October 12

So what can be done? November 19 - Labor Party elections. I'm voting - are you? Whatever happens, there will be changes - and i think this is the time and place the passivity of the left can end. I know the Arab-Israelis boycotted the general election last time and caused Sharon to become Prime Minister. It was a mistake - so let's not let it happen again. Simple. Join the Labor Party. Vote. If you're an Israeli citizen living abroad - come back for the week. These decisions can change the world.

I mean look at all the incredibly close election in the U.S. last year. Not that I liked Gore all that much - but the lack of active involvement was palpable. How can we not care enough to vote.

Once I wrote a poem about the bombing of the US soldiers in Beirut - and how my sister-in-law had discussed the security of the base with me just after. I wrote that as far as I'm concerned she would make a much better commander than the guy in charge then. I take my joking seriously. There have been a number of times when I have been convinced that ordinary citizens are much wiser and knowledgable than the politicians and decision makers. All right, maybe they're not qualifed to lead the government, but they are qualified and responsible to determine the people who do lead the government.

My favorite TV program - theoretically - remains The Sopranos - because there you have an individual who takes 'responsibility' - all right, so he's a murderer, but he knows his dilemmas are important and actual. This is what we miss so much in our world - the feeling of a measure of control and responsibility - moral responsibility as well.

Moral responsibility. I turn on the television at 11 this morning and there is a documentary about a Beduin man and his family - Moussa something - i missed the last name and the credits - but the man himself is so riveting it is impossible to look away. A shy, honest, and terribly intelligent man, he talks about the way he gets his water in the desert - somewhere not too far from Beer Sheva. Throughout his mild, gentle, insightful discussions it is clear that a terrible injustice has been perpetrated upon him and his family - no water, no electricity, no building permit, no chance to move -because his family has been there for generations.

He's clearly a man who could have been successful in any career - not only in the career he sometimes fantasizes about - journalism -but he separates his fantasies from his realistic expectations. What he wants is water. And there is no reason his village can't have it. That's part of our responsibility - the responsibility of the citizens to ensure the minimal needs of all of the citizens of this country.

But moral responsibility can't take place in a destructive environment. Equality and fairness seems to take a back seat in an unstable country.

Last night a terrible disaster was narrowly averted in Tel Aviv when a vigilant security guard detected a suicide bomber and alerted the security at the nearby American Embassy. He was caught and a very large bomb (25 pounds) deactivated. When we were all talking about it this afternoon and I wondered about how they deactivate bombs, Oren described the robot and how it works. How do you know about this, asks the concerned mother? Well, he says offhandedly, I saw two events in one day a few months ago - one in the afternoon and one in the evening. So my son has witnessed the dismantling of one belt bomb and one false alarm - a sandwich bag he had forgotten to throw out.

October 14

The terrible terrorist attack in Bali, the explosion in Finland, the sniper in Maryland - all these are an expansion of the web of terrorism that seems to be taking over the world. We tell our friends in Virginia to seek haven with us, with that gallows humor that is part of our lives.

Today there were an attack on the Egyptian border - a real skirmish near Rafiah - wounded soldiers, dead infiltrators, and all. First time in 10 years in that area - usually that's where the heroin smugglers cross.

I finally went downstairs to inspect the new chemical shelter in our building - after Michal reminded me. Michal's house was hit in the Gulf War, a scud fell through the ceiling into her bed while she and her husband were staying with one of their daughters, helping her with the children. She went home the next day and immediately arranged for the municipality to inspect the damage, the contractors to rebuild the roof, the windows, the walls, etc. and came to work for me two days later. Now she is terrified - if there is another war with Iraq what will she do - she suddenly can't cope with it.

Later, Smadar asks me - how will you save yourself if there is a chemical attack? I answer immediately - i won't have to worry about that - i'll die of fear as soon as the possibility becomes actual.

October 14

Strikes - all over - The garbage is piling up on the streets of Tel Aviv and is just beginning to smell. We sit in Nona and talk politics. As usual with Liz I take a slightly more right wing position that I had 5 minutes before when talking with Ezi. She tells me she hopes Fuad will win in the Labor party and then the whole party will fall apart. Then, she says, the left will make a coalition. I tell her that maybe if the Arabs had not thought that way, and had gone out and voted, then maybe Sharon would not have won the election. Then we wouldn't have been in this situation. She and Rafi say it is not the Arab vote - and the fact that the Arabs stayed away from the polls - that determined the election, but the fact that the Russians voted right wing. They have a point, and I tell them that on election day that fateful day I discovered many of my students and exstudents didn't bother to make their voice known. But it's still one-person one-vote - every one of these people is responsible.

who's responsible? Ezi reminds me that we gave our trust and money and even weapons to the Palestinians and when they didn't like the deal, instead of bargaining, they used the weapons against us. This is the problem.

The occupation would have ended then, Ezi says. So who's responsible.

Still, I wish Liz came back home to live and her voice was heard here.

But I understand why she left. They told us yesterday about the last time they voted in Yaffo, the last elections. Their neighborhood is Arab, but, they noted, there was not one word of Arabic in the voting center, no explanations, no welcome. Even though Arabic is the second official language in Israel. And when Rafi went into the voting booth they found that the slips of paper for the Arab parties were missing from their slots. He called the supervisor into the booth who immediately added the parties' tickets, explaining that it was probably some disgruntled voter, but Rafi wasn't satisfied, especially since they were heckled by Shas people (who also showed videos and distributed political pamphlets - against the law) on their way out.

October 15

I go back to the Labor primaries. Any possibility of improving the moral level of the debate has to be tried. But apparently it is now too late to join the party - so they say. I'd try it anyway. Check it out.

October 15

The strikes are debilitating. The garbage gets piled higher and higher. Today they even showed Nona on the news, moving the garbage away from the cafe. What an appropriate metaphor for this country as the settlers urge the soldiers to refuse any commands to move settlers from the illegal settlements and the left wing urges the soldiers to refuse commands to dislocate the Palestinians. Higher and higher.

Here's another metaphor: The olives wait on the olive branches to be harvested by the Palestinians and the settlers shoot at them when they try to harvest them. The settlers say they fear terrorist attacks from the olive groves, and anyway - hey - the Palestinians have ruined our economy - why not ruin theirs? Right? Olive branches heavy with fruit. Ripe for the picking.

Linda says Israelis have gone totally crazy. That any progress they might have made in recovering from old traumas has receded and disappeared. From the Gulf war I thought at first, and then, from the Holocaust. And then, what difference does it make. It's not like the clinical trials I used to analyze when i worked for a forensic psychiatrist - was he sane at the moment of action? is he responsible for his crimes? doesn't matter legally. we've been driven crazy but we're responsible.

October 16

The first official rain - could always mean a new beginning. but today's rain comes with thunder and lightning and almost no substance. just like the news.

It is seven years since the assasination of Yitzhak Rabin. I stopped by the site on my way home today to mourn - the memorial in the square next to the stairs of city hall. Like everyone in Israel I wondered what this country would be like now if the bullet had missed. But the fact that it could have been different can also be a source for hope - if it could have been different it still may be different.

I still have some hope invested in November 19.

What olives am I talking about? Where is this happening, Phyllis writes me. Today Kfar Tapuah settlers shot at villagers from Yassouf who were harvesting their olives.

Karen Alkalay-Gut Home