Tel Aviv Diary June 13, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from June 13-18, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

June 13, 2004

When I met Benjamin Pogrund, who is in charge of Yakar, a center in Jerusalem, last night I really got thinking. We were at Amanda's birthday but started talking shop right away and I got all involved in the idea. He was telling me that lately there are smaller audiences, particularly for literature. Then he asked me about reading poetry. And I responded with questions about the relevance of poetry readings and how to bring the writer and audience together. I was thinking about how the Russians in Israel and the Arabs here think of their poets in a way as their representatives, the people who speak for them, but in English it doesn't happen that way at all. I can't think of any English writer here who is understood to speak for the unusual situation of the Anglos here and who sells books, or draws audiences. If people read poetry, they read poets who write in their native land, as if the locals couldn't be anything but provincial, amateur. And yet the situation of the anglo here is so incredibly unique - so deeply involved in Israel and so alienated from part of its culture at the same time. You would think we would stick together culturally the way we stick together physically. But we don't. And we NEVER talk about it. So I suggested we have a discussion about the idea of anglo-identity and then one on "What is a Jew-What is an Arab?" to cross over the concept of identity a bit further. Then, maybe, we can have a reading on the subject of identity.

June 14, 2004

Someone said to day that never have the Palestinians and the Israelis been closer to a mutual understanding than now - that all that is needed is a little trust. In fact an editorial in today's Ha'aretz notes that for us the burden of proof is on the Palestinians. Now former MI chief Malka claims that despite everything, and assuming that Israel accepts some conditions, there is a negotiation partner. After the ongoing bloodshed, which has resulted in some 1,000 Israeli fatalities and some 3,000 Palestinian deaths, Israel's public feels the burden of proof rests with the Palestinian leadership. That leadership must prove that it seeks an arrangement based on the Clinton outline - essentially the same arrangement that Major General (res.) Malka brings up in the Haaretz interview. Such a demonstration of intent could create a new opportunity to resuscitate the negotiation process between two potential partners to a peace agreement, one in which there would be a large-scale Israeli withdrawal, and which would bring an end to the occupation and to Israel's control of another people.

The very thought gives me - for one - a large measure of hope. It has been a long time since I've felt even that.

Book week seems to have totally altered since the old days when it was meant to promote literature. Since the early 20's this has been the season for promoting books in this country. But now it's an industry, and although every one keeps talking about all the cultural events, it doesn't feel that way to me. I keep seeing the ad for a celebration of Natan Yonatan's poetry this coming Friday - all the big music stars will be singing his songs, and his beautiful and profound face looks out from every corner of the city. And although I know it is a wonderful phenomenon that his poetry is so popular and so musical, I miss the purity of the word, the beauty of the naked sound. Right, you say, coming from someone who reads her poetry in nightclubs... Yatziv with his drums behind me, Roi on keyboards on my left, Ishai on bass, guitar, on my right. As if i have the right to say anything about the pure poem. And yet I remember years ago when I translated his poetry and we would sit together in my dining room, and he would remind me of the rhythm and how the rhythm speaks for itself. And I miss the sound of his voice, in life and on the page.

Still, it is beautiful that he's all over Tel Aviv.

June 15, 2004

Does any one out there have any information about help for disturbed juveniles accused of sexual offenses? The system here seems to be breaking down and there's a kid here who has been in jail for 3 months without trial or therapy and I don't know where to begin to send his mother for help.

There are so many people in this country who have not been 'socialized' in the most basic ways, have come here from the most primitive of conditions, have no idea of how to live in society, and we don't have to means to help all of them.

June 16, 2004

Well, I got the name of a fancy lawyer, gave it to the mother, and he's doing it for nothing. Now we'll see how the system works. A Czech publisher came over today - He's here for a week and wants to do a book of Thomas Ungar in Czech with some poems in English as an appendix. Thomas Ungar, like me, lived in Hebrew, and unlike me wrote poems both in English and Czech, with almost no reference to this country. He lived in Tel Aviv, worked in Hebrew at the University, and yet his literary frame of reference was elsewhere. I couldn't stop thinking about this strangeness, of how we live in Hebrew but so many of us have totally different frames of references, different languages, different cultures. Our Arab neighbors are almost not a surprise to us. The surprise is when we have something in common with someone else!

I've been staying out of politics, not demonstrating when a wall takes over our neighbors' farmland, not complaining even in these pages when injustices take place, and i know that if i have chosen to live in this country i am responsible for all that goes on, but the truth is i have no more strength to fight. It doesn't change what i believe in, but it does change my energy level.

I'm not sick - thanks for asking - just tired.

June 17, 2004

And now we learn that the September 11 were also caused by Bin Laden's desire to stir the pot in the middle east - which i think i said all along - and that Iraq wasn't at all involved - which I couldn't believe at the time. It was a dirty operation, but I am in awe of Bin Laden's brilliance and understanding that civilization can be used against itself.

Rena just sent me this site about a CBC program concerning the Impact of Terror, a study of the Sbarro Bombing. We tend to forget that each terrorist incident leaves people dead, maimed, injured, and terribly scarred. And all their relatives and friends as well. And those who witnessed or helped or just missed...


Everyone I know just missed

being blown up at five to four on Monday.

Every one I know just turned

the corner and looked back

when it blew up, or took

a different route that day

and were a few blocks

off. Only a few

were supposed to be elsewhere

but missed the bus, or the light, or their luck,

and wound up all over Dizengoff.

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