Tel Aviv Diary March 2, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from March 7, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

March 7, 2005

Let me see: the clerk in the bank advising me how to preserve my little pittance for retirement is actually connected to money launderers who are connected to the owner of Ma'ariv who is connected to the Prime Minister of this country. And you think I have no connections!

Seriously folks, I can't think of bigger news than the bank scandals and the implications for the country.

But then who am I kidding. The big thefts occur in small quantities every day - strange little fines for every minor transaction, high interests paid on overdraft, teeny dividends for savings, etc. etc. It's always the day-to-day things that reflect the larger picture.

Rachel keeps asking me why i am not writing about my life, what i've been doing. Patience, Rachel, I'll get back to it.

Lisa says I have to tell you the story I told my class the other day in preparation for a visit from Corrie Feiner, the performance poet. It was about Lenny Bruce, performing in some small town in Texas. In the middle of the evening when none of the shtiks he was trying was working, he stopped the gig with "What's the matter? Haven't any of you ever seen a Jew before?" Silence. Then a voice in the back calls out, "A live one?"

(I don't have documentation for this, but someone I knew once swore he knew someone who was there.)

Anyway the whole problem of 'live' poets came up - Poetry is always better out loud, and often so moving your skin crawls, but for some reason few people I know have ever heard a poet reading. And in Israel it seems to me to be harder to find than elsewhere.

Which reminds me - I promised a page about tourism in Israel, and asked you people to send me your favorite places to visit, but I've only got 2 entries. Get moving.

So in the meantime here's a picture Amal took of the coffee machine in Taibe.

I would have liked to add some Dead Sea and Naot Midbar pictures but my main computer is once again being repaired.

March 8, 2005

yes. i'm definitely in a situation where remembering good times is helpful. This is from the summer in Tel Aviv.

It says "life is beautiful." Of course Ezi took it. It's the crumbling walls and the somewhat ironic and straight sentiment that attracted me. We took it when we went to see the use of my poems on the walls of Comme-il-faut next door. This is one of my favorite pictures of this 'installation:'

Look once

It is decoration

A pattern

To call attention

To the details

Of life

Look again

There is wisdom


Even the details

Of clothes

On a different note, this is where I work: Tel Aviv University. And as you can see from the article, we're in the process of deconstruction. It happens to be a pretty amazing place, not because but despite the administration, and I've never encountered more intelligent and creative people anywhere. This is particularly true of the student body, which is suffering most by these cuts and changes. Now if the university had been (or could become) wiser at shnorring, it could still be a great environment for these find minds. But we don't even have a functioning ALUMNI association, much less a strong organization of supporters. Once this changes, and the government stops punishing us for not giving Limor Livnat her B.A. degree, we should be fine.

March 9, 2005

Translation, Tschernichovsky used to say (stealing it from Tolstoy?) is like a woman. If it is beautiful it is not faithful and if it is faithful it is not beautiful. So even a simple phrase like "Yefe Nefesh" isn't easy. Rena offered some suggestions like political fineschmeker (I love that expression)? Bleeding-heart liberal? Candy-ass? Sensitive soul?

Maayan recommended 'bleeding heart' Like in Pink Floyd's "the trial" ("the bleeding hearts and artists...")and Linda wrote: NewWorld HEBREW DICTIONARY by Hayim Baltsan, which lists its Hebrew in transliteration rather than the usual, and found this definition:

"yefeh/-at nefesh [:] adj & nmf 1. high-minded; gentle; 2. sarcastic reference to a disgruntled (leftist) intellectual" So beautiful a soul it hurts at watching the right wing slash community to shreds--can you tell I'm also" high-minded"?

Linda: Here, the operative sneer word is "liberal" so now we duck our heads and say we're "progressives" --such casuistry!

Now if you multiply 'yefe nefesh' by the dictionary, you begin to understand the difficulty of translating hebrew to english, and the beginning of translating the hebrew experience to american, or english or irish, or australian or new zealandi, or south african.

I'm feeling very professional today as a translator.

I admit it. Sometimes I have great times in Tel Aviv and I don't tell you about it. Like last night at "Chez Rony" on Herzl Street, this petite restaurante that had the food, atmosphere, and company of another world. If Herzl could only have eaten there, he would have stopped dreaming of a promised land...

Sometimes when I write about Tel Aviv I am thinking about old friends like Rena who for one reason or another had to leave and I want to update them about the small things. Like tonight we went to the postoffice and in front of the building there was a machine that looked like a double size orgasmatron. And we pressed the screen and the machine said Shalom, please put your package notice in front of the laser. And we did. And the door opened - And there it was. And the machine said, please take your package. Doaromat. Cool. In the middle of the night I got some soap from China in recognition of my participation in a conference on poetry.

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