Tel Aviv Diary - November 20-4, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 20-1, 2010

A few months ago I got the program from the Diaspora Museum for geneology. I was very excited about finally perhaps getting some data about my family. But soon I realized it was more complex a program then I could deal with. Today Ezi got the same program from the museum, and I have been watching him struggle with it all afternoon with great glee. Of course the glee is fraught with sadness. How absolutely tragic that we are so in need of filling the enormous family history gap created by the Holocaust, and we have invented so many of the computer programs that are used around the world, and we can't seem to bring together all the scattered information that actually exists in the world.

Instead of complaining, I think I'll share with you a poem I read to a bunch of poets tonight.


I am walking a large playful dog
down a path in the park after nightfall.
There is no lead so he can go wherever he pleases
but after dancing around the trees,
he comes back to me to leave an enormous heap
in the middle of the path. Of course
I have my green plastic bag to clean it up,
but the waste bin is only
at the end of the park,
and the dog barks and runs off
and I just keep walking

But suddenly I see a man
striding towards me wearing a hood
that covers half his face. “Give me the bag,”
he says, and I hand it over

He takes off as the dog comes back
and I go home, satisfied,
mugged for a mess of shit.

November 22, 2010

The possibility of a referendum has come up at the knesset today. The idea is that the nation should vote on any deal to give away lands of the territories. The basis of this is the fear that the left (which now seems to include Bibi) may hijack the knesset and a referendum would stop it. But the idea of the whole country voting on an issue just may work the other way - it may be the beginning of a proletarian democracy here instead of the mess we have as a parliamentary democracy today. I don't really believe it, but stranger things have happened.

Did I mention the amazing pizza Susan and I shared at Papa's yesterday? spinach and tomato on a thin crust. Why should I be worrying my head about democracy when here was a decision we made on our own that actually worked out beautifully. Okay, it was only a pizza, but we decided to order it and we ate it. That's the way things should work.

November 23, 2010

an unofficial, alternative website for news about Tel Aviv University and Israeli academia in generalý

ý TAU Leading Israel in Academic "Brain Gain"

posted 26 minutes ago by David Katz [ updated 17 minutes ago ] A record 50 handpicked researchers and scholars have returned to Israel as new TAU faculty

Countering "brain drain" is high on Israel`s list of priorities: stemming the alarmingly high rate of academic superstars who leave Israel for universities and corporations abroad.

That`s one reason Tel Aviv University President Prof. Joseph Klafter was delighted to announce a record-setting "brain gain" for the 2010-11 academic year — 50 new young teachers and researchers have joined the TAU faculty of 970. This number exceeds all other Israeli universities` new faculty by a significant margin, and far surpasses TAU`s previous record of 34 for the 2009-10 year.

The new recruits were brought on as part of TAU`s 5-year plan to raise its faculty to 1,030 people.

"This is an exciting development," says Prof. Klafter. "It reflects TAU`s concerted drive to recruit the very best young scientists and scholars — many of whom are returning to Israel from top institutions in the USA and elsewhere." The group represents an impressive range of fields, from life sciences to linguistics, and includes Fulbright scholars from some of the world`s most prestigious colleges and universities. Each was handpicked by the university, and most were heavily recruited both inside and outside Israel.

Academic rock stars

The new returning faculty members include Dr. Eran Toch, recruited from Carnegie Mellon University, now at TAU`s Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering; Dr. Neta Erez, recruited from the University of California, now at TAU`s Sackler Faculty of Medicine; Dr. Roni Katzir, recruited from Cornell University, now at TAU`s Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities; and Fulbright scholar Dr. Hisham Abu Riya, recruited from New York University, now also at the Faculty of Humanities.

The bumper crop demonstrates a campus-wide commitment to a 5-year plan to increase TAU`s faculty to 1,030 members; this year, the number has risen to 970. Success can be attributed to advanced budgetary planning, the generosity of donors through TAU`s international Friends` organizations, and support from the Israeli government.

The 5-year plan was conceived in response to the dire impact of Israel`s youngest and brightest academics being drawn to more lucrative positions abroad — especially in the United States and Europe — which also offer job security, and often more elaborate research facilities and staff. In recent years, Israel`s brain drain has been about 10 times that of Europe, so reversing the tide is essential to maintaining leadership in the global academic community.

Making the case

It`s more than the promise of a cosmopolitan Tel Aviv campus near to their roots that makes TAU such an attractive choice for young researchers and scholars. In the independent University of Western Australia`s 2010 High Impact University ratings, TAU is ranked 94th in the world for the impact of its research. And in the long-established QS World University rankings for 2010, TAU was rated #11 of all the world`s universities for the number of citations per individual faculty member — just behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (at #9) and 10 slots higher than Cambridge University (at #21).

This outsized influence speaks to Tel Aviv University`s impressive standing among the top research universities of the world.

Faculty recruits are also attracted by the quality of the student body. Tel Aviv University is the most sought-after institution of higher learning in Israel by a wide margin. And the quality of incoming students is demonstrated by remarkably high scores on their psychometric entrance exams — Israel`s equivalent of America`s SAT tests. This year, new TAU students scored the highest of all Israeli universities in six of the seven fields surveyed — economics, medicine, psychology, management, law, physics and computer science.economics, medicine, psychology, management, law, physics and computer science. November 24, 2010

Ezi has been following earthquakes around the world on his Ipad, and just being next to him makes me suddenly aware of the world as well as my own little circle. Concurrently Amal sent me a letter with a quote from Kafka on the bottom:
"For we are abandoned, like children lost in the wood. When you stand before me, and look at me, what do you know of the pains that are in me, and what do I know of yours? And if I were to prostrate myself before you, and weep and talk, would you know any more about me than you know about hell when someone tells you that it is hot and fearsome? For this reason alone we human beings should stand before one another with as much respect, as much sympathy, and as much love as if were standing before the gates of hell" (From Franz Kafka's letter to Oskar Pollak, November 9, 1903)
It's a double vision I'd like to retain.

If you scroll down here you will see a poem of mine in Hebrew. It is better in Daffi Kudish's Hebrew than in my English, but here is the original.

Of all the people
passing back and forth
me and my morning espresso
at the street cafe

the only one who stops
is the Angel of Death.

He looks
as if he’s been up
all night dancing .

“Don’t ask,” he says
sitting down
and hiding his head
in his arms on the table.

“You’ll never

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