Tel Aviv Diary March 13, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from March 13, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

March 13, 2004

Malcah sent me this article sent to her by her friend. Ephraim Kishon, who wrote this, has been a much beloved satirist in Israel. But in recent years he got very bitter, and I havenít seen much by him. Itís wonderful he still around and smart as ever.

This is Israel:

This is the only country where the unemployed strike. This is the only
country where the 'cross country' road ends before it reaches its half way,
"Airport City 2000" is still closed in 2004, the water import begins on the
rainiest year ever, and Pee GLILOT (where they produce gas) is being
dismantled for over 8 years and still exists. This is the only country
where 60 year olds still hate their TIRONUT commander.

This is the only country that has 2 Treasury ministers and neither of them
has a dime, a 101 year old rabbi establishes a political party, the
prime-minister is not allowed to be the minister of Defense in accordance
with a state committee resolution, the opposition forgot to elect a
candidate for the capital city and the MPs who chose the right to be silent
don't shut their mouths.

This is the only country where the corporal's mother has the commander's
telephone no., (so he should watch it). This is the only country that has a
communication satellite, but nobody let you finish a sentence. This is the
only country where missiles from Iraq have exploded, katiushas from
Lebanon, suicide bombers from Gaza and rockets from Syria, and still a 3
room apartment costs more than in Paris.

This is the only country where female porn stars are being asked "what does
your mother say about it", soccer players come to the field with their
daddy to shout at the coach, and on Friday night when going to the parents,
you sit on exactly the same chair you've been sitting on when you were 5.

This is the only country where an Israeli meal is made from an Arab salad,
Romanian Kebab, Iraqi pita bread and Bavarian mousse (which is a county in
Germany). We must like eating anti-Semitics.

This is the only country where the guy with the open shirt and stain on it
is the honorable minister and the guy beside him with the suit and tie is
his driver. This is the only country where the phrase "I didn't interfere"
means that I want to interfere.

This is the only country where Muslims sell sacred souvenirs to Christians,
in exchange for bills that have the RAMBAM's face on them.

This is the only country where at age 18 you leave home and at 24 you still
live in it. This is the only country where people who come to visit you for
the first time ask you if it's ok to "take something from the fridge". This
is the only country where you can tell what the security situation from the
songs that are being played on the radio.

This is the only country where the rich are on the socialist left, the poor
are on the capitalistic right and the bourgeois pay for everything.

This is the only country where it's no problem to get software that
launches a space shuttle, but you have to wait for a week for your washing
machine to be fixed. And only here (if we're touching the subject) there's
a time unit called "I'll come sometime between eleven and six".

This is the only country where on the first date you ask a girl where she
served in the army. And this is the only country where she was probably in
a more militant job than you. This is the only country where between the
happiest day and the saddest day there are exactly 60 seconds (Memorial Day
and Independence Day).

This is the only country where most people can't explain why they live in
it but they have loads of reasons why they can't live elsewhere.

This is the only country where if you hate politicians, hate clerks, hate
the situation, hate the taxes, hate the quality of service and hate the
weather, it must mean that you like it (the country).

This is the only country I could live in. It's my country.

by Efraim Kishon

In Spain today funerals were held for all the people from Alkala who died on the train from there to Madrid.

My children's ancestors were exiled from that town (and that country) almost a thousand years ago.

It's also the town Cervantes was born in. There's a story by St. Exupery called "Mozart Assasinee" about his seeing migrant children on a train and realizing that each one - if society had fostered them - might posibly have been a Mozart. And that story comes back to me - each victim on those trains might have become a Mozart.

Of course this is true for all of this world of senseless violence.

March 14, 2004

Natan Yonatan's funeral is today at 2:30 at Kiryat Shaul.

In the course of the years I translated over 50 poems by him - a book was supposed to come out but it never got off the ground.

Here's one.

Always along the shore
sometimes water sometimes sand
always winds
scattering salt sea crumbs
He says to his soul
Iím too cold
Iím too old-
from where the strength
to begin now
to swim,
Always along the shore
and his longings seem to him sails and sighs
farewells from other shores
and he is a sailor in the poetís fleet, surrounded by cold currents
and his beard quivers like froth
drunk and in love with the ancient monarchy of the sea
and with shifting sands and sadness
blowing always along the shore.

He was always loved by the people and disdained by the literary establishment - never got the Israel prize for literature for example.

I didn't go to the speeches at Beit Hasopher, the writers' house, but caught up at the cemetery with the enormous crowd of various celebrities - Zvika Pik, Shlomo Artzi, Gilat Ankori, Dorit Reuveni etc. etc. etc. - politicians - Limor Livnat, Gad Yacobi, etc., public figures - Nachman Shai, etc. etc., writers, and people who loved his poems and songs. He was buried, not with the writers, but the section for parents of those who lost sons in the wars. At the grave site his songs of flowers and pain and nature prefigured by an hour the terrorist attack in the Ashdod Port that senselessly killed 10.

Here's a song Ora Zittner sang over Natan yonatan's grave:


A land that devours its inhabitants
flowing with milk and honey and blue,
and sometimes she even snatches away
the lamb of a pauper.

A land whose sod is sweetened
and shores are salty with tears,
for all who adore her
have given her all they have.

The lily squills bloom again
alone by the road
and the jasmine will return to bloom
with the scent of timeless fields.

A land whose sod is sweetenedÖ
Every spring the daisies return
to cover the wrinkles of her face
and the sad-stoned summer breeze
caresses with light.

Autumn comes back with the heaviness of clouds
to envelope all the gardens in gray
and Winter, weeping,
will close its eyes.

And even as I write the number of dead keeps rising. The stories of survivors too hair-raising to repeat.

March 15, 2004

Something's wrong with my computer. Took me all day to get to my site. Anybody else having problems with my site?

The Ashdod tragedy - where one of the suicide bombers was only 17 - continues today. Not only were many of the victims buried - all together in Ashdod - but another tragedy occurred. A 10 year old Palestinian boy was stopped crossing the border with a suicide belt. He explained that he'd been paid to carry it. But what he didn't know was that he was connected to a cell phone which activated the explosives. So if he hadn't been caught he would have blown up. Now we're often told that Palestinian children are raised for suicide. But to be murdered?

March 16, 2004

The whole issue of suilding bombings has lost the moral stigma/value: the fact the one high school in Gaza takes pride in its 5 bombers and laid a wreath at the desk of the sixth yesterday is indicative. So is the threat of an Arab driver to set off a terrorist attack because the Jewish girl he desired paid no attention to him. Blowing yourself up is now a call for attention.

As a few Palestinians have pointed out - the Israelis keep calling attention to the way the Palestinians endanger their children, plant them in the middle of battles, send them out before the fighters to throw stones in the first row, and now prepare to blow them up as terrorists - but the Israelis don't have the same compunctions about killing the kids themselves. From all my conversations with soldiers I don't believe it, think we worry much more about others than we're given credit for. Today is a year since Rachel Corey was killed, and the Israeli army proved quite conclusively (for me) that she couldn't have been seen by the bulldozer driver, yet I have heard repeatedly by people abroad that she was murdered.

Two female soldiers today were in the news: one girl killed herself with her own weapon in the same place where her relative was killed yesterday in the Ashdod terrorist incident. Another girl discovered the bomb in the knapsack of the 10 year old, and managed to seperate him from the bag, and the bag from others, so that no one was hurt. Both were 19.

March 17, 2004

After I heard on the news that one quarter of all children in Gaza aspire to be Shihad, I asked some kids in the neighborhood what they wanted to be. The girls seem to have a disproportionate interest in the entertainment world - apparently the new tv amateur program "a star is born" has given them hopes. The boys vaguely talk about sports and computers. i think i'm going to have to be more serious about my questions. but from the general impression i got, there isn't that enthusiasm to change the world i used to know as a child.

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