Tel Aviv Diary Nov 13 - 17, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from November 13 -17, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 13, 2004

Tel Aviv is small and hyperactive. You buy the paper and then go through the possibilities and wish you could split yourself into a few people for the weekend. the weekend is slow from Friday afternoon into the evening - friday night dinners at home for most - butthen it picks up - around 11 -12 at night. we don't do dinners most of the time because half of our kids are always otherwise invited so we like to take advantage of the peace in tel aviv - something with the kids too. last night was at nona, with a very busy shabbat ahead.

The fashion shoot with me was corrected because the line about the dress designed by Shira Tillis got lost. so if you want to see it in all it's glory: It's here.

i just can't keep up with tel aviv. So much happens around here all the time. We collapsed instead of going to an exhibit tonight but if we'd had the energy we could have gone from early morning until late at night. My friend Smadar says she can't even keep up with the restaurants, and she eats out all the time. The thing that kills ME is that i don't get out enough to theatre and experimental things, to the exhibits, the total chance-taking that goes on.

But I did meet some friends today and got to hear some amazing stories today. i will share one or two. Anne is Pakistani. Many years ago she married an Israeli and came to live here. She has children and grandchildren here, and although until recently she's lived abroad, she's now back. She was travelling up north by shared taxi and found herself alone with the driver as all the passengers got off on the way, but he gallantly took her precisely to her destination. So she asked him where he lived, and he gave her the name of an Arab village. "Oh," she said in her proper British accent, "I didn't know Jews lived there!" "Oh, Madam, I am an Ashkenazi-Bedouin." At this story of the absurdities of race, another woman told the story of her daughter who also lived in the Galilee, and who has an Arab cleaner. The cleaner is brought in from a village once a week and knows no other language than Arabic, which the daughter does not know. With the intifada, the daughter, who had recently separated from her husband, became uncomfortable about being alone and began to sleep with a kitchen knife under her pillow, removing it in the morning. One morning she forgot to take it away, and when the cleaner changed the linen, and returned the knife to its place under the pillow.

On another subject, this is hysterical:

November 14, 2004

As I write this my contractor and the plasterer are having a shouting fight about how much space was left for the floor panels. Me, I don't care one way or the other and it's my house. But Nissim's black mood over Alex's error in judgement brought me back over four years ago when he did our bathroom and had a whole crew of workers from Tira. His life was easier then because he would leave specific instructions in the morning in Arabic, and if he didn't like what they had done when he brought them lunch at noon, they would do it over. But Alex is Russian and instead explains why he is right. Nissim hates that almost as much as the fact that the gas man didn't show up and when I called to inquire he said he'd be along later and i said thanks. (That's what you get for working with an ashkenazi intellectual - politeness instead of results.)

The glazier didn't show up either, but that's not my fault.

The gas man - I'll have you know - finally did show up, only four hours after he had agreed to come. The gas man who came last week told us all that we would have to bury the line under the flooring, and since the floors are stone, the contractor would have to tear up a row of stone tiles, bury the line, and then make a new layer. That was why he was waiting for the gas man. The new gas man, however, put the line ABOVE the flooring, and the afternoon wait for him turned out to be superfluous.

Apparently the Palestinians want to elect Marwan Berghouti (now serving a sentence for murder in Israel) for Prime Minister. This, some Israelis say, will save Israel a lot of work. We won't have to shut him up in the Muqata. He'll be shut up here.

Now Barghouti used to be one of my favorite politicians - he had a great sense of irony as well as a clear and bright mind. But if it is true he was behind the murder of many Israelis, it is problematic. And as I am writing, there is a burst of gunfire in the mourners' tent - apparently supporters of barghouti - who are shouting their disapprobation of rajoud and abbas.

November 15, 2004

But what do i know? I spent the morning waiting for the contractor and then the afternoon trying to escape people and get some work done.

After one of those days where the late afternoon was spent chasing boxes to put a few walls of books in, we found ourselves suddenly in 'paradiso' a ramat aviv restaurant that looks like nothing, but proved to be paradise anyway. Had I not been afraid I would fall asleep in my chicken I would have had some wine. Instead we got something to drink called a 'passionflower granite' a frozen drink that didn't do our sinuses any good. But the food was wonderful.

And we forgot that we had been unable to sell all the books we wanted to get rid of - In the local book shuk there is always at least one man dressed in haredi clothes poking about the back, one russian girl, and the occasional anglo-saxon women looking for a good novel. Wish we had had a good collection of porno to sell

November 16, 2004

Flooring today. we have to leave home for the day and I will probably have no access to internet (unless i go to nona) because my university computer died. So don't count on me for reactions to your latest news

Here's the local update:

The floor is indeed being laid. Nissim brought 2 boys, who looked half wild until they began to work. Then I saw that Ahmed at least has an amazing geometrical mind that made his positioning of the tiles simple and accurate. Professional, sure, artistic, not unfriendly but yet just a tad unwilling to look me in the eye. It was that refusal to connect that made his look seem wild.

But the guy who tiled our bathroom four years ago was much worse as far as personal relationships go. The plasterers and painters then were from Tira, I think, and this settler spent a good deal of his time jiving them, and me. Have I told you this before? This shows how much it irritated me. “Sons of Ishmael,” he called the men, and I went wild. “Pay no attention to her,” the tiler said to the contractor (with whom I still have endless gender problems, “She’s only a woman.” He was the first man I ever refused to talk to.

But since I spent part of the day complaining about the gender issue with workmen, I've rediscovered that it is a pretty general problem around here. "Ba'al Haba'it" the contractor calls Ezi, "Master of the House." And I am "gveret," "Madam." My name is Karen, I say. Yes, Ma'am."

November 17, 2004

Half the floors are done, the dust is thick and palpable, and I had to get dressed for a literary evening last night. Three participants, Nabil Nasaraladin, Dudu Eyal, and me. Hosted by Delise. No publicity and a party scheduled from the writers' association that very evening somewhere else. And - surprise - the audience was minimal. I myself wouldn't have shown up if i didn't have a thing about keeping my word and being loyal. But now I have joined the hundreds of writers in the country and concluded my loyalty to the hebrew writers union.

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