Tel Aviv Diary - May 4-8 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - April 28-May 2, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

May 4-8, 2009

May 4, 2009

Early in the morning, when I left home, the hot, dusty wind gave me a shock. My eyes were smarting, and my car was covered. My neighbor had just put her wipers on, and the dust had turned to mud, so i wiped off the car before I washed the windows. By the time I left work, the wind had died down, and you could see the skyline, but the car was covered again. Just a little reminder from the desert.

You know all that stuff comes from Tunisia, Libya and other Arab countries. We're lucky they don't ask for the sand back.

May 5, 2009

My mother used to say in Polish that God wore out his shoes looking for how to fit together that couple. Well I wore out my shoes today looking for an appropriate kindergarten for my granddaughter.

This is not my first foray into the wonderful world of toddler-education: I've been doing this for months. Yesterday, for example, I knocked at the gate of a pre=school just down the street, and had a little conversation with the sweet teacher, which I tried to keep short because in the background were so many screams and roars that I could barely hear here. That was actually the only school where the children didn't seem to be altogether happy. The others were only - well - strange. Take the religious school I went back to see today. In one room a hatted woman in a long dress was diapering one of four babies in line while a chorus of prayers was loudly playing on the stereo. They turned off the music after I came through for the first time, but the shock of it stayed with me until I visited the next nursery. It wasn't religious but the children learn bible stories and they discuss the holidays and have lots of enrichment games and extra music and dance lessons. It would have been perfect except for the narrow stairs down to the windowless one-room basement where the classroom, dining room and bedroom are based. This can't be, i thought, remembering that these schools cost three times as much as the university tuition. I'm going to quit the university and open up a nursery in my living room. Oh wait, I forgot, my aching feet wouldn't be able to take an eight-hour standing position. I'll have to stay where I am.

May 5, 2009

Because I am on the board of the friends of the Daniel Amichai Rowing Association and because there was an accident the other day in which a girl overturned in her rowboat and couldn't free herself, and she is hospitalized, I went down to the club to see what was up. It turned out they didn't know more about the incident than what was in the news, because she wasn't related to the Daniel Amichai Center, but there was another fact I was concerned about. People in the shore stood and watched her struggling and were afraid to get into the water because they'd heard about the problem of the bacteria in the Yarkon, and I admit that I too might have been influenced by that thought before I jumped into the water. It turns out that the water in the river is no worse than the water in the sea. It's not pleasant but not dangerous.

May 6, 2009

Why are we surprised that Bibi cut all the remnants of socialism out of the budget today? Why are we surprised that not only education but social welfare, culture, medicine, etc. are losing almost all funding? What could have been expected from this government? And why are we surprised the rich will continue to get richer? I may not know much about politics and have a memory like a sieve but even i remember the last time Bibi had his hand in my pocket. Funny how most of the other countries in the world are working through these economic hard times by fostering education and employment.

It just occurred to me today that I have been working for 49 years. Five more years if you count babysitting. But when I was fifteen I started getting a paycheck and with the exception of a few years here and there have loved every minute of it. It may be personality and economic need in part(I've got a brother, a cousin, and two kids who are as compulsive as me), but it is also part of my education - there is something noble about employment whether it is remunerative or not, something great about being productive and giving something of yourself to others. This was one of the things that first drew me to Israel way back in '65 - people seemed proud of their work. (I will never read this previous paragraph in my life - i'd die of a kitsch-related illness).

A major discovery today - I was having lunch with Carol at the cafe in the Diaspora Museum, sitting on the balcony and watching the sea, when we began to notice sparrows repeatedly flying almost into the glass door of the cafeteria and then up underneath the upper frame. Upon closer inspection, we found that there were little breaks in the concrete and the birds were building nests there. This may not seem like much to you, but the idea of local birds finding a home in the Diaspora Museum struck me as extremely significant.

May 7, 2009

We spent the day tracing the footsteps of Janusz Korczak that famous Polish educator whose convictions about the democratization of children led him through his orphanage to the kibbutz movement and this country, and then back to Poland, only to end his life with his orphans in Treblinka. The most interesting part of this long and arduous trip were the lectures of Muki Tsur and Tanya and their research. I don't know whether most of what they had to say can't be found on the web, but being in the places where Korczak visited and hearing the stories from the kibbutz members who remember his visits made me think about how much this country was once influenced by him. Children taking care of themselves. More on this later.

May 9, 2009

The trip about Korczak brought to mind the guy who saved Jasmin Feingold as she was drowning the the dirty Yarkon River (You can read more in Ha'aretz. Avi Toibin didn't hesitate to jump in and save her, and I'm sure that if he were asked he'd say he didn't have a choice BUT to do it. In the same way Korczak did't have a choice but to go to his death with his children in Treblinka even though we was asked to leave.

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