Tel Aviv Diary - November 17-21, 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - November 17-21, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 17, 2009

I was thinking about my next class as I rode the six floors in the elevator and listened to the conversation next to me about taking care of the family with swine flu. Later that evening, as my energy completely failed and I took to my bed, I remembered that conversation and realized that maybe one of us had been misdiagnosed and that elevator is a great place to catch germs from strangers. Anyway I'm enclosing the 'rules' for not catching it.

While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps, not fully highlighted in most official communications, can be practiced (instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu):

1. Frequent hand-washing (well highlighted in all official communications).

2. "Hands-off-the-face" approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap someone !! ).

3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don't trust salt). *H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.

4. Similar to 3 above, clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water . Not everybody may be good at Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (very good Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population.

5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C ( eg citrus fruits). If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.

6. Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.

"You have no idea what the world is like fifteen minutes away," my friend said as she walked in my door today, "It's a single bus ride from your home to abject poverty." She was coming from work in the south of Tel Aviv, and she is very right - there are families living on the street here. There are people with no blankets in this cold. Hungry children. We used to have a socialist government and mentality, and we still haven't filled in the gap that was left when the capitalists took over.

Today is International Poverty Day, and I know people who have much more money today than ever before. I don't begrudge them the money, but I do begrudge the economic system that creates such gaps. We have a responsibility to others, and I would be much happier giving all the donations I make to a benevolent agency in the government which concentrated on equalizing the standard of living through education as well as social services.

It's always important to remember that poverty is just down the street.

In the mean time, my friend went straight to the sink to wash up.

November 18, 2009

As Shalom Hamoch, one of our greatest musical performers, says: a person is a person: don't call me a people. Today in particular I don't want to be identified with the Jewish people. Of course I remain a Tel Avivian and a Zionist, but there is no way I can identify with the additions to Gilo and the destruction of Arab houses. "it's a democracy," says my rightist friend, "we can build where we want." But if it's a democracy, why can't others?

There was another incident today that raised my hackles. A woman at the wailing wall tried to put on her prayer shawl and was stopped and arrested. It is, it appears, against the law. It reminded of a recent visit I made there with some American visitors. As we walked away, I turned to leave and was surprised to see them all backing away from the wall, as if it were an open Torah scroll cabinet. It is holy, I thought, although I didn't know we go for graven images, but I'd rather show respect for the scrolls than stones.

November 19, 2009

I should be becoming desensitized. After all the violence and inhumanity I've seen I shouldn't really expect much. After all, I was born into war and its consequences. Some of the gorier details I experienced as a child still resurface even now. But it has only served to make me more fearful of harming others, more vulnerable, to the point where I cannot trust my own reasoning. It's not always the right way to go, but I don't seem to be capable in this situation of other behavior. In a different situation I could probably react differently. Take my aunt, for instance. The one who became a partisan blowing up trains. Her children were bashed against the wall before her eyes. Both babies. How could she have become anything but a partisan? In my case the enemy is vague, unseen, impersonal, and sometimes even the concept of enemy is not at all clear.

November 21, 2009

We stopped by the new bauhaus museum today, a real treasure trove for minimalist designers.
The photos on < a href=""> this site are just right.

We immediately recognized most of the dishes and furniture as familiar to Ezi's parents, but not typical of Palestine interior design of the 20's and 30's. What most people wanted was an imitation of the cultured Europe they left, not some revolutionary modern extension of Morris socialism. The exterior of the buildings was functional and practical but inside was a private world.

November 21, 2009

My mother used to tell me about the Yeshiva boys the family would take for the Sabbath. Every week a different boy, every week different behavior. One week a boy sat there as the rest of the family ate their soup. "Why aren't you eating?" my grandmother asked. "I can't put it in my mouth," he responded. My grandmother was shocked, sure that her cooking was inedible to him. The whole family stared. It took a minute before they realized he didn't have a spoon.

Here's my version.

Yesterday morning we passed the grocer and there was a puppy tied up near the door. We passed later and he was still there - The grocer said the owner had to go to the hospital and didn't know if and when she'd be back. When we came back, the grocery was closing down for the Sabbath, and the dog was still there. We took him home for the weekend.

Our dog is old and has been a nervous wreck since she was an infant when we found her at the grocers almost 14 years ago. Then we took her home with the intention of giving her away to a good family, but she kept getting returned to us because she would immediately pee on the carpet. So the decision of bringing a guest for the weekend was fraught with implications. And it did not take long to realize that Shusha would not do well with a hyperactive untrained whippersnapper. Our entire Shabbat has been punctuated by murderous barks and snarls, Shusha threatening, Kutya (yes, we have named him) teasing, testing and begging for attention.

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