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

Tel Aviv Diary - from March 8, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

March 8, 2004

Today is international womens' day and we are still recovering from the news of two women killed by their husbands this weekend. Mostly the news programs emphasized the connection between the murders and the economic situation, unemployment, immigration, etc. Sometimes they also talk about the fact that the police is too overwhelmed with terror to deal with domestic situations. I haven't heard any one make the connection that our politics teaches us how to behave, but it is a major factor nevertheless.

Where do I get my crazy ideas? During the Gulf War, over 13 years ago, I wrote about the strange statistics in Israel that impotency had increased. Yes, we all agreed, the sense of powerlessness among men in that passive situation influenced their sex lives as well.

But I'm not talking about sex, I am talking about behavior. In societies where problems are solved in their early stages, with community involvement and a sense of mutuality and responsibility, violence is less likely to be thought of as an alternative.

Sometimes I think about this when I read that old standbye "My Last Duchess," about how hard it is to have a relationship with someone when you're used to absolute power.

But hey all I know about this is from personal experience - not research or theory.

March 9, 2004

Remember last month when I noted a strange detail, that Limor Livnat complained that the Mafia had already invaded the Knesset and Inbal Gavrieli noted that she had been sexually harrassed?

Both complaints vanished and were never elaborated upon. But I have continued to feel strange about the two of them - and today, when it was decalred that Inbal Gavrieli's father had been the target of the bomb under Azrielli Center, the worlds began to collide. An Underworld complaint, an alternative colorful compaint the same day, and then silence. A bomb. Now a denial. Surely someone is writing the script for a Schwartzenegger comeback here (Sandra Bullock as Limor Livnat?) And surely all this is connected somehow to my whinings about power as a way of life...

But I write as if the whole country is about power. And quite the contrary - As I was taking care of some business in a cafe today, i was watching the men. Most of them happened to be between the ages of 20-35, and as I watched them, with their long hair, their ear rings, sandals, and I came to the conclusion. Almost all the young men I know i wish i knew when i was young - they are warm and sympathetic friends, devoted and egalitarian partners, and gentle and concerned parents. The whole image of the Israeli male as macho doesn't fit with the boys i know. It does fit with the guys of my generation, however.

Even though I always figure a degeneration of Israeli character from the time of the occupation, and most of the research i have read - in sociology, in the arts, etc. agree with that, when i think of the Israeli men I knew in 1965, and the kind of behavior they exhibited to me and other women, I suspect a contradiction.

March 10, 2004

I just came back from an interview at the dog kennel. We are going away next month and will leave the dog with a lady who has a garden apartment in Tel Aviv. When I came to her small room flat there was one dog tied up in the living room. She released her, and a few minutes later open the bedroom door so 2 more dogs could come bounding out, leaving the pincher in the bedroom. This was so Shusha could get used to them slowly. The cats (at least 8) were mostly outside, although there were quite a few within as well.

I have often noted that if in Tel Aviv the dogs and cats can get along, so can the rest of us, and I was reminded of this in the small flat filled with playful animals. In part because this also seems to be the philosophy of so many people i know in this city. When I was being schooled on how I should be feeding my dog at selected times, for example, I was informed that this practice of my controlling the food would also reinforce the owner-pet relationship. I started to protest - and she understood immediately - that of course dogs and cats should be free, untamed, but with minimal rules that are good for them.

Who was being interviewed? All three of us. Maybe the resident animals as well. Anyway it was great fun sitting in a chair with 2 dogs on either side of me and another one on the table licking my face.

No wonder Shusha came home and passed out from the excitement.

(part of the reason for the previous description was to entertain Ezi who - being far from home - will undoubtedly check in one lonely night to see what I'm up to that I don't mention on the phone.

March 11, 2004

With the terrible tragedy in Madrid it doesn't seem right to talk about local color issues. Even the Egyptian mediation that might be so significant on a normal day seems helpless in the face of all these victims, all this senseless loss. I watch an interview of Odded Grannot with President Mubarak and he is talking about peace and the end of senseless killings, and it seems irrelevant.

The world seems more dangerous suddenly than our little plot of land. Even this morning as I was drifting in and out of public places, imagining in tiny flashes a terrorist attack here and there, I was worrying about Ezi up in the air and vulnerable to attack. I guess everyone in the world is like that now. We'd prefer to have everyone we love in our kitchen.

But tonight Oren asked me questions about my parents, about how they looked haunted in all the photographs, and as I began telling him about their pasts, about their losses, the fears and blows they endured, I remembered that their world was much more frightening than today's world.

Although today was filled with horrors, I am almost sure that it marks a turning point for Europe and their tolerance for terror, that Europe will be much more organized and focussed in their fight against terror at last..

March 12, 2004

Natan Yonatan died this morning. Of all the poets in Israel he was most beloved of the people - his poems put to music sung all the time on the radio - and we will miss him terribly. Only last month we shared the stage at an evening for Etamar Yaoz Kest and he spoke of the Russian poets that had influenced him and his generation.

Of course his death is no surprise - his son Ziv has been with him for the past month in the hospital and we knew it was a matter of time. But the loss is nevertheless great. An article about him is in today's Haaretz but it misnames his son, Ziv.

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