Tel Aviv Diary November 19 - 23, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - November 19 - 23, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 19, 2005

My impression of Tel Aviv last night and Lilienblum was confirmed by others today. Tel Aviv was a ghost town last night.

Why? I have no idea. None of the other "Balianim" i spoke with did either. And yet everyone I knew was out. They weren't home for sure.

Let's see what happens tonight.

"Thin Lips" is finally coming back. December 17 at Klippa theater. It's worth buying tickets in advance because there are only - like - 70 seats there. Ahvak and Panic are also performing, and of course the Klippa Dancers.

Why do i focus on such trivia as the night life in Tel Aviv when all the Sinai is getting filled up with weapons to use against Israel? It is precisely because of the Sinai that there is such nightlife in Tel aviv.

November 20, 2005

But last night was weary as well. Maybe it's winter - the coming cold. Maybe its the political uncertainty, or the despair over government corruption (local as well as national).... but there is clearly an emptiness in the air. Even Noam, my monthly hairdresser for 8 years, wasn't in his shop today, and left instructions about what do to with me. But then again, maybe I'm just not in the right places. Noam was doing hair for a television show. He does the morning news shows too.

But actually while he's away doing hair for the news I'm hearing all kinds of things in his shop that are going on - a mini-news program on its own... this girl's uncle has just come back from China where he paid $120,000 for a kidney transplant, having sold his mother's apartment. Another customer spent the day yesterday at the spa in Holon, and had a facial, massage, the works -- for his 25th birthday. And an old friend comes in looking frazzled - she spent the weekend cooking for her son in the army, driving up north to his base to deliver the food (what my sister-in-law used to call the "Shnitzel Patrol") and then did the laundry she brought home. It's not easy being the mother of a soldier around here.

Over carrot juice with an ex-student we discuss the seeming phasing out of English at the university. "Well, it seems logical to concentrate on developing an indigenous culture," she says. "But it's provincial!" I say, "We're big enough to incorporate other cultures and learn from them!" "Yeah, but we'll never be influential in the world in English lit." We go on to more concrete matters, but after I realize we were speaking in English and the best part of our talk was about Jane Eyre.

November 21, 2005

For John, who asked me "'when all the Sinai is getting filled up with weapons to use against Israel?' What does this mean Karen? Are the Egyptians reneging on the peace deal?'":
The Egyptians could never handle something this big. The Sinai was always full of Drug and White-slavery smuggling, and now the same network is working on weapons. For every grain of coke.... I promise you the terrifying story will be out soon.

Why did theHizbullah pick this moment to crank up the music up north and open fire with such enthusiasm? Because we appear weak, disintegrating. But I am not at all convinced that things are falling apart. We will be changing the corrupt government soon, issues are more clear, and it doesn't appear terrifying to me at all. The only serious drawback is that our soldiers are getting hit.

November 22, 2005

I've always kind of envied my friend Rivka who lives at the northern tip of Israel in Metulla for the idyllic pastoral feel of the town. Last summer we stopped by but she was out of the country and we peered through her gate and reminisced about how we used to bring our enormous dog to visit her but he was afraid of the neighbor's sculpture. So with my usual great empathy I emailed her yesterday and asked sarcastically if she wants to invite us to visit for the weekend. She answered in the same tone: "what's wrong, you live in Tel Aviv with all the explosions and you are afraid of hundreds of cannon, rockets and small arms fire????" But then she added: "The anti-tank shell that hit the house on the hill was pretty scarey. It was REALLY loud here--I can imagine what it sounded like up the hill." This morning on tv they interviewed the neighbor whose house was invaded yesterday afternoon.

Don't ask. I left my cell phone in a taxi i picked up on the street at night. I noticed it as soon as it drove off but there wasn't anything i could do about it. Called all the cab companies and asked if the driver's number on the receipt worked for them, tried the phone company, and got myself used to the idea that it was gone. Then - before midnight - Ezi's phone rang, and it was the driver, calling the first number on the speeddial. He was already down by Barby, but came back all the way to our house and brought me the phone.

I had gone to Beit Hasopher to see Shmuel Shatal, who at 93 still has a twinkle in his eye and a sense of form and timing in poetry. As the evening for his new book wound down, I remembered there was a poem dedicated to me - something he wrote 18 years ago sitting in my class about the way my hands move when i lecture...

November 23, 2005

No matter how many times I hear Rony Somekh's poems I am moved. Tonight at the museum Rony was at his best, with Ronen Shapira, Roi Yarkoni, Barry Sacharov, Anat Pik, and others interpreting his poems musically in various directions. I hope it was recorded and filmed. His attempts to mix culture are warm and natural and the different musics picked up on different elements. I especially like Ilai Toren's singing of Ronen's interpretation - on a quarter tone scale with homages to Um Khaltoum.

In the afternoon my computer went crazy and everything i had to do was on it, so i wasn't in a good mood by the time i got to the museum and it was very fortunate that the evening was such a good one- because it was long.

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