Tel Aviv Diary - March 24, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - March 24-28, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

March 24, 2010

Okay, so I've got the seder tasks in place. Oren's making the lamb and bringing the wine, Orit's making green salad and fruit salad, Dina's doing the fish, Edna's covering kneidlach and Dalia soup, I'll do potatoes, seder plate, etc. Got to brave the crowds and get presents for all the kids and I'm all set. how great is that.

What have I forgotten? Oh, my birthday.

Getting ready for a seder is really hard work - polishing the furniture, getting the stuff together for the cooking, getting Afikoman gifts... I can handle the food and the floors, but absolutely can't face the crowds. Everyone is on vacation or takes vacation, from every sector of this society, and everybody behaves badly. So I was very pleased to pass by the junk offered for sale on the lawn of the university, and to visit the little gift shop in the Diaspora museum. No one there knows about the chaos outside - it's a museum so - good or bad - it concerns itself with more permanent things. I got lots of gifts for lots of people, and at the same prices as anywhere else. And now I can rest.

March 25, 2010

Amazing how much energy I'm getting from the News. Yesterday I scrubbed the floor while Barak and Bibi exhibited the etiquette of diplomacy (How do you say "zubo" in English). In the morning the possibility of a coalition between Bibi and Tsipi eased my need to clean house and I let myself drift over to Ikea. I'd just read some article in the Tribune about "sharing" in various types of communities and some idea that in a Wallmart line in Missouri there would be a greater degree of sharing behavior then in a small community which hunts or farms for their existence. It was something I skimmed between cleaning up the feathers from the pillow I opened in a reckless moment and swallowing a skimpy breakfast, but it didn't enter my consciousness until I started maneuvering my way through the crowds. I kept imagining making a short like Guy Ben Ner in which the family is filmed as if they were living in one of the settings in Ikea, and Ezi and I had a parodic discussion about capitalism, using the line from Ben Ner "Someday, my son, all this will be yours." But reality occasionally breaks into imaginary situations, and in the middle of choosing wine glasses I got a call from Dynamica, a company that roped me into getting a superfluous insurance package on my cellphone a few years ago when I wasn't paying attention and I haven't been able to figure out how to contact ever since. The money comes out of my visa every month, but only last week did I get a phone number to cancel. The cancellation didn't take, and they were now calling to convince me that it was essential for me to continue. After a quarter of an hour of empathic denial, I passed the phone to my mild-mannered husband, who began on the same level, but gradually broke into full-fledged screaming. As we passed through housewares, he began to literally spell out "c-a-n-c-e-l" at maximum volume, and although I knew it was not proper public behavior I followed behind cheering him on. What about the others, you ask? How did they react to this invasion of their privacy? Conscious of the article I skimmed in the morning, conscious of Munro Leaf's wonderful book "How to Behave and Why," I watched the shoppers passing by. Very few paid any attention. Of the few Hebrew speakers, the men smiled and made sympathetic comments. One man even said, "Tell them off for all of us."

March 26, 2010

Psychologically I suspect this is the hardest time we've ever had in this country. Between parties, I scrub the floor. Perhaps the seder will liberate us from the knots in which we've tied outselves.

March 27, 2010

With the rockets falling on Sderot all week, with the deaths on the border, with the politics at an all-time low for me, I suddenly can't remember a seder in Israel without some danger. I'm sure it will come back to me - since seders are always a great place to remember the self in relation to society, and are the basis for a reintegration, an ordering of life. But right now I can only think of a recurring dream in my childhood in which Hitler breaks into our house on Remington Street on the night of the seder and murders us all. Of course I hide under the table, but eventually he finds me.

Having said that, today was full of profound personal relations - revelations and connections enough to fill a lifetime. Babies, romantic loves, a hospice - All was experienced with equanimity. But when I came home, and found that "Waltz With Bashir" was on tv and there was only a half hour left, I sat down immediately. I came in at the point in the film where the reality of Sabrah and Shattilah was becoming clear, and I anticipated the move from animation to reality with bated breath. And when the old woman appeared at the end, indicating the absolute destruction around her and screaming in Arabic, "film this, film this, film this" I sobbed. It was not a displacement or a sublimation of the emotions I had experienced: The more intense my own life becomes, the more I feel for every single life. And I'm glad of it.

March 28, 2010

You can never buy enough food for the holiday. No matter how much you say you should be giving it away to the needy, you wind up overbuying and overcooking and overeating and then wasting it. Okay 'you'='I'. So we went through the menu for the seder and realized that some things may be missing. Where can you make the best deal on food in Ramat Aviv? In what is somehow called the university store. It used to be the exclusive store for students and faculty but now offers only a slight discount. The supermarket store is Arab-managed and run but is getting ready for Passover with the same alacrity as everyone else. The only difference is is that they want to be ready for the moment it is allowed. The old ladies from the nearby rest home and the student in the building determine the mood. The old women are pretty helpless (what's in this jar? - broiled eggplants - do they really put the eggplants on the fire, the way they're supposed to?)

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