the goverment - clear-sighted, instinctively honest, ironic, and forgiving. He always reminded me of my husband, and so does his son.
You take a wide brimmed hat –
As if you were going on safari –
And spray any part of you that is exposed,
Making sure your shoes are old
And will not mind the dust
That rises up with each footfall
As if the dead along the path
Are trying to blend
With the crowd of new mourners.
Although I often get called on to read a poem in a public occasion, and my great love for Amichai is reignited every time I read a poem of his, I was reluctant to read one at Amos' funeral. I wanted to bend down over the grave and whisper to him, the way I used to speak to him when he was paralyzed, trying to understand what words his mouth was forming. Mostly then I would give up, admit i was dyslexic and couldn't follow his spelling out words with his forehead laser pointer. He'd always seem to dismiss my need for forgiveness, as if incompetence is a viable excuse for failure, and even in the effort i should be sufficently comforted.
So i crouched there at the grave until it was clear Ezi had to get home, and talked with him about all the things we hadn't discussed since his botched operation two years ago.
and i almost cared the Katzav was going to be tried on rape, and t hat Olmert bad-mouthed Tzipi Livni, and Talansky was coming across as a professional liar.
July 22, 2008
Someone wrote me about a poem of mine:
Here & There
Here a few poems,
there a few tears
what more do you need
to give shape to your life?
He wrote "Thanks, your poems helped today"
But I want to be on public record that poems didn't help me with Amos' death. And as I read Amichai's poem at the funeral, I thought about how much less the poem is than the person lying at my feet.
I always thought of Amos as that simple prophet, who profession was to enable the fruition of the sycamore trees by pricking them:
A PRICKER OF SYCAMORES
enriching the fruit of tomorrow,
with an invisible intervention.
Like Amos before he was made prophet,
he goes about, cultivating the world
July 22. 2008
Okay, I know there is a lot to write about in this country, but I can't. Not this week. So here's a poem by Natan Yonatan:
ANOTHER SONG ON ABSALOM
Cunning as a woman, lovely as a snake, shy as an idol
Always with a gang of friends, with horses, with gold,
And now, tell, where is the guile of his women,
The beauty of his snake, his shy idol
His dreams of kingdoms, where are they?
A tree in the forest, that
Is what remains of all Absalom
And the cry of his father, the old lover, the man of wars
Even his charioteer turns aside to weep,
Thus to break a father’s back,
To make a joke of death, of everything!
Absalom my son my son Absalom
You couldn’t wait,
Spoiled child—until we grew old,
When the crown brought us down in sorrow.
And what of your curls, your curls,
Didn’t you know the danger hiding in such curls?
And why through the woods of all ways
Did you forget what happened to Jonathan?
Don’t you know the terebinths?
Your father loved in you all that he was not,
See how the man shudders all over,
Why do you think I didn’t make you king—
Out of concern for the people? Mistrust of your age?
If only we could have spoke of it in quiet
You would understand that I’m no longer the same David,
Your mother’s grief, only an aging king
Who goes to his death without rejoicing
And yet secrets in his heart a last intrigue
To save at least one of his boys
From the crown, from the wars.
I wanted, my little fool, only you, Absalom.
July 23, 2008
Let's round out this little poetic anthology with another translation of mine from HEZI LASKALI
Excuse me for bringing you here tonight:
It wasn’t the place I intended.
One minute forty five.
We’re caught in this strong light.
One minute twenty three.
We’re caught in almost complete darkness.
Fifty four seconds.
We’re caught in partial light,
Part of an arm lit up, an ear illuminated.
Thirty four seconds.
Someone is running
in complete blackout, his footsteps
heard by the illuminated ear.
He circles us and disappears.
A spotlight tries to follow him
but he’s too fast.
I had to warn you. I had to.
One minute fifty nine,
I do want to thank so many of you who wrote us about Amos.
July 24, 2008
My mother's youngest sister, Malcah Katz, was a partisan in World War II. While my other aunts and uncles and their families were being shot in the square in Lida, or destroyed in Auschwitz, my aunt and her husband went into the forests nearby in Lithuania and fought. She was killed there, and has always been my heroine. Now, I understand that had she remained alive, she would have been prosecuted by the Lithuanian governent. I reprint this letter for further distribution:
Below, the letter from the Jewish Community of Lithuania, pasted directly into this journal:
VILNIUS, JULY 2008
AN OPEN LETTER TO
HIS EXCELLENCY VALDAS ADAMKUS,
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
The prosecutors of Lithuania do not cease to persecute anti-Nazi Jewish partisans. The Prosecution Service’s claims that “hundreds of witnesses are being questioned” are belied by the fact that only Jewish names are being heard in the media: Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky, Rachel Margolis, and others.
This enables us to conclude that efforts are being made in order to shape Lithuanian public opinion by portraying Jews as primarily responsible for the crimes of the Soviet totalitarian regime. The negative image of anti-Nazi Jewish partisans is being consciously constructed in the mass media. For example, an officer from the Prosecution Service said in public that a search for Fania Brantsovsky was allegedly announced, although this former ghetto prisoner and anti-Nazi partisan has lived in Vilnius for more than 80 years and has a permanent job.
We feel that it is our duty to remind the public that the anti-Nazi Jewish partisans were prisoners of the ghettos that had been established by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators, and survived only because they fought an armed fight against Hitlerism. By fighting against Nazism they saved Lithuania’s honor in World War II, and contributed to the Allied forces’ victory against Nazi Germany. During the Nazi occupation, the Nazis and their local collaborators killed more than 220,000 Jews; they destroyed the Lithuanian Jewish community almost completely. It needs to be repeated that during eighteen years of independence, not a single Nazi collaborator was punished. What is more, the prosecutors show signs of trying to revise Holocaust history by reversing the historical emphasis.
We strongly deny the direct and indirect accusations against Jews for the crimes committed by the Soviet regime. We ask that it be kept in mind that “world Zionism” together with “American imperialism” were the greatest enemies of the Soviet empire. State antisemitism was included in the official policy of the Communist Party. Jewish citizens of Lithuania suffered a higher proportional loss than their Lithuanian neighbors during the Soviet deportations of 1941. After the war all the members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were shot and mass campaigns were launched by the Soviet regime, against “doctor-killers” (the “Doctors’ Plot” — concerning medical personnel of Jewish nationality) or against “rootless cosmopolitans” (= Jewish artists). After Stalin’s death Hebrew teachers or people who wanted to emigrate to Israel were persecuted. The term “prisoner or Zion” entered into the world’s vocabulary.
It needs to be stated that the Prosecution Service feels the pressure of certain politicians. For example, Fania Brantsovsky was summoned to the investigator after an appeal by a member of the Seimas, R. Kupčinskas of the Homeland Union fraction. The fact that the the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania,” established by the President (chaired by E. Zingeris), did not publicly defend its own member Yitzhak Arad, or the other Jewish anti-Nazi partisans, is also surprising.
It is a pity but such facts do not honor our state. This is evident from numerous publications in the foreign press and by letters that our community receives. The Lithuanian Jewish Community has been planning to organize the Third World Litvak Congress for the “Vilnius – European Capital of Culture 2009” program and to invite Nobel Prize laureates with roots here in Lithuania to the congress. Now we receive unequivocal messages from our partners that no participation is possible in any events organized in Lithuania while the persecution of former ghetto prisoners and anti-Nazi partisans proceeds apace. This forces us to think whether it is at all feasible to organize the Third World Litvak Congress in Vilnius.
We demand a halt to the persecution of Jewish anti-Nazi partisans who fought for the Allied victory in World War II. We hope that the Prosecution Service’s activities will be guided not by letters from certain members of Seimas, but by the decisions of the International Nuremberg Tribunal and the International Holocaust Conference in Stockholm.
Dr. Simonas Alperavicius (Simon Alperovitch),
Chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community
Chairman of the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners
Barak left us today for Germany. If I were forty years younger I'd feel like I felt when Kennedy was running for election, but now I have been through a few wars, and am a little less trusting.
Yesterday members of the Sachnin got picked up for shoplifting at the duty free store. Since I myself have not been without sin, especially when i was sixteen, i don't think it is the worst thing in the world. However, all the fans interviewed denied the possibility of the facts. Faced with a simple truth, they found it impossible to believe.
These two previous points keeping bouncing together in my head: I can't seem to believe in obvious evidence - like Obama, and can't understand how Sakhnin fans don't believe in obvious evidence either.
July 25, 2008
Asked for explanation of yesterday's entry - I have been very suspicious of my distrust for Obama, who seems to be trying very hard, and has made a few errors of speech that indicate a lack of knowledge. Nevertheless he seems to have run such a good campaign that he must know how to organize people and use the right advisors. This means he should be trusted, with some reservations. The guys from the soccer team got caught up in the madness of their trip and stealing 4000 dollars worth of goods makes them criminals. But that's clear. What bothered me was the total denial of truth that characterized their relatives, neighbors, fans - "it didn't happen." "They were framed." It reminded me so much of the local responses to the bulldozer terrorists. The Jews and the Arabs saw the same footage - the busses overturned, the cars and people trampled, the people killed - and the rampage stopped only by direct bullets. The Jews saw terrorism and the Arabs an accident.
But to be more objective about Barak's visit here, see what Hillel Schenker wrote for The Nation on it.