Tel Aviv Diary - November 21-5, 2011 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 21, 2011

Hoorah for Habimah! After all these years we're finally going to have a theater again! Now maybe they'll PAY me the money they've owed me for a year.

It is a very elaborate theater and aside from the contraversy about it's aesthetic value there are constant discussions about the relative value of the arts. "This could have paid the salaries of the doctors," one friend said. Someone else pointed out that all the street families in Israel could have lived in that building. And someone else noted that there aren't all that many PLAYS in Hebrew so they are not really promoting local culture.

Yet if there is a place, there will be plays, there will be activities to fill the place. I am a great believer in that - that all these new buildings - the museum, the theater, and the cinema - will help to further interest, creativity, dialogue. But we must all work to promote the democratic use of these buildings.

November 22, 2011

Two interesting items in Ha'aretz today:

Contentious Amendment to Israel Libel Law Passes First Major Knesset Hurdle


Top Professor Bar Ilan University Only Zionist Institution in Israel.

Hmm...I wonder if I have a case - after all, 300,000 shekel is nothing for a Bolshevik to sneeze at.

I can't even chuckle about being called a 'post zionist' however. I take that insult very seriously. I consider myself very zionist - and post-post zionist. That is, I've examined all the arguments, from all the directions, and decided that Zionism has great validity despite its problems. But I will continue to check and balance myself and Zionism and reserve the right to criticize everything and everyone.

November 23, 2011

Along with our newspaper, we sometimes get a magazine called Shamenet, or "Cream" - it's a glitzy ad-based journal with impossibly expensive products you're supposed to desire. It's extreme - with nothing practical and realistic. But today as I leafed through it, I thought of the difference between this magazine and the society that most people live in around me.

Later on i found myself with a baby in the local shopping center. I remembered that there was an inside playground in one corner, and beelined for it, putting my boots next to another two pairs of shoes at the entrance. There's a closed-in cashiers booth, and the cashier stopped me for 25 shekel before we could enter further. I'm a sucker for anything that might make baby happy and just give her my credit card and crawl in on the soft surfaces. we go through spaces and spaces of soft toys, enormous puzzles, up ladders, and more ladders, and more slides, rope ladder, and so on and so forth. It was like living in "cream," or as we say in yiddish "a shmaltze grube." An ideal world where nothing can harm you.

Of course, then we went home, and I had to take a shower. the ideal world was full of invisible dirt, germs.

November 24, 2011

After a day of meetings, cleaning, translating, meetings proofreading, meetings, I'm ready for a weekend in Hamat Gader.

November 25, 2011

I know I've published this in the current issue of Bellevue Review and maybe on these pages in a different form, but now it has been revised and has a special significance for me. Ezi's grandmother used to go to Hamat Gader for her back, and now we're going to see if there's any way to relieve the arthritic pain that racks me.


It would begin with a diligence
at dawn before the summer heat
a carriage and horses clopping the streets
of Tel Aviv, bumping south through the sand,
to the busy port of Jaffa.

From there someone must have carried her trunk –
Perhaps it was even the same man
who’d trail behind her in the market
with a basket on his back
to carry the vegetables and meats
of the family meal
she’d soon stand and cook
bent over the low burners.

There, just below Andromeda’s Rock,
docked the boat sailing north
along the coast—perhaps hugging the shore
and stopping at Atlit or Caesarea…

or perhaps only at Haifa port.
There she’d descend, find her land legs
and the train station on Faisal Street,

and continue on the Hijaz railway
where the train – slow enough
that she might get off the first car,
stretch out and pick flowers
and climb back on the caboose,

rattling with each gap between the tracks
slower than the donkeys passing by
carrying their heavy loads –
took her to Tsemach.

There, on the Galilee shore,
Where Jesus walked on water,
she could descend
at the hot springs at Hamat

Where at last
the treatment
for her weary back
could begin

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