Tel Aviv Diary June 8, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from June 8-13, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

June 8, 2004

Richard Gere has been speaking to young people here about solutions to the troubles of the middle east. Apparently he has been recommending meditation - which might work, you know, if we were living in California. Amal suggested that meditating while waiting in line at a checkpoint, or anticipating a terrorist attack might be less than effective.

I wasn't there and didn't hear him, but wonder how well-meaning people abroad can be educated to the realities of every day life here so there advice can be more effective. Can anyone simply imagine the ambivalent life of an Arab-Israeli student drawn to and repelled by the 'dominant' culture while feelig the same ambivalence toward Palestinian cousins? Add to that the terrors and threats of existence here, and advice is not all that is needed.

The cleaning woman who is helping me get out of the mess I've gotten my house into is a former belly dancer. I should have suspected it from her movements, her body, but I didn't. She used to perform in Yaffo - and I imagine the audience loved her as much as she enjoyed dancing. So instead of directing her in the cleaning I sit and watch dance videos with her. She offers tips on the movements and I see she could still be incredibly good.

In the mean time my books have crawley creatures in them.

Do not think that this is an apolitical description. We criticized the turkish style of dancing together - for its lack of subtlety and coarse, jerky movements, and although made no reference to the fact that the Turkish Ambassador was recalled today, probably were influenced by Turkey's sudden reversal and opportunism.

June 9, 2004

Lovely review of my latest hebrew book in Haaretz

Nice picture too. Dana amir is one of my favorite poets and I'm proud she liked the book.

As usual it isn't in English. Someone should complain.

How did I find out about the review? Daffi Kudish, who translated the book, called first thing. She's young and active and it isn't surprising that she's read the paper by 8 in the morning. But my senile cousin Sima called from the old age home a few minutes later and spoke at length about the review. Then she asked me if I'm going to the States this summer. I told her about a conference in Maine in which I'm giving a paper. We spoke about how to pronounced Bangor at length and then she asked. So are you going to the States this summer? So I wasn't surprised when she asked, And have you written any books lately?

I DO appreciate her very much!

June 10, 2004

The excuse of a visitor is what brought me to revisit the length of the coast of Tel Aviv - a beautiful and inspiring site. We began in Yaffo, visited the beaches, the parks, and of course, the shops. I was surprised at how nice it looks. Two years ago I believe (you can look it up in these pages) I took my 93 year old mother-in-law through Yaffo and she wondered at how nothing had changed. At first I thought she was appy to be back in her past, but then she began complaining about how the municipality of Tel Aviv seems to have invested so little in modernization, renovation, sanitation. This time it looks different, the roads are looking better, the parks are nice, the old buildings seem to be have spruced up.

Then we went to the touristy part of Yaffo, which looks a bit sad, shops closed, restaurants a bit empty. But we found some pretty jewelry, some fine people, some amazing views. And we went to Never Tzedek - dinner at Susannahs - come on it doesn' t get any better.

i wanted to drive through to Mishmish but made a wrong turn and found myself in the public market, an odiferous place to be at night.

To compensate for that we drove through one of the red light districts near tel baruch.

i hope it gave a panorama view of tel aviv - the philistine tel aviv, i mean

Saturday night at Tzvata:


Cover versions of popular

Peace and protest songs.

Hemi Rudner, Sharon Moldavi, and a whole bunch of great singers doing Bob Dylan, John Lennon, etc. Sounds good to me. I'll be there. Protest songs always made me feel superior.

June 11, 2004

Yesterday an article inHa'aretzby Akiva Eldar entitled "Military Intelligence presented erroneous assumption on Palestinians," that begins: "Major General Amos Gilad, head of Military Intelligence's research division when violence erupted in October 2000, persuaded the cabinet to accept an erroneous view of the cause of the violence, and hence the mistaken conclusion that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, according to Major General Amos Malka, who served as the director of MI at the time."

This surprised many people. But it is something thinking people have been arguing all along. Not because there were contrary statistics but because from personal contact with Palestinians the error of the government's assumption became clear.

This is a major argument to keep your eyes and ears open all the time - not that you should draw universal conclusions from personal experience, but that the personal observations should open up questions about what have declared to be universal truths.

(later) I have been laughed right off the pages of my diary for presenting the article in the previous paragraph. Come on, people I love and respect said, we all know there was a basis for saying Arafat wasn't interested in peace. Meb-bee. But what if we don't know all the facts? Maybe we should not have cut off all possibilities if there was a slight slight chance of our being misled?

June 12, 2004

Of course there are so many misleading ideas around here. Even words are hard to pin down. The word refugee, for example. The UN divides refugees into 2 - refugees and palestinian refugees. Refugees are defined as people who have been forced out of their land and have no place to go. It is not an inheritable status. But with Palestinian refugees it can go on for generations. The at most 650,000 refugees of 1948 are now 4,500,000.

"Enough of this politics," Sandy writes me. "Tell me about what you did this weekend." Well, Sandy, I didn't do half of what I had promised to do - not enough strength for fun.

I didn't hear Bharati Mukerjee again at the Ambassador's house. She's a real hit here on her brief visit because she talks so much about the way she copes with multiculturalism within and without. And the need for mongrelism.

We tend to ignore our mongrelism here, our multi-cultural confusion.

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