Tel Aviv Diary June 8 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - June 8, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

June 8, 2006

What have people been saying about my discovering the secrets of Sayed Kashua? I was just laughing about the bad translation of his column last week.

If the truth be known, however, I DO think there is a secret to Kashua's column. It almost always works by lulling the Hebrew reader into experiencing a kind of 'universal' - and almost banal - event, an argument with the wife, a conversation at a local cafe, a shopping trip. But somewhere in the middle is an incident, a little encounter that shows the enormous difference between the lives of Jews and the lives of Arab-speaking people here.

Good news - Shirley Kaufman has won the president's prize for English writing in Israel. I am proud of her, and congratulate her. For the first time in my life I sent flowers to a colleague! It is a wonderful feeling and I highly recommend it!

June 9, 2006

As promised, here are some pictures of the poetry reading:

Rivka Bassman - who writes in a yiddish so pure it makes me weep.

Ory Bernstein, whose mythic sadness over the fate of this land can be seen in every centimeter of his face:

Faruk Muassi, who read both in Arabic and Hebrew, translating himself simultaneously and effortlessly.

We don't even blink at it, but it is not an uncommon happening - a regular poetry reading that turns out to be quatrilingual - and everything is well appreciated.

June 10, 2006

I don't know how long I can avoid talking about the political situation around here, about rockets, victims, trauma. I keep saying the situation is temporary and will be soon altered when an agreement is reached, so i should try and wait it out. But I'm sure no one in this country is indifferent to anything that is going on here.

Nevertheless we go on. Tonight for example I didn't win the second of three competitions I had thought I had a good choice for, and alhough given the situation around here it seemed to me to be no big deal.

June 11, 2006

Shaindy Rudoff has passed away.

I saw the email and then saw nothing else for a few moments. Just last week we were commiserating over the fact that our backs were keeping us from the writing conference at Bar Ilan, the one she herself had organized, There is nothing for it, she said, you just have to be patient.

The family can be reached at

I'm sure many people had plans for Shaindy. My own dreams for Shaindy were simple - she was on the way to revolutionizing English writing in Israel, and I believed she'd complete the task. Nevertheless she set off some many programs and movements, her memory will be an inspiration for the future.

This is Shaindy introducing a poetry reading in Beit Bialik in 2003.

So typical of Shaindy, to look down, to enable others to be in the limelight...

The secretary of the skin doctor was all in a tizzy this afternoon. She was expecting 40 Ethiopian kids coming to remove facial tattoos - What kind of tattoos? i asked her. Big crosses all over their face, she answered. Big ugly things.

I look out her window and there is the sea, just beyond the parking lot. It is a luxurious view.

June 12, 2006

All week long I've been reading about trains in Palestine. Especially the Hejaz railway that Ezi's grandmother used to take from Haifa to Al-Hama as a step on her long journey from Tel Aviv. There is a site of the Hijaz railway that was built at the beginning of the twentieth century to take pilgrims to Medina but was blown up here and there by Lawrence of Arabia during WWI. And I was beginning to query about why there were no trains within Palestine - no way from Grandma Dvora Ben Tovim to get from Yaffo to Haifa by train, for example. The journey into the past seemed like a glorious escape from reality for me, with no relation to the present.

And then the train wreck today.

100 rockets in the past three days in Sderot. I don't know how they take it there. Today a friend from there reminded me that the feeling that the rest of the country - as well as the rest of the world - doesn't seem to want to take notice, is the most infuriating part of the barrage of rockets.

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