Tel Aviv Diary Oct 9-13, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut


ıTel Aviv Diary - from Oct 9 - 13, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut


ıOctober 9, 2004

Why is it that all the news channels seem to put so little emphasis on the bombings in the sinai desert? I know that we have a tendency to think of ourselves as the center of the universe, but this event seems to me to be so absolutely significant to the world, given the announcement of Al Kaida's responsibility for the bombing. Ken Bigley's terrible murder, the elections in Australia that prove opposition to the war in Iraq, and these bombings together prove the universal significance right now of this issue. But, as with Bigley, the commentary and interpretation seems to downplay the vital issues and focus on the tangential ones. The blame seems to be focussed on Blair and the government, and less on the morality and ethics of the murderers.

A quick visit to the beach near my house this morning revealed another world: a quiet sea, a gentle sun, small families, groups of elderly people, a large and easy cafe suddenly sprung in the ruins of that elegant restaurant Blue that disappeared one day last year. It is as if the terrifying world is suspended here.

And yet 2000 Israelis remain in Sinai. Some say that the chances of lightning striking... oh, 3 times ... is small.. especially with all the other tourists gone. And we also know that the Egyptians have made massive arrests - they're very pissed off at the loss of tourism as well as the usual mess that has been created by these attacks. So maybe the Sinai IS the safest place to be.

But I'd rather stay home and watch old Indiana Jones movies. They have simple villains and comforting stereotypes. You don't have to think too much about good and evil and how to avoid the latter!

A relative of mine ("relative!" I hear my mother say, "ferd, fuss, potkeva's an einekel" or "the horse? his foot - the shoe, it's his grandson" anyway...) was standing at the north gate of ras al satan the other night descanting on the perfect security of a place like this, when a car drove up to the rope that served as security gate for this vacation village, and seeing the rope and the Egyptian guard, backed up and then blew up. His girlfriend, who only the day before had explained to us that they were careful about choosing a place in Sinai (not Taba where all the tourist are and it would be dangerous but someplace secluded) spent that night shuddering.

October 10, 2004

Today is my grandmother's yahrzeit. I never knew this before but my cousin told my brother that her mother told her she had been murdered the night after Simchat Torah. She and her three daughters were together for most of the war, but when she weakened, one of them was left to take care of her, and then was sent away. So although my father's three sisters (and a brother) survived the war, they were left with the terrible feeling that they hadn't been able to save their mother.

Her name was Dvora Rosenstein, and that's almost all I know of her.

Of course many of the Jews my age never met their grandparents. It is very obvious in Israel when we sit around and talk of the role of grandparenting. "I will be a dedicated grandmother," my friend said, "because i know how much I felt the lack when I was growing up." She reflected the sentiments of most of the people I know.

And forget about going further back. My mother once recalled that when her grandmother came to visit, my mother would be all in a flurry. My grandfather's mother - she was the only person who dared sit in my grandfather's chair, and my mother's mother was terribly intimidated. That was all she ever said about that generation.

I want to say something about the Egyptians and how they handled this terrible tragedy. There is no one who was there - either as victim or medic - in Taba, who does not speak of the amazing generousity and humanity of the Egyptians. And they have suffered greatly from this attack. Estie has a close friend, a Sudanese, who ran a vacation village in Sinai, and now is looking for another profession. I do believe tourists will return to the desert, but it will never be paradise again.

October 11, 2004

So the list is complete. The tragedies are all ironic, the 10 year old boy killed on the day his father died 10 years before, the two young men who just went to the hotel to use the bathroom on his way back to Israel... the stories emerge slowly.

And in the middle of all of this, life goes on: a circumcision, for example, that seemed to be over with before it began, with no tears and no feasting.

I even took off an hour to go shopping. The Seven Star Center in Herzlia was not crowded in the middle of the day, but all the shoppers meant business. They were loaded down with packages. And what they bought costs twice as much as it would cost in the U.S. What did I buy? Stage make-up, with the encouragement of a number of salesgirls who were potential soul-singers they said, and knew stage lighting. And when i came home I saw that what they put on me gave me jaundice.

October 12, 2004

But it isn't the makeup - i've become jaundiced altogether. Otherwise how could i have reacted as i did to this headline in haaretz updates just now:"Palestinian and UN officials: IDF shoots 10-year-old Palestinian girl in chest outside UN school in Gaza." My first words were "See what happens when we piss off the UN? They go against us!" Only after did I think about the tragedy of the girl, about the possibility of our brutalization and innurement to the pain of others. This was always my worst fear, that I would become dehumanized. And now it is happening.

As if to prove what i was feeling, the news flash came on haaretz shortly after "Rate of violence among children in Israel has quintupled since intifada began four years ago."

October 13, 2004

It wasn't clear. It meant violence against children. And it's mostly parents who are doing it. And it's mostly because they are financially desperate and see violence as the only alternative.

To see what Barbi was like last night read one of these sites Cinamon Nana Tapuz forum Oren (with pictures and a clip)

All right, I'll give you my reactions - This is the first time we've done a show where the audience knew it was coming to see us - that made me feel like giving them the best i've got.

Back to the kids.

The state of children here is really paining me, because the whole magic of Israel for me was the idea of new hope for a new generation. And now the school nutrition program is finally beginning, so that children who come hungry to school will have an equal chance to concentrate. It is a great move forward. On the other hand, when this was discussed this morning on TV, Avri Gilad asked about the Palestinian children. "What do we feed Them with? bullets?"

He was referring of course to the fact that 30 children have been killed in Gaza since the "Days of Penitence" began.

The fact is that well over 50% of the population in Gaza consists of children, so it isn't hard to hit kids. And the death of each child in Gaza is brought up here in the news with great regret.

Still it feels like we have forgotten the sanctity of childhood.

Here's a Palestinian joke: The IDF calls up Hamas today and says "We need to test our early warning system in Sderot - could you send over a couple of missiles?"


you are visitor number



ı To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home