Tel Aviv Diary March 15-19, 2020 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - March 15-19, 2020- Karen Alkalay-Gut

March 15-19, 2020

March 15, 2020

some wisdom from today so far: the only person whose life was saved by corona is Bibi

hangnails. that's what you get from washing hands all the time.

We're still not okay - have energy for only the bare necessities, but, as Ezi says, we're getting a bit better every day.

Maybe we'll even learn something from this. Maybe we'll even become better people. The interrelationship between the individual and society has certainly become more and more clear.

Ganz received 61 votes - the determining factor was Leiberman, but the fact that the Arab list voted as one for him was remarkably heartening. The fact that the Arab population is taking a part of the responsibility of government is wonderful. but how will the government be formed now? unity with Bibi in the lead? possibly - especially now that he's had the justice department close its doors and delay his trial until May. We decided to avoid immediate updates on the news tonight. Fauda is much more relaxing.

But we keep getting interrupted with strange phone calls from people going crazy. it's a worldwide madness, not just local, and that is even more disconcerting. we have to stay sane and focus on doing our part to control humanity. i'm pretty fortunate that my situation is under control. Even my cough is getting better - and Ezi and I can manage well together. We try to keep ourselves together and help relieve the stress of others.

And when this crazy thing is over, there will be a need to rebuild the culture of humanity, to find proportions. And that's what we'll have to do.

March 16, 2020

the video clips and jokes going around about corona are really funny - and heartening. But we all know the story about the Paritz who wanted to squeeze the jews to the breaking point and kept raising taxes. Each time he raised the rates he sent out a messenger to see how the Jews were reacting. "They're complaining," he would relate. Each time the responses were more and more bitter. But when he returned with the response, "They're joking," the Paritz knew he had gone too far. Because when the Jews joke, they're desperate.

so, imagine in generations to come, between Purim and Passover, there will be a holiday when you have to stay home for 3 weeks, eats cans of food and play board games and read instructions from toilet paper on the laws of social distance..


Let's talk politics. We have no government to decide what to do with the 55000 people fired and laid off in the past few days. These are often people who can't get through the months. and that isn't counting all those who make their living in the arts , or young people who work here and there as waiters. IT is also the time to get together a private relief fund.

Appropos the relief fund, today i received the records of my refugee parents in England during WWII. They survived the war because they were supported on a few occasions by the World Jewish Relief. Their suffering could only be read between the lines written in the different handwriting of numerous clerks every few weeks.

I'm sure they'll reach an agreement soon - the two Benjamins. in any case the people in charge of individual services seem to be doing their job - except the justice department of course.. so it looks like we'll be continuing our quarantine - even though we're allowed out. We'll probably go out for night walks by the beach, which can't be bad, but i don't think we'll be meeting friends and family any time soon. still i don't feel we're isolated from our loved ones.

March 17, 2020

Our official quarantine ended at 10 today. and the rain is scheduled to being at 12. so we thought we'd just pop out, pay the grocer, recycle the bottles, and take the garbage out. I had gloves and a mask but the grocer didn't blink, just welcomed us and wished us continued good health. the problem was there was a foreign worker in the tiny shop, and he had apparently not been updated on social distance, so he stood in the middle of the store and i kept moving around him - 2 meters distance - with my mask and my gloves. We left quickly. Anyway this outing was too much of an effort for me. i went home, unwrapped, sprayed, and all that, and went right to bed. The neighborhood whatsapp group was also at the shop, posted pictures of the new shipment of toilet paper, and the first response was 'come one - let's swarm!' , that's when i noticed that i was so concentrating on avoiding this guy - who spoke no language i could get a response to - that i didn't even notice the stores of water, rice, tp, etc. that had filled up the shop. so i wrote about quarantine:

Then I wrote a poem

We're all stocked up
Ready to stay home
For at least two weeks.
Although with all that rice,
We'll probably have no use
For toilet paper. It's a game-
We bet on what will remain
When the time is out - the pasta,
The cheese, the meat, or me.

and now for a nap.

I started today feeling fine - called a few old people to make sure they know someone cares, went out, came home and spent the rest of the day in bed. Suddenly I realized i was getting a lot of calls from ex-students, nieces, kids. It was fun until i realized that they were calling me because I"M an old person who has to be checked on. The joke's on me!

March 18, 2020

So we're still in solitary, and I'm not really suffering, Here's a poem I translated by our third president: Zalman Shazar

A Person's Good

It is good for a person to be sometime forlorn
Without a book, without a friend, not social or sole
Just one with one’s heart, with one’s heart alone.
Sometimes it is good for a person to be forlorn.

And it is good now and then to lose all one has,
Homeless, without a plot, neither needing or owing.
Just to listen to the heart and know great silence
And it is good occasionally to empty his fortune,

To listen to the heart and understand one’s life
And will know what there is and feel what is owed.

the hardest part of this translation is neutralizing the gender. The easiest part is the fact that I couldn't understand how Oren could isolate himself last year, and now i get it. I am not suffering at all from this quarantine. Even though more and more I suspect that the hysteria is politically induced to keep Bibi in charge and therefore out of jail.

In any case, if we can just tread water, we'll make it through - we'll probably spend more time and money than we ever have before.

my poor cleaner wants to come and clean - but ever since I said yes, I thought of the path she would be taking on her way here, and even though its too late at night to call her, I'll cancel and clean myself. But I'll make sure to pay her. Too many people have lost their incomes in the past two weeks.

I'm going to write to my friend and former fellow candidate Reuven Ladnianski to announce a group seder passover - that all the children will go to their balconies on Passover eve at 6:30 and sing the four questions. otherwise the holidays will be incredibly lonely.

March 19, 2020

In case you haven't seen this film about Avraham Sutzkever, "Black Honey"

it is very worth seeing.

Sutzkever - a tribute

Last winter I saw the film and had passed his grave many times, leaving a stone for remembrance, so i decided to quote a poem of his in Yiddish and with my translation.

What Will Endure


Who will endure? What will endure? The wind will endure.
The blindness endures of the blind that disappears.
A hint of the sea: a wisp of foam.
A tiny cloud entangled in a tree.

Who will endure? What will endure? A chance
That recreates its emergence,
A fiddle rose enduring for itself alone
Seven blades of grass from the lawn will understand.

More than all the stars from north to here,
that star will endure that falls in a pure tear
A drop of wine always remains in the jug.
Who will endure? God will endure, is that enough for you?

I'm a little embarrassed to relate this next shtik about myself. I didn't manage the situation well just now. Last week I ordered a whole bunch of stuff from the supermarket. it was supposed to come today at 12. all morning i was expectant of the order, but as usual, I forgot when it didn't arrive. At 2 the doorbell rang, and i was just getting dressed from washing my hair. so i raced to the door barefoot, put on my gloves and mask like oren told me, and opened the door. The kid delivering the bags got such a fright from seeing me, he just dropped the bags in the hall and fled. there were a lot. it made me feel bad - not only do they always bring the bags into the apartment but i usually manage to put a tip into their hand. and there were many more bags than usual. And i had to go out and shlep the bags from the freezing hall with my wet head and my bare feet because i feared my paranoid neighbor would get upset about strange germs near her door.

Big mistake.

But was i exaggerating? according to Oren not at all. the numbers of infected people are rising by hundreds daily. it is clear to me that the more they test the more they'll find, but the numbers are scary and it would be a good idea to stay in quarantine. interestingly enough we have had no deaths, which shows something about the greatness of our medical staff. And so we were happy to applaud the medical staff here from our balconies for 2 minutes.

the government, however, is a different matter. the chaos that is erupting is going to kill more people from stress than corona.

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