Tel Aviv Diary March 23, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from March 23, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

March 23, 2004

So there were a few stabbings yesterday, just like in the old days, but the big revenge awaits us. And I'm sure Arafat is just as scared as I am.

So in my perverse little way I'm going to spend the day in meetings in Cafes.

And if I survive this week, I want you all to know that next week is my birthday.

REPORT FROM THE FRONT: Yes, I spent the day on the streets, mostly at Nona. And, yes, I was one of the few.

It was wonderful.

Even the homeless stayed home.

Okay it was awful, because it meant that everyone here is in terror of what Rantisi is going to do to us. Me, I'm more worried about what local Muslims might be up to. After all, whatever mass murders Yassin was responsible for, he was also a spiritual leader. And the Jews of Israel don't seem to recognize the significance of religion to our neighbors.

On a different note, Raquel Chalfi has a new book - a series of poems charting the illness and death of her father. It is a remarkable recording of extended suffering and the obsessive poetic need to record and somehow order, control this pain. Even the language goes mad when the situation does, reinventing itself, as unrelated words melt together in the heat of sorrow, and repeat themselves like a blinding headache in a hospital waiting room. Portrait of Father and Daughter is a book of depth and dignity, and one that will contribute greatly to the canon of hebrew literature.

yes i met with her today - yes she is a friend - and i was not going to write about her because of my personal bias, but it haunted me so that i couldn't sleep, and i had to get up to write these words.

March 24, 2004

Still bracing for the big blow - what comes instead is a teenager wearing a suicide belt who didn't quite realize he'd be blowing up. what he understood was the 72 virgins and 100 shekel. He was sent by the same guys who sent the little boy 3 days ago.

March 25, 2004

My computer got hijacked last night (by Ezi) and I couldn't continue my ramblings on the women poets of Tel Aviv. But that situation is actually part of the general situation - most women poets in Tel Aviv perceive themselves as somewhat pressed by circumstances, and although they live complex lives don't always see these lives as central to society. The love stories, the experience of poverty, of taking care of parents, of illness, of transcendent religious experiences, get written, but the poets themselves are diffident, sometimes almost apologetic - how can I write about my mother's growing old in Tel Aviv when the major issues are political?

The Palestinians seem to have solved this dilemma - write directly about politics. Even Rantisi is a poet.

This kid with the suicide belt was on the front page of Yidiot today - and everywhere I turned I saw his face - a little slow, a little backward, a little stunned. I thought God was supposed to watch out for children like him. When I was a teenager I tutored slow children just like him - my mother did too. She always said it was a mitzvah to help then function for themselves, and she was always incredibly successful with kids just like him. When I saw him I remembered suddenly one boy, named David, my mother trained for his Bar Mitzvah. Than same face, the same initial expression - but my mother transformed him to a very proud and warm and giving member of the community.

Tonight on channel 11 there was a discussion of the lives of Palestinian children - the Arab woman educator (I missed her name) claimed that they have no childhood and it is not all that surprising that 2 of them were influenced to become shahids.

Of course these children did not quite realize what they were up to - and I am sure the people of Palestine would agree that whoever set these boys up are simply evil, have forgotten their values in their hatred.

On channel 10, Dr. Shafik Massalcha who studied the dreams of Palestinain children explained that his research has found that more than 78% of the dreams were involved with politics! This shows what these children will grow up thinking about as well.

Hanan Ashrawi, who seems to have been quiet of late, was one of the signers of a statement published in the Palestinian papers today asking for a cessation of violence.

On another note, Nona and the other cafes in Tel Aviv seem to have filled up again.

March 26, 2004

CNN is voting on the justification of killing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and I have been getting letters from both sides urging me to vote: here But I am very pained by the question. Even though the last time I really listened to him he was explaining the justification of sending women suicide bombers to Israel, and I felt he was a dangerous 'role model' not offering positive alternatives to youth, and his death was necessary, I think the decision to kill him should be mourned. The simplicity of the choice offered here on CNN does not add to understanding in the area.

Of course the media does not always simplify - sometimes they complicate. For example, Rena wrote me "A big picture of that boy is in today's Globe - kneeling in his underwear with numerous legs of soldiers and their guns. Not that he isn't a victim, but that's a slight misrepresentation because he is their victim." I've heard that the Palestinians have been saying that Israel framed the two boys. But -sorry - that's taking a simple situation and twisting it so that it comes out to your liking - so you can keep your vision simple.

Another review of "Thin Lips." Too bad you can't read Hebrew - it's a pretty amazing piece. In Muzica. This is Avishai Mattya. What I liked most was his comment on "frontal nudity without the body."

Kurt Gerron will be in NY for my birthday! The film “Karousell” by Ilona Ziok/Berlin (about Kurt Gerron) is being shown on March 29, 2004 in New York City at The Center For Jewish History, 15 W 16th street, 7 p.m.


Lynne Winters (Lynne Winters)


All films are $8; $4 for seniors and students .

March 28, 2004

Just when I thought I'd gotten through the day without letting some of the usual horrors (Palestinian child killed is crossfire, terrorist threat tonight, etc. ) a close friend admitted that she has been terrified all week by Hamas repurcussions. And I know her terror is totally justified.

Whatever happens, it can't be good. Look - if Sharon is indicted in the Greek Island bribery case, we'll have Bibi to take up the slack.

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