Tel Aviv Diary March 18, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from March 18, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

March 18, 2004

Because we went to sleep while reading the book of Korbman, that amateur photographer of the 20s in Tel Aviv whose images just will not leave me, i spent the night in the streets of early Tel Aviv, camera slung over my shoulder, looking for a representative subject.

With all the terrorism then, cholera, economic depression, and general poverty, there seems from his photographs an energy joy and anticipation that has no parallel today. Of course if today i went around with a camera and asked questions i would get enthusiastic pictures - because the very existence of a camera raises the significance of every day life. But the 20's faith in the building of a country remains unique.

March 19, 2004

With all my nostalgia rising I was thrilled that Alan sent me this site: Israel Government Photograph Gallery. Alan, from England, assumed I knew the site but this was the first I'd heard of it.

Anyway I spent the evening - having screwed up my plans to take my assistants out to Mishmish - comparing Korbman's photographs to these photographs. It's the distinction Yehuda Amichai makes in several of his poems, especially one. He's coming home from shopping and is standing by the gate of the old City of Jerusalem, and a tourist bus stops and the guide points out that "See, where that man is standing with his shopping bags? That's the Gate." And he thinks, the guide should be saying - "see where that gate is? That's a man coming home from his shopping." The focus on the personal, the private, the daily life. Even when he took pictures of public events, and there were many in tel aviv, there is something quirky: A soccer team sitting for a portrait, has the players sitting in the first row with torn socks. I love it. Most of all I love the beach pictures - with people playing, swinging, singing, showing off...

And as usual on a Friday morning, people are everywhere - I met with Esther at Yehudith's cafe in Gan Ha'ir - the place was empty at 10 when I walked in, but by 10:30 there were so many golden agers having tea and gossiping that I could neither move nor hear myself think. Everywhere I went after that was the same - only with different age groups. And I've got 2 more places to go and people to meet.

March 20, 2004

The other afternoon as I was walking my dog I spotted a man running toward me at full speed. He had something in his hand that he held chest high and extended. He was dark and bearded and in the growing dusk he appeared to me to be in his early twenties. A closer look and i realized he was sprinting and measuring his speed with a stop watch. And that he was perhaps Arab.

Whatever the antithesis and antigonism between the races we are pretty much indistinguishable. I used to think that it was my foreignness that made it so hard for me to tell - but now I realize it is my foreignness that makes it so clear that there aren't substantive differences.

This morning the victim of a shooting last night was identified as an Arab student who'd been jogging. He had obviously been mistaken for an Jew, and shot twice. Then the terrorists escaped to the West Bank.

The fact that George Elias Houri was killed is terrifying in itself. That he was killed just because he was taken for a Jew is worse. But that his grandfather had also been killed in a similar kind of terrorist situation is beyond belief.

What matter to Khouri and his loved ones that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has apologized and declared Khouri a shahid? He looks to me like someone who might have helped to improve the world and now he's gone.

March 21, 2004

Some others who are trying to improve the world may be seen on the Yesh Gvul site.

I am not comfortable with Conscientious Objection as an alternative. But I am less comfortable about some of the things we do in this situation.

March 22, 2004

We killed Ahmed Yassin. I was just beginning to calm night after an action-filled night with all kinds of surprises and turned on the tv to watch with my coffee and i saw his picture on the screen. And then, if i didn't need digitalis already, Uzi Landau comes on to gloat.

Now I know that Ahmed Yassin has been a very agressive enemy of Israel, but he was also a highly respected leader and peacemaker among the Palestinians and it seems to me he should have been approached in another way first.

Yossi Beillin is predicting a wave of terror - I don't like the way he also takes a supercilious attitude but I suspect he is right.

Stabbings - just like in the old days before suicide bombings. And this is only the beginning.

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