Tel Aviv Diary November 28-December 2, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - November 28-December 2, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

November 28, 2008

While Israel is glued to the television for news about the Israelis who are still hostages in Mombai, some people are blaming Israel for the whole thing. Robert Whitehill sent me this link of the Muslim Brotherhood blaming us for the attack. So it's like September 11. This happened to me a lot in kindergarten.

If only we could organize in such a massive and intricate way - for good - instead of for destruction. I think of all the work, the organization, the planning, the time, the money, that went into all this terrorist attack. It's massive. And what if I were one of them, say, one of the guys working at the Taj Hotel, serving people elegant meals and then going into my room and cleaning my weapons in preparation for killing them? What kind of brainwashing would I have gone through in order not to see them as human beings? I imagine I would be very proud of being part of such a large well-oiled machine, and I would have to believe there is something more important that human life.

At this moment we're pretty sure the people in Chabad House have been murdered - my mind keeps going back and forth from the terrorists to the Rabbi's wife. I imagine the terrorist who killed her is an English citizen from Pakistan, and speaks English to her, an Israeli=born American. Could they have exchanged a moment of understanding, of sympathy, in the days they were together? After all, they let her baby go free. Could it be they understood - just for a moment - that they had been led out of their humanity by their leaders? I know these are not the big issues in this horrible massacre, but I only count people one at a time.

November 29, 2008

Here's a surprise: It's caf tet benovember, the day the UN partitioned Palestine in 1947. I think we want commemorate the event in some significant way.

In the mean time - it's Saturday morning and I've been thinking about the torah chapter of the week. I can't help it. I identify with Esau. The guy who works hard, is a loyal child, and gets screwed out of his blessings and his inheritance. Not on a personal level. It just seems that the people who do what they're supposed to do always get tripped up by guys who want what the others have without striving for it. No wonder Jacob was punished by having to work for Rachel for 14 years.

Not all are friends are glued to the television today but what with the injured soldiers in Nachal Oz and the 9 Israelis killed in the Chabad House, over 300 victims in Mombai and still counting, it's hard not to bite your nails and watch the screen. Makes you want to get under the covers and hide for ever and ever.

November 30, 2008

But of course we went out and had coffee and friends and all that. And everyone around looks relaxed, easy, full of fun.

But we know that the chabad house was targeted way in advance, just because they are Jewish.

December 1, 2008

"I'll pay for it out of my research fund," I told the university printer when he asked me how to charge me for my new business cards. "What? You haven't cashed in all your funds?" he shouted, "Are you crazy? You'll lose all the money - the market is going down today!" "I've got to worry more about blood pressure going up and down," I answered, and I wrote out a check. The recession is on everyone's lips. The recession and receeding Sea of Galilee. It is hot and dry here, and we're so worried about that we don't even mention the nuclear threat that is - well, at least a year away. We talk a lot about Mumbai, about Nigeria, about Gaza - in that order - but more about the recession.

The Writers' House. Long ago, when I was invited to the Writers' House for a wedding, the son of Aharon Megged, I was overwhelmed at how simply beautiful the place was. Today - 30 years later - it looks like it hasn't been painted since then. It has years back stopped being a center for culture, a place to meet, a real professional union, and we've stopped renting the hall for English events because it is so scruffy. But it is now like Miss Havisham's wedding cake. I went there today to pick up a check for the printers from the Federation, but when I got there there was no money to cover the check and they were chattering in Russian. There is no computer in the Federation office, but anyway there wouldn't be room for it because the whole office is the size of my closet and is full of garbage because it hasn't been cleaned in more than a decade. That was when the big budget cuts in the Ministry of Culture began eroding the morale of writers. When I go to the writers house today I feel the absolute dissolution of the entire dream of socialist culture - and nothing to replace it.

December 2, 2008

I had a meeting this morning at a mall, but as I was getting myself together to go out I heard over the radio that there was a high level warning of a terrorist attack in the city. I suddenly got careful and tried to call the person I was supposed to meet. She had her phone off, so I went to the meeting anyway, but found myself shook. No one else was concerned, and I remembered that last week when I got diverted off a main road, my friend sitting next to me just commented offhandedly that there was a suspicious object, and we have it all the time. "It doesn't get reported," she said. "It's so common." So I'm the only one who experiences it every time as if it were a new event. Let that be a lesson to you if you were thinking of trusting my feelings.

Anyway the alert was called off around 1:30 when three suspects were arrested. So you might think you can relax.

But I don't relax. I know our security is amazing and we're safe because we're alert, just like it is clear that the security in Mumbai was messed up, but I'm equally concerned with the fact that people want to blow up other people and would be happy to kill me. Me.

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home