Tel Aviv Diary - June 18-22, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - June 18-22, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

June 18, 2010

Against impossible odds we are here, back in Tel Aviv, and expecting to catch up on family and friends after we've overcome somewhat the shock of travel. There is no way to describe the wonderful Italians and the fascinating conversations that took place in all kinds of languages in Florence, but yesterday is not yet a blur to me, so I will jot it down. Since we were expected to vacate our rooms at 10:30, and we had a date with our cousin to pick us up at 12:30 at the porta a mensona (which was only a 20 mintes by taxe from our hotel), we went to visit Savanarola's square, where he stand with his fiery eyes and his cross uplifted to warn us about what happens to people that don't belong. Then we grabbed our taxi and got left off in the middle of the street, but near a little niche with reading material about Porta a mensano. We had just gotten our luggage arranged under the arch when an extreme hailstorm began. Even the little arch that sheltered us couldn't take it and began dripping so hard we couldn't dare to search around for an umbrella inside the luggage. Perhaps if I had used the niche properly, and taken the opportunity for a little prayer, we might have been less ill-abused by the weather, but eventually there was a little let-up, cousin Gideon showed up, and the moment we got into the car, the rain stopped.

We dried off at the Castello di Vincilliato, where Gideon and his family live, and were refreshed by a heavily wine-soaked lunch. Everything tastes good there. Simply.

But the traffic jam on the way to the train station left us breathless with uncertainly about whether we would actually make the 4:10 to Rome or miss it, and miss our flight as well. When it all came together, and we had past customs, ate dinner, bought our earphones and all that, the flight was delayed for an hour, and we arrived home at four in the morning. As thrilled to touch ground as we used to be in the old days when we felt this was the only place to be ever.

June 19, 2010

We fell asleep with the news - it was too complicated for our simple foreign minds. A crisis of 'racial' segregation really caused by radically different values and proportions. The 'races' it turns out, are sephardic and ashkenazic, a difference i thought that was passe, and the problem is more of educational values and influence. It's so clear that this problem could be solved in other than judicial ways, but why find a simple solution when a complicated one would serve. So the education-religion-oriented Ashkenazi parents are arrested because they won't send their girls to school with children who seem to come from a very different orientation for fear of contamination of values.

Anyway, we fell asleep.

William Carlos Williams came to mind:

Summer Song

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer's smile,
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?

What would I suggest? Supplementary education for culturally deprived children. When I was in fifth grade I went to public school for the first time after Hebrew Day School, and was very lost - i had posture classes, whispered advice from the teachers on dress, an extra push in gym class (although I was never able to catch up - neither on rope climbing nor baseball nor handwriting nor personal hygiene). I know there is no comparison between an immigrant with a parochial education and a child brought up with neglect and crime in the family, but education is a matter of input, and despite my totally anti-semitic sixth grade teacher, Miss Faye, I was not only Americanized, but I blossomed in my three years of grammar school.

June 19-20, 2010

It is hard to come back to this country. The heat is not any more oppressing than Italy, and the mess is no worse, but the mood is very irritated. At least my friends are. In the luxury places we visited today the world is wonderful - like the mazda and jaguar offices we visited this morning that were like little islands of paradise.

I can see it will take me at least a month to get my life back in order - i've left all kinds of things to do on my desk. Postponed medical tests, lost papers, etc. etc. But first a deep-cleaning of my head.

June 21, 2010

As I prepare to take care of business today (and family, and fun) I am apologetic about the brevity of my entries here. I'll need a couple weeks to get back to normal, but I'll be taking the kiddies on trips which should be fun.

A recent poll has proved what I have been suspecting. In Haaretz today it notes that 89% want legislative elections this year and 84% believe Fatah will win. Despite the present despair it may be the best time to accomplish something - if only we can get a wider government.

First day of summer - the temperature was 37 centigrade and we are swinging in the park with the children. What was going through our minds? The only thing one should be doing is sitting still. Yossl Birstein told me many years ago that when he came to Israel he used to watch the Beduin sitting under a tree and not moving. He would look and admire - how can they not move when the Jews around them were shovelling and mopping and planting. After a little while he understood - it was the only way to survive, to endure, in the long run. You can have bursts of energy and do things for a little while in the heat, but you can't last it out.

June 22, 2010

Suddenly, at 3:30 p.m., the hot sandy wind that blew away the extraordinary heat wave died down and we were left with a beautiful summer afternoon.

Suddenly all options seem open.

Of course every one around here is still depressed. We've been deserted by the world.

My business today took me to the mall of all places, where a strange quiet reigned. No crowds, but steady silent people. But while I slaved in a cafe over my next manuscript in Hebrew with Rafi, Ezi and the kids whooped it up in the only right place to be - the pool.

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