Tel Aviv Diary - June 28-July 2 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - June 28, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

poetry reading - june 29 - tmol shilshom - 7:00 p.m. jerusalem

June 28, 2009

where do i begin to talk about Jerusalem? I'm in such a dither. Here we are doing the tourist thing and i'm walking along the path through the old city to the wailing wall kvetching that the mood of the shopowners has changed since 1967 and we get to the tiny 'women's section' of the wall , and i'm kvetching some more that there shouldn't be a women's section at all, and I sit down and pick up the book of psalms and begin to read and i'm overwhelmed by the place i'm in. What should i pray for, I think, thinking my light shockling is nothing like the enormous rocking of the women surrounding me. I just want things to stay the way they are - for me. Okay, maybe my knee - okay, some people around me need some help - but in my life i'm okay so far. The prayer overwhelming me was for the peoples in this place to find peace, to make peace. Then, as the women with me backed away from the wall, I kvetched again that the necessity to make more and more rules and customs every year is madness. Our next station was a tour of the wall from underneath, in the diggings, and there we finished a very bracing and inspiring lecture and walk along the wall by exiting through the Arab quarter. We were on the via Dolorosa and I myself felt like I too was wearing a crown of thorns, preceeded and followed by careful security men. Some shopkeepers threw out some hopeless welcomes to us, but most knew in advance we had been warned not to stop. As we passed through i pointed out to Ezi a shop where I had bought own of my favorite dresses in 1980. I didn't have time to look into it to see if the same shopowner was there. I would have recognized him immediately because we had coffee and talked for almost an hour. Then.

June 29, 2009

After long discussions with a few Jewish shopkeepers whose trade depends on tourism, my heart goes out to them. The world economic crisis is much less felt in Tel Aviv, but Jerusalem, where industries are low tech and there is little cooperation among communities, is very hard hit. Much building is still going on but much seems to be no longer possible - the light rail for one. Thank goodness for the alternative communal communities!

My reading was small but intensive. The atmosphere in TMol Shilshom is usually intense, but there was a little less of the hunger for literature that i have experienced in the past - and i too felt the slight economic depression that keeps people home. Let's hope the atmosphere in the Machane Market tomorrow the atmosphere will be more positive.

June 30, 2009

And indeed it was. A massive effort to incorporate all kinds of poetry and all kinds of audiences by The Poetry Place has proved successful once again. The program was arranged at least four months ago, but only if you read Hebrew can you understand it: program. I wanted to change the time or day of my performance because of an important wedding but it was all sewn up and incredibly organized. Organized and chaotic at once. The reading I participated in, for example, was in the middle of the machane yehuda market. The music from a nearby kiosk, the massive fridge engine from a butcher, a beggar passing by - didn't interrupt the poetry but maybe added to it. And the crowd - what - a hundred, hundred fifty - people, crowded uncomplainedly into the narrow alley and found places to sit despite the seeming impossibility of the situation. It made me really respect the possibilities of Jerusalem.

I've been trying really hard to like Jerusalem. That's what I keep telling myself. Not to think - when I see all these American men in white shirts and black skullcaps scurrying around with sheaves of papers under their arms - that they have a master plan to totally control the city.

But I can't. Lisa says all the foreign journalists never leave Jerusalem and get all their ideas about Israel from that city. She tells them they should try Tel Aviv but they respond that it's not authentic. "That's the point of Tel Aviv," I tell her. It's not to be authentic, to remake itself every moment, to renounce the idea of tradition.

July 2, 2009

If you want to visit me, you better do it soon. After the first of september we won't be bathing anymore. The water rations are on. We figure we use twice as much as the rations so we'll either be sending out our clothes for dry cleaning (i just realized - i haven't done that in years!) or throwing them out. And I won't fire my cleaner who seems to wash the floor without using soap or water. And no more growing our own vegetables. At least no more attempts.

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