Tel Aviv Diary - May 13-17, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - May 18, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

May 18, 2010

I lied. I have internet at Arazim hotel in Metula.

The parade came through the town this afternoon. I heard it but couldn't move from my bed. Ezi watched from the balcony, and I wished I could have been there to hear the girls on the tractors singing, "Baskets on our shoulders, our heads crowned with wreathes./ From all the land we have come, bringing the first fruits./ From Metula to Eilat, from the valley to the Galilee...."

May 19, 2010

Metula is an amazing mix. Here's three examples:

Along with all the Shvuot-decorated tractors, there comes a little wagon with Vietnamese workers coming home from the field.

I look out of Ricky's window and see the Hizaballah community over the hill has grown greatly since last year.

When I asked an Arab poet to read to me in Arabic, the security guard came closer to listen, and there was great admiration in his manner. Where are you from, he asks her, and she tells him of a Muslim village. And you, she asks. Lebanon, he answers. Tzadal. Her body turns slightly away.

The poetry festival, incidentally, is full of surprises. The Tractor's Revenge, an amazing rock group, performed the medieval poems of Ibn Ezra last night, leaving me breathless. Pictures perhaps tomorrow.

May 20, 2010


May 21, 2010

Of all the political subjects that overwhelm our senses, the difficulty of remaining a humane human being in an inhumane society, the constant state of anxiety in which we live at the present time, etc, what overcomes my senses on this Friday morning is the smell of my neighbor's cooking. We usually manage to close our windows in advance of what we call the 'soup attack' but this morning I am still recovering from intensive days at the festival and classes and a poetry reading for arc 21. Friday morning is also usually for shopping, cleaning, and various chores but i will stay home this morning and smell the soup.

i lied - Friday morning is much too important to waste recovering. There is a Shabbat ahead, and the usual innumerable preparations.

May 22, 2010

My mind is still not quite working from the cold I keep catching, but the haze is clearing slowly, and there are so many things I've been wanting to write about i dont know where to begin.

Let's start with the subject of who comes through and who doesn't. Noam Chomsky got turned away by the Israelis from giving a lecture at Beir Zeit University this week. I'm pretty sure it was a blunder and not policy because he's been there before, he isn't that important, and he's spoken here in the past. But it nevertheless reflects a kind of paranoia that we're feeling, a fear that everyone outside it dangerous. So when Elvis Costello cancelled his concert here, we said good riddance. Anyone who doesn't want to come here doesn't deserve us. Of course we don't have any politicians who can explain to us or for us at the moment, so we just keep going on getting more confused and defensive.

In Metula I thought alot about borders. Ricky lives in the last house, where the 'good fence' was, and when the borders closed she and her neighbor went to beg the soldiers to let in the endangered Christians. Now almost three quarters have returned to Lebanon, even though it meant jail, and only one quarter - about 2000 - remain. I met a few of them, but none struck me like the ticket taker at the Nikmat Hatraktor concert on Tuesday evening. It was the eve of Shvuot, where we read the chapter about the convert Ruth, and as I sat with a young Arab poet, listening to her read, I saw his eye light up. Although there were only three of us at the table - Ezi, me, and Nariman - and no one else was listening, he began to draw closer, as if mesmerized by her poetic beauty. Finally he was standing behind her, reading the text as she read, and I asked him if it was not lovely. He nodded and she turned to him, gratefully. You understand? Yes. Where are you from? Lebanon. She turned away. She didn't know how to continue. They shared a language and a love, but it was clear they were coming from opposing background, and it was too complicated to work out.

When I got married in Cyprus, thirty years ago, there was another couple waiting in City Hall with us, from Lebanon. He was Muslim and she was Christian and they couldn't marry in their land. Ezi had bought a little pocket calculator in Duty Free and while we were waiting for them to end the ceremony he played Mendelson's Wedding March for them, but we too never really talked.

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