Tel Aviv Diary Nov 28 - Dec 2, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from November 28 - December 2, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 28, 2004

'So how is the remodelling coming?' Even the hairdresser who barely knows me takes one look and knows i'm living in chaos. This is a very high class place and I'm ppretty out of place, but they try very hard to be nice to eccentrics. He sends me to shampoo and suddenly I realize the music has become Arabic. "What is this?" I ask, trying to decide if it is a Hakim song I don't know or someone else. "Nothing," says the reddening receptionist, changes the disk, and disappears. No one else knows where the disk is and her replacement doesn't know what I'm talking about. Could I have been dreaming? No, because when I tried to engage the shampooist in conversation about the music he started pretending he knew what it was - "It's got a distinctly African flavor," he said, "more moroccan than local..." Who know> Maybe he wans't being pretentious..

"The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison," Hawthorne begins his analysis of the origin of American sin in The Scarlet Letter. But Israel seems to be having more than the usual share of prisons and prisoners. As if the high number of terrorists weren't enough, there are also the criminals eased out of Russia and into the 'free world'. Then there are all those misfits whose parents encouraged them to go to Israel where they wouldn't shame them (I have a number of friends who got here that way.) And now we have the case of the criminals who arranged the murder of the judge last month - because that might ease their sentence. And the case of Ze'ev Rosenstein, our local mafia, who is being extradicted to the U.S. for drug traffic (I don't believe that one - not just because he's got my last name, but also because the whole accusation is nothing like what he's done in the past.) So it is not surprising that even though most of the population is very law-abiding, the proportions are not like the norm.

November 29, 2004

What do you do when the dentist just keeps giving you bad news? go shopping. To illustrate just how bad the news is I did a whole survey of discount malls - But i began with Tollmans, that high class furniture I used to love, but broke my heart with the last enormously expensive item we got there. Years ago - before there was an Ikea - we bought a shelving system from them for our living room. Simple metal and wood. Now that we are reworking the space, we needed an addition to the system and ordered more of the same. "How much did you pay for THAT?" the contractor asked me when they delivered the system and were about to put it together. And when he told him he couldn't stop laughing. But then we saw that it didn't match the old system at all, and there was no point in trying to put it together. So I asked them to return it. "No problem." They took it back. And I figured that since they had sent a decorator to match up the systems, and make the order in the first place, there would just be a lot of apologies and a check in the mail. But when I tried to get my money back the Israeli system kicked in. It took me all week to get Igor - the warehouse manager - on the phone, and then what I could get was 'credit' minus the delivery and assembly charges. Even that hasn't arrived, but to ease my heart I went to their shop to see what I could buy. Turns out that there isn't anything in my price range at all. The tea caddy I wanted is almost $1000, 5 times more than my miserable credit. And anyway, they haven't sent me the credit yet.

Then I went to look for sweaters. It's cold around here, and it's been years since I bought a warm sweater. Now that was cheap. From the unnamed store next to the hardware outlet to Oui Set to Hagara everything was under $20. I bought a sweater in each place.

So I got screwed by Tolmans, so what.

I should add that 'credit' is the common practice here - and that's considered good. I probably wouldn't be able to return the sweaters I bought for love or money. But the lighting we bought on Nachalat and Wolfson Street at Cobra has written on the receipt - cash return if unsatisfied for any reason. And Tolmans is considered a classy place in a classy neighborhood and Cobra is - well i won't be returning that lighting...

Another purchasing success was the cake we ordered for Oren's birthday at Yuditli. She has these amazing cakes, with intricate and creative designs, and I couldn't wait to surprise him with it. Instead, however, he called to tell me he decided to go to Tibet. And I had to postpone the cake. Yudit had already made the cake and most of the decorations, but she immediately said, "No Problem."

Today is Caf-Tet be november, the day the state of Israel was declared. We're too jaded to celebrate. Getting ready for the cupboards tomorrow.

Look how my realization of the socialist state is degenerate. On the other hand, I will have some great cupboards tomorrow, and my sweaters are great.

November 30, 2004

As Ehud Barak fights his way back into control of the Labor Party, I am reminded that as a consumer, it is not shameful to be screwed once, but it IS a crime to be screwed twice.

I know, I'm seeing everything as a consumer right now -- thinking about workmen, dentists, shops who have made me regret not going with my experience and instincts. But it is not a mistake to apply similar principles to politicians, if not to political ideologies. With ideologies I agree with Peres: that it is more important to have vision than knowledge of history. What can be can be more significant that what has been. But with politicians it's different. What Lincoln once said, that you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time, is only true if people pay attention and remember.

As for the imagination part - i'm still hoping Ami Ayalon or Yom Tov Samia try for politics.

And now Bibi is on the country's favorite talk show - run by the son of Tomy Lapid, Yair Lapid, and is answering Yair's tough questions with ease and conviction. And would you believe it? I believe him. What a sucker I am.

December 1, 2004

There is pretty much nothing that happens around here that doesn't have resonance. I go to my last session of biofeedback after spending almost an hour at the Yad Vashem site and discover that the therapist spent her youth hiding from the Nazis and published a book about her experiences. Our sessions are technical, because I learned concrete techniques for lowering blood pressure, but somehow the subject came up. As if it is always just under the surface here, and sometimes...

Babysitting a cranky baby we slipped in the DVD we got as a gift from the supermarket - the coca-cola music festival. Immediately we were enraptured. Israeli rock has been invaded by mizrachi music, by the left, by social awareness, by the west - and it has remained crazy. Although I knew almost every one of the songs, i had never seen them together, never noticed how innovative and original the songs have become recently. Muki's "Everyone's talking about peace, but no one's talking about justice..." has been blowing me away for years, and to see it together with Dag Nachash's rap of political cliches gave it new meaning.

But only those who know the songs in Hebrew can get it. The title of Tea-Packs' "Sitting in a Coffee Shop" in English has nothing to do with the original experience of being in a cafe in Israel, for example.

December 2, 2004

The next few days should prove interesting around here - not only the usual detonated bombs, the poverty-induced suicides, but also the possibility of an interesting government with labor inside. And Sharon keeps making statements today, like the fact the Peres' has any job he wants in the government except PM.


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