Tel Aviv Diary Nov 8 - 12, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from November 8 -12, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 8, 2004

After we finally chopped down the kitchen wall, we realized that intead of two small spaces we now have one banal medium space, and the promised leak behind the cupboards has not yet shown itself. Howard Nemerov's "Learning by Doing" comes to mind - in which he watches the slow deconstruction of a tree outside his window becuase it is allegedly diseased, only to prove, from the chips, as a perfectly healthy specimen.

Never mind we say, it's only a wall, not a state, and we'll figure it out.

After the wall we had to rush out to buy lights, and chose the little shops of the south of tel aviv over the lighting salons in our area.

As you know the little i know about the south of tel aviv still proves to me again and again its variety, color, and confusion. We fell in love with some lights in the shop next to our rare parking spot and within minutes were back in our car looking for lunch. Phone consultations with friends gave us a series of wonderful local places to eat, tunisian, rumanian, all with a five minute walk, but seeing them crowded we passed them by and headed for nearby neve tsedek, where we dined under the roomy trees of Susanna. Despite a little accident with a bird, the meal was amazing - i had liver wrapped in phyllo in a pear sauce with roasted vegetables and ezi dined on kubba and bamia on rice. We would have settled for kebabs and chips, but this was an amazing bonus to the day. The frantic streets of south tel aviv were forgotten, and we luxuriated in the best of yuppiedom. After that we had to go north to hertzlia where we'd ordered the cabinets - to make sure the holes for the sink and stove were set. The difference between the sales people - South t.a. Yitzik the salesman in Cobra lighting is pro - works with designers and cares primarily for his reputation - and Herzlia Pituach Sari, who makes kitchens, knows that a workable kitchen means a satisfied customer - was gender rather than socioeconomic.

And I enjoyed it all. So far everyone I've worked with on this remodelling project has been great, and cheap and great fun. I don't even mind eating and sleeping in dust when i can work with nice people. So Far....

Whatever we discard is snapped up from the streets. We've sold or given away our appliances, passed on furniture and dishes, but even the broken rotten cupboards have been taken away. It tells you something about the real state of this country - of how needy people are. The kitchen cupboards, for example, are being replaced because they have been stinking of rot for years. And yet they disappeared within minutes of being placed outside.

Now HERE'S a site to visit - coexistence. It coordinates the information about activities concerning coexistence.

Robert Whitehill also wrote me about this organization:

the Mossawa Center Fair Budget Campaign for the Arab citizens of Israel. For more information, write:

4 billion dollars - no wonder Suha is keeping him alive. Once he's dead someone else may get access to all that. Maybe even the Palestinian people she has stayed away from for the past 3 years. Can you imagine what Ramallah would look like if it could recapture its amazing beauty?

While we're talking about money, Zeev Rosenstein - the gangster who looks and sounds like my family - was arrested for peddling 750,000 ecstasy pills to the US. I wonder if he doesn't have the same fortune as Yassir.

November 9, 2004

As someone who has sat by deathbeds, I feel the terrible anticipation those who love Arafat must feel. And the mixed (and perhaps guilty) pleasure others may feel at the possibility of a more 'normalized' government. At the same time the long wait has lessened the effect of his death. Israel TV is speculating that he has died, and all the local channels are talking about it. But we turned to all the channels of the Arab countries and everything seems as usual with them. Hmmm.

Now we caught Saib Erekat in Cairo, but it's a discussion we saw an hour ago on local tv.

We should let it rest and go to Nona for dinner.

November 10, 2004

Still waiting. Most people think Suha's preserving him for financial reasons and the Palestinian people will continue to suffer. One thing is certain, her $100,000 monthly allowance would have kept 400,000 palestinians fed.

Its those discrepancies that kills us - i know people who literary have nothing to eat, who can't afford a cup of coffee in a restaurant, and they are not unlike me. there are at least 300,000 people living below the poverty level in this country. on the other hand i know people who are blowing money like water around here. And where did they get all this money to blow? When Vicky Knaffo published nude photographs of herself on the web with "they've milked me dry" tattooed on her fallen breasts, she was telling it like it is.

We went to Ramat Aviv Gimmel to grab some dinner, since my flat is covered with plaster powder, and it was no disappointment. I mean this is the first time i've eaten in that yuppie neighborhood since i can remember and i always expected the food to be pretentious and tasteless, and so it was. You know the scene - uppity waiter ("Do you still have the specials?" "We have everything." "I'll have a hamburger." "We're out,") loud people living their lives in public ("I TOLD you you are on a diet and can't order the ice cream! How many times do I have to TELL you, 'you're fat'?")

and, of course, overpriced.

November 11, 2004

First thing in the morning, before the plasterer and the electrician came, we check the news and discovered that Arafat has passed away. Maybe because the other day was the anniversary of my mother's death (17 years) I was thinking very much about the deathbed feeling. And then Robert wrote me that my thoughts about AIDS were probably wrong and his symptoms indicated tertiary syphillis and suddenly I thought - perhaps it is true what many say here on both sides that he was the pollution in this region. Even so the death of the head of state is a terrible blow to his people and I will not tell the Yiddish joke about the guy who wanted to have it written on his death certificate that he died of syphillis. It doesn't work well in English anyway.

In any case, after all that crying about poverty in this country and how much i am suffering from the repairs in my flat and blah blah, i got taken by my wise friend for a spa day in the Sharon Hotel in Hertzlia. Pool, sauna, massage, lunch, and the genteel decadent luxury of a once glamorous place. Any view of the sea is wonderful for me, and watching the sailboats go by as we ate lunch kept reminding of the idyllic times on Seneca Lake where I spent my summers as a youth.

In that '60's decor we kept recalling our childhood, and Linda remembered running up and down those same halls in that hotel more than forty years ago. I remembered coming to Israel in the '70s and discovering the culture of the hotel lobby, the way 'in' people would gather there for tea in the afternoon because it was glamorous and elegant and because they had air conditioning.

Meanwhile, Ezi stayed home with the workers.

In the evening we went to a very strange benefit for bnai brith in ramat hasharon: it was a premier play by Wolfgang Hildesheimer - a Jewish/German writer, who seems to have continued to be prolific and popular writer in Europe, but it unknown in the English world as well as Israel. The story is of a young man living in the country estate with his housekeeper, surrounded by crows... absurdly he has turned all the other heirs into crows and at the end is alone with his housekeeper who too has learned the art from watching him. He is therefore in her power and she is thrilled. It is an absurd legend about power, and extremely relevant to our contemporary political situation.

Even more relevant is the organization which sponsored it, a group that provides grants to needy students and help for the poor. The actions of this group disprove the truth of the play that a cool head lends you power, which is the only thing needed for success in the world.

Me me me

November 12, 2004

We caught the tail end of Arafat's funeral today on tv because we were running around doing errands. But everyone is interested in his end. Apparently there were a lot of my countrymen who rejoiced, many more who just feel scared and confused. The more I saw of the funeral the less I felt I would miss him.

Take for example the ritual of shooting off guns. It is always something I have despised. I really prefer the morbid opening to a jewish funeral - as you stand there over the shrouded corpse, someone intones "know where you come from and where you are going."

Today we were in the ever-more beautiful military cemetery of Kiryat Shaul for a memorial service.

oh for goodness sake - how silly of me - they were shooting at the funeral because the crowd got out of hand - and 9 people got wounded. Let's hope things are more under control later.

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