Tel Aviv Diary March 31 - April 4, 2007- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - March 31, 2007 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Shabbat Gadol.

And i am totally without the energy that is supposed to be concentrated today. We'll have to have our lunch out.

(later that day)

Not only did we do the whole shabbat lunch shtik but after some family business in Bat Yam we found ourselves at George Hinawe's wine store in Yaffo, where the passover shoppers seemed incredibly knowledgable and enthusiastic. We chose local wine from the Ella vinyard, and a particularly enticing chateau-neuf-du-pape. Only on the way home did i think of the irony of buying chametz French wine for the seder from a Christian Arab.

In the evening I got mesmerized by Olmert's tv interview. He came across as so smart, so good, and so dedicated I found myself totally on over.

April 1, 2007

It is clear that there is a holiday in the air. More people in cafes, more phone calls, everybody angling for parking places in shopping centers. We have unprecedented poverty, but since the rich get richer, the AVERAGE remains the same. Somehow too we are managing to get used to the discrepancy.

Isn't it appropriate that on April Fools' Day we'd accuse our president of rape? I do hope this slimy man and this slimy chapter in our history gets forgotten. I will certainly want to set a place at the table for "Aleph," the girl who started the whole thing and broke this case open.

April 2, 2007

Here's a poem for the seder - wrote it 20 years ago. It was in a book called Ignorant Armies


My brother leads the seder, and we
become as little children
asking, reciting, doing our shtik
in turn around the room.

I stretch out my neck, turning a bit
from the table, wishing even the liver,
matzo balls, all the afikoman
eaten, digested, the Israelites freed

As a child
I'd refuse to read
except for the chant of the goat song.

Not the wicked son
who asks what does all this
to you

But the fifth one
who must get up from table
walk out the door
when Eliyahu comes in,
just for a breath
of fresh air

Go on without me
but consider me there

April 2, 2007

Here's the simplest and most versatile recipe I have for passover. Cream puffs: boil 1 cup of water with 1/3 cup butter or oil. When it is really boiling, add 1 cup of matzo flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it becomes a boil. Remove from heat and add 4 eggs, one at a time. Spoon out onto baking paper, bake in hot oven (about 450 farenheit) 20 minutes and then another 45 minutes in a medium-cool over (about 325 f). When they're cook you can stuff them with whipped cream, or pudding, or chopped liver or whatever you've got. Really.

Seder at 6. Leave by 5 (traffic). Stuff food into coolers or heaters by 4:45. Start dressing by 4. Oh no, I'm already late.

(post - seder) There is a difference between following an imperative when you realize its necessity and inevitability. When it appears arbitrary it is tedious. So for my neighbor, who was still reading every word of the Hagaddah when I was getting into my pajamas, the joy of following the prescribed order is even in the voice I can hear through the wall. For me, who repeatedly finds it amusing that we talk so much about freedom as we chant that the Lord makes all the decisions, I remain alone with my puzzled amusement.

For me freedom is being able to make choices that take you in directions you want to go, but I can't even consider desiring freedom when there are those about who have no freedom to make choices.

April 3, 2008

Jumping back for a moment to the seder poem - there is a great deal of discussion going on now about the wicked son at the seder at - among other places - Jbooks. See: JBooks

The customs of the seder (not the rules) are inclusive, make room for everyone, and open the door to all. Without the customs, the rules of the seder tend to be excluding, rigid. So a seder is only as good as the warmth and humanity of the individuals sitting around the table. I have been in seders where the children are encouraged to make up plays and skits about the contents of the seder, or consider those not mentioned in the seder when we open the door for Elijah (including the other). Seders in which custom was discussed and expanded upon, and all were encouraged to bring in something of their own. On the other hand I have participated in seders in which the prayers were read and nothing else. But for me, the only thing that matters is the moral quality and empathy of the human beings around the table, and the rules can be part of the means of transferring this communication.

One of the best 'learning' experiences I had as a child was with an old rabbi in Rochester with whom I studied for a few years after school until his death when I was 11. I remember him best because he allowed me to startle him all the time with questions he had never heard before. He had never taught a girl before, certainly not privately, and never had questions coming at him from that angle - what was the role of Noach's Wife in the flood? What if there is no God? How does Darwin fit in? And he answered with such patience and empathy - that all of his lessons carried meaning for me. I have not yet been to a seder where everything stops for the questions of a child, even though that is the center of the seder.

But I rant.

I haven't written yet about the conference on Jewish writing Kisufim because the schedule hadn't been sent me, and I didn't know for sure which poems of mine would be read. But now the website, I've discovered, has been up for a while, and my role was long ago determined, even if I didn't know it....

There will also be a festival in Maghrar this year at the end of the month. I can't make it to the opening but I'll participate somehow.

April 4, 2007

Tel Aviv was empty yesterday - so was the rest of the country I'm told. But I knew they didn't all go abroad because there was no parking to be found anywhere last night.

And today they all showed up - on the road at the parks in the malls.

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