Tel Aviv Diary November 13-18, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - November 13-18, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

All afternoon long I kept going out and come home, and because Ezi wasn't feeling well, he was watching dvds. Wars, fires, plane crashes. Watch something more positive! I said. Let's turn on the news! I switched to tv. Boy was that a mistake! Let's go back to World War II, I pleaded.

The news actually reflected what I'd really seen today on my errands - For example, I had a meeting at the mall, and came a few minutes earlier to do some shopping. The shops were almost empty, as was the food court where I met my friend. I couldn't stop looking around - there were a few well-dressed women, some tourists, some workers. No children. No sense of fun. The newly opened Apple shop was almost bare. The cosmetics department of the pharmacy had three salespeople fighting over us. And then we went for coffee in the one place i detest, Arcaffe. A lot of celebrities, businessmen, well-dressed women. What was missing? It took me a while to realize: packages. People were not buying things. Now this is a very upscale mall, and because it is near my house and because it decided to take out the movie theaters to make room for more upscale stores, and because they raised their rents so much that the stores I like such as Dorin Frankfurt disappeared, I've been disenchanted with it, and have been watching them making more and more mistakes with a little bit of glee. Relying only on high-price stores seemed dangerous to me, a fatal flaw of hubris. But today I was more worried for them. How will this place survive through the hard times?

November 14, 2008

Jewish Women is on youtube. It is such an interesting opposition with my original source that i really like it. I was writing about the book of Judith, because I was performing with Thin Lips on Hannukah, and Roy had this tune that didn't have words. So I wrote about how Judith is a typical Jewish woman in the Bible - a sainted widow who lives in the town of 'virginity' and goes out to the enemy Holofernes with food and wine, renders him unconscious with pleasure (but not from sex, apparently) and then kills him. Anyway the clip is about feminism and how men play at war and women are much more powerful. Nice twist, but I like it better in Yiddish.

Did I promise to meet you today? Was I supposed to be somewhere for breakfast? Did I say I'd take a picture of you at lunch? Have soup in the evening? Sorry. I'm in bed and so sick I couldn't even take advantage of the gorgeous Friday today. I didn't go to the tribute to Arieh Sivan, screwed up lunch with Lisa, even missed Moldavi's gig last night,

When you're sick you become self-centered, said Balzac, and I was just about to apologize for writing so much about myself, when I recalled Thoreau, who wrote, "Is not the poet bound to write his own biography? Is there any other work for him but a good journal? We do not wish to know how his imaginary hero, but how he, the actual hero, lived from day to day." It's good to be able to quote others in your own narcissism.

Especially when I'm sure Thoreau could never imagined the kind of bombing Israel has been exposed to today. Rockets raining on Ashkelon, Sderot, and in between.

November 16, 2008

Didn't make it to the computer until after the stroke of midnight on Saturday night. Our neighbor came rushing to our door just as I thought to write. She was terrified that someone had broken in to her mailbox and who knows they might have found a bank letter with her account number on it. She lives alone with her memories of Mendele and Auschwitz, and it is not surprising that she is easily terrified. But it was a matter of simple fact to show her that the screw that was missing from her lock must have simply fallen off because it would have been impossible to unscrew it from the outside. Within fifteen minutes she went home to bed comforted. Would that real problems were as easily solved.

A letter from Doug Tanoury, the Detroit poet who has been looking for his roots: With some difficulty we found our grandfather's village in Kisrouane. Bayatta is to small to appear on any national maps. I knew the region and the name. There are two villages by the same name and it complicated our search. I saw the house our grandfather was born in. His house is still standing. It is literally on the side/top of a mountain. It is at so high an elevation that even in the afternoon sun it was cold.
It appears that two brothers left the village (Yousef and Milhelm) and one brother remained (Ibrahim). I met Ibrahim's grandson (Edmund Tanoury and his family). He was gracious and charming and invited us in and treated us as welcomed guests. We had language issues. His French was poor and we had only our cabdriver to try and translate, but we established our common lineage. He recalled a story of grandpa as a boy in Lebanon that made me laugh and cry.
All of grandpa's stories came alive for me as I looked over this landscape of green mountain slopes marked with large and eerie limestone outcroppings. Only goats and sheep could survive on those slopes. The most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. Imagining it one hundred years ago, without roads, cars, lights, power made it seem as remote as the moon.
Edmund's eyes filled with tears as we talked and he was very moved that I returned to find him. I told him my grandfather could never return here, so I am returning for him. Edmund had been working in the field when I arrived and he was wearing a grey sweater with a colorful embroidered emblem that had a Phoenician ship with the English words "All Around the World". For me this was the greatest of symbols, I touched the emblem as if it were a holy relic. Looking in Edmund's eyes was like looking in the eyes of our grandfather. Kissing Edmund on the cheek was for me being able to kiss my grandfather. My eyes fill with tears just remembering it. Robin too was touched as she witnessed this.

I thought of his description while I was driving by Uhm El Fahm today. But now to sleep.

November 16, 2008

The Yiddish Theater presents "The Magician of Lublin." It is one of my favorite books of Isaac Bashevis Singer so I was longing to see it. But I didn't find out anything about the production. I figured - Yiddish - Singer, what could be bad? But the fact that the production was written originally in Polish was apparent everywhere. The plot was weighted for people who know nothing of Judaism, the music was beautiful but not 'right' for the story, the language was uneven, unliterary. We were chiefly there to hear Yiddish, but there was such a variety of bad accents, I could not make out the words most of the time, and read the Hebrew translation above. The magic was great, though.

The exhibit in Ein Harod Museum, on the other hand, will remain for me for a long time. It is one sixth part of the 60 year celebration, and highlights 1948-58, with a wonderful emphasis on the kibbutz artists. Shlomo Katz and some of the other artists who painted kibbutz life won my heart. There is a poster Katz did of a kibbutz celebration that is based on Breughel's "Kermess" that is a lot of fun. Yochanan Simon, who plays a central role in our decor at home, has portraits of people working in a socialist realism leaning towards abstraction.

November 17, 2008

Panic Ensemble has become Love Soup for you folk abroad. Check out the sight. They even have me on it doing a little yiddish "Jewish women" thing.

Quote of the day:"The financial situation at the moment is so bad that Jewish women are now marrying for love"

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