Tel Aviv Diary March 28- April 1, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - March 28, 2008

Because we turned the clock forward an hour I figured if I went to Kitan first thing in the morning I would beat the Shabbas crowd. I was wrong. Friday shoppers have it down to a science. The husbands drop their wives off at the entrance, and go to park somewhere where they can be available by cellphone. Because it is before passover, the wives beeline in to the tablecloths, the silverware, the dishes, the cookware. I needed breathable sheets for night sweats and stuff like that, but it wasn't in the holiday spirit so I just loaded up and took off. That made it possible for me to beat the checkout lines.

My DELL XLS crashed again. Third time. That means a week at the shop and two long trips to Ramat Gan. I am using my backup - the old dependable ibm. But it isn't at all in good shape, and although i backed it up on some portable hard disk i'd be pretty upset if i didn't have far worse things to think about.

March 29,2008

For my birthday breakfast I chose Nona, early in the morning before the trendy people wake up. It is a bit dusty and from the top of the hill you can see a brown Tel Aviv. Nevertheless by the time we get to the sidewalk cafe on Ivn Gvirol, the cafe is full. Some couples, some old ladies with the aides, some guys discussing their week, a guy with a headset using the internet. Some friends join us for a while and then there is a change of guard. The young and beautiful crowd start coming in. Someone leans over and whispers to me: There's something wrong with your diary a few days back. So I come home and look it up - despite my rule of no peeking. To my horror he's right. Two days are not visible. So here they are again:

I've been meaning to write about Shlomo Zand's book. You can read about it in this link. But history doesn't really appeal to me. I don't care which narrative we construct about the past as long as it allows a viable future. And one of the narratives I like most - from Paul Wexler's research and others, including Shlomo Zand, is the fact that all Jews were never exiled from this land, that only the troublemakers were sent to Babylon, and that the Jews who remained behind converted to Islam when it came about. This of course makes the Palestinians our cousins. And, as I have suggested, all we have to do is declare them all Jewish and our problems are over. I know it's just a story but just as believable as some of the others.

March 25, 2008

Now that the heat wave is breaking up, we may be able to go out somewhere beyond those dusty window blinds. It happens every year around Passover, this hot, dusty wind that goes on for days - usually just after the major spring cleaning. This year it is early - or well our calendar is late. I mean of course that we add on another month to catch up. For example, I was born just after the night of the second seder. My mother had just finished washing the dishes and they were getting ready for bed when her water broke. My father tired, and fearful of the buzzbombs, recommended that they wait until morning, but she was insistent. So they made their way to Hackney hospital and got there just as the bombs started falling. From what I gathered, I may have managed to be born in the hospital, but we were moved seconds later for our safety to the nearby shelters. Anyway, that was in March 29 then. This year my birthday is in 4 days but we have 3 weeks until Passover.

March 26,2008

Dont forget that Panic is playing in Tmunah tonight.

The hot brown desert wind has passed, leaving us with what looks like pleasant spring weather. I am looking out the window at a pigeon who is looking at me, with great sadness. When I saw her roosting in my avocado plant, I got scared of the lice. So i chased her away and then moved the avocado plant downstairs just below the window, so she could find the two eggs she left behind. But she couldn't figure it out, perched in the near by pine tree and looked and cooed. So we elevated the tree to a half way point on a shelf. But she still didn't catch on, and by now the eggs are probably ruined. I'm still conscious-struck.

For someone who is going to be spending some time in Ichilov from today, But as we say in yiddish, " "lomir reden fun freilecher zachen." "Let's talk about happier things." This comes after a long conversation between Tevye about the tragedies in their lives and their families, about Hodel's marriage outside the faith and her moving to Siberia, "Let's talk about happier matters,.. what do you think of the cholera in Odessa?" (I always thought it was Kiev, but the i remembered it wrong. And remember, Sholom Aleichem's mother died of cholera.)

March 27, 2008

Tonight we're turning out the lights in Tel Aviv for an hour. Not the electrical equipment, because after all from 8-9 is tv news, and not Ichilov where we will be, but the house lights. A nice gesture. There are others - like the movement to use fewer plastic bags, to recycle plastic bottles, newspaper (of which we use enormous quantities). But i'd really be happy with more positive gestures - more planting of indigenous vegetation, recycling of dog shit, less packaging.

But I'm not only a non expert in these things - i can't even figure out what the signs are that everyone holds their heads about - like the melting of icebergs. I thought Archimedes had the rule about displacement of water that would mean that the level would remain the same....


March 30, 2008

There are thousands of people wandering the halls of the hospital who don't know where they are going, or looking for an office, or don't know what they are supposed to be doing. In the past few weeks I have become a relative expert, but still don't know important facts about the place that might be a matter of life and death. Any number of times I was asked - in Russian, in Arabic, in English, in Hebrew - if i know something, usually something i know. Any number of times I wished there was someone to ask, someone to find out for me, someone to show me.

We have compulsory military service in this country, but there are often a lot of people who do not suit the military, for physical or political reasons. Wouldn't it be nice if these people helped out in the hospital? An old man tottering around looking for his ward, a weak young girl after chemo, a family waiting for their loved one to come out of surgery, unable to read the hebrew notices on the computer screens in the waiting room....

I particularly see the value in this for Arab teenagers, who do not serve in the army. The number of Arab families who come to accompany their sick relatives is very high. They usually come from out of town, have no place to stay, and wind up sleeping in the halls. They don't understand a great deal of what is being said to them, or what is written on the walls (including the few and far between directions) and they are lost. If even the native born Tel Avivian feels intimidated by this institution, why shouldn't people from other places? Yesterday I was in an elevator when a woman, getting in, received some last minute instructions from a doctor about where to go, what papers to fill out where and what to do. The door closed and she said to the elevator, " didn't understand a word he said. What floor do i get off?".

March 31, 2008

What can

Another day at Ichilov. But the better I know the hospital the more I respect it - the level of medical treatment remains amazing. A few years ago I accompanied my aunt to her treatment at Sloan Kettering, and I was overwhelmed by the luxury of it, the gadgets, the comfort, the attention. Ichilov is simple, pared down, and the sheets are a bit faded, but wow what professionalism. I worked as a volunteer (candy striper) years and years ago. And although I probably ate more candy than I distributed among the patients, I also got to help nurses here and there. So the work of the nurses gets special attention from me. And in hematology they are multitasker people who are constantly on the alert, and always good-humored.

But enough about hospitals. Even though that is all I've been experiencing lately, I plan from tomorrow to erase that word for 3 weeks from these pages.

After all, it is time to start getting passover together.

April 1, 2008

Uganda declared today that it is willing to give up its state to create a homeland for the jews. Ha ha april fool.

seriously folks. I'm about to eat my favorite pizza in the world - pappa's special. Here are some reviews: Pappa's Pizza 13 Hillel Hazaken Street, Tel Aviv.

I ordered from 03-5107373.

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