Tel Aviv Diary June 7, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from June 7 -11 , 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

June 7, 2005

Ezi's high school teacher complained to Ezi's mother: "Madame Gut, Your son does not know literature."

Dr. Sara Gut, the eminent child psychologist, looked at him directly and replied, "Then teach him."

This 50 year old story came back to me today as I was thinking about our political quagmire and the desperate desire on the part of individuals on all sides to find a solution. Again and again I discover that on individual levels we agree, we even like each other. And yet tomorrow, when I join some other writers in Haifa talking about finding common denominators, we will have no practical solutions, no "way out" beyond the expression of shame on the part of the Jews and anger on the part of the Arabs.

And yet another story of my dear departed mother-in-law Sara, comes back to me. It might not be original, but I remember her responding to some righteous political anger of mine with the phrase: "We will not let them shit on our heads - we will open our mouths!"

Last week I saw Mendelson's Elijah, which cannot hold a candle to tonight's St. John Passion. -- The crowd went wild. Applause applause applause. It was really amazing. And me, as usual, I was getting more and more anxious about the hatred of the jews (which was almost totally elided in the Hebrew translation). I thought i was misunderstanding it But no. As I remembered suddenly in the middle, I'd read a piece about the Passion and antisemitism St. John Passion is a absolutely gorgeous diatribe against the jews that reminds you of how embedded it is in western culture.

June 8, 2005

Conference at Haifa University on Identity in an era of globalization. 8 of us came up from Tel Aviv. The rest were from the Arabic Department at Haifa or writers from Nazareth, Dalit El Carmel, etc. I didn't catch all the names, but I did catch all the emotion. Wish I could feel such warmth and identification with more of my Tel Aviv writer friends. They were so nurturing, so encouraging. The conference was organized by the Center for Arab-Jewish Activities in Haifa and by the Writers' Union - the new one that accepts everyone in any language. A much more fun group than the others.

At one point, we were lying around on couches in some tent in Ussifiya after a particularly satisfying meal and i suddenly exclaimed, "Where are the cameras?" I mean these kinds of activities should be documented, but the most important things that happen around here are always too full of excitement for someone to think of taking pictures.

June 9, 2005

Did I mention that I'm going to Paris (Avak concert on 16th) and then London (reading on 20th?) I'm off right after Shvuot for 10 days. And I don't believe I'll have much access to the internet. So I may disappear - but I'll be back on the 24th.

In the mean time the disengagement business is tearing us all apart - from within. No one can be easy about it, even though it was declared legal today by the high courts. And who can be indifferent to the sight of children urged on to disobedience by adults - so similar in principle to the sights on the other side of 4 years ago. How we teach them law and order and then teach them that our desires are greater than law. Then we teach them that God is in charge of these desires, that we ourselves are being urged on - like the children - but by a higher being...

June 10, 2005

An advanced MA students cancels an appointment with me because, he says, his gun license had to be renewed immediately because it's necessary for his job. What do you need a gun license for? Security guard, he replies - that's the way humanities students pay for college.

The guy who delivers the new battery and charger that might save my computer is a little less religious than i thought - no sidelocks. He's the same guy who answered my email, the guy who spoke with me on the phone, and now the delivery man too. Obviously an entrepreneur.

So why did he doubt that what he sold me would fix the computer? Why did he suggest that I return the computer to the manufacturers? He was obviously uncomfortable that I might be dissatisfied, that the transaction wasn't totally perfect. And that in itself satisfied me.

Of course he was right. There's something about the electrical circuit that is wrong.

June 11, 2005

Long and wonderful weekend. Shvuot is one of the better holidays - celebrating knowledge, purity, etc. Everybody's in white - consciously or not.

I made the mistake of running my errands yesterday in an orange shirt. People who didn't know me in the supermarket asked me if i was a demonstrating settler.That was fun.

It is one of the very few long weekends in Israel - we're up for a heat wave and everyone is at the beach. And then they'll be at the all night study groups tomorrow.

Except for those who are in Sinai - some of my best friends are there despite the security warnings. But how can you keep them away from the place where the tora was given? right?

A friend of mine works in a soup kitchen in Yaffo. She volunteers twice a week and says it breaks her heart. Because she also lives in other cities - New York, Berlin, and Tokyo, for example - she can compare the homeless here with elsewhere. And she says that there is less public involvement here - that in other cities there is more charity as a matter of fact. I think it's because we had a socialist state until recently, and people were taken care of by the government. We still have health plans but the sense of community and government responsibility is gone and has to be relearned.

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home