Tel Aviv Diary October 14, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - October 14, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

October 14, 2005

We are close to take-off and will be home tomorrow (shabbat? yes!) I may be able to recreate the many stories that relate to the subject of this diary, but it won't be immediate. You'll have to ask me questions.

October 15, 2005

1. " I knew you when you went to shul twice a week and taught Sunday School, but you and Judaism have changed.How do you feel about Judaism now? " I feel about Judaism at the moment the way many of my friends feel about Israel: they know it has to continue but it doesn't mean THEY have to visit.

2. "what did you mean in your October 12th entry ("Being...diaspora...religion." ) "because what would the goyyim think" ??" Here's the exact quote: "Being in the diaspora gives me a strong need for religion. why? because what would the goyyim think?"

I should have expanded on this right away. I can't tell you how many people told me they couldn't go to work or something like that on Yom Kippur because it would set a bad example for the non-jewish people. Some Jewish friend told me he'd set a lunch date for the 14th of October, and his non-Jewish client said, "On Yom Kippur? Are you kidding?"

3. "Why didn't you give any readings?" I didn't ask anyone and wasn't invited. This was a last minute decision to give a little talk at a little conference - the visit extended because I wanted to see family and couldn't get tickets back anyway because of the holidays. Our little Friday night trip home was only possible because most people don't travel to Israel on Shabbat. In fact the flight was mostly a Christian group.

BUT LET US SPEAK OF MORE URGENT MATTERS. WE HAVE LEARNED TONIGHT WHY INTERCONTINENTAL AIRLINES HAS THAT NAME. DINNER IN NEW YORK, BREAKFAST IN TEL AVIV, LUGGAGE IN IRELAND. The big black suitcase with all the important stuff we needed to go go home was mislabelled at Newark and send off to Shannon. No trace is yet found.

A dummy blocking system from the airlines reassures us that the luggage does indeed exist. But where?

I would like to change my underwear, to write up my reports, to give my grandson his teddy bear,....

So we wander around all night, trying to figure out what to do.


What kills me is the man there was so busy chewing Ezi out for having a big suitcase (brown) that he labelled it right and then gave the next of the group, (the heavier black suitcase) the name of the guy before us in line. The blue one that came after was labelled right. So it was the kind of slip not easy to notice. We would have picked it up had the crew not rushed us through so much, angry at the number of flights they had to process.

And dont get me started on Continental. From the way they couldn't process my business rating, to the delayed flights, the unscheduled stayovers, the faulty entertainment equipment, the food (long and hungrily anticipated) that remained with me for days after, the pilot who kept forgetting where it is we were going, or where we were supposed to land,... i could go on and on.

But first the suitcase, the shaving equipment, the gifts, the shoes I aquired with great labor and the books I absolutely need for this week's grant proposal...

October 16, 2005

But never mind. To return to Israel just before the holidays of Sukkot is a real treat. I wish I could have been here for Yom Kippur, but Sukkot is also good. The same political, economic, and sociological problems may exist all over the world but this place seems to be - well -more used to it.

I think I'll stop until I've over the sentimentality -

But just as I was beginning to get all mushy about it, three people were killed in a drive-by terrorist attack in gush etzion tonight. Apparently there has been a sharp increase in attempted terrorist attacks since the disengagement, and although most of them are foiled, some manage to succeed.

I have much more to catch up about, but there is also erev hag to cope with. Give me a day or two

In the mean time you may want to read what Robert Whitehill has to say about So Far So Good. Amazon

October 17, 2005

Because you always have to hit the ground running around here, I raced to the butcher yesterday in order to have meat for the holiday that starts tonight. But I didn't realize I should have also raced to the health clinic to get a flu shot before they ran out. Apparently there is a such a run on innoculations because of the fear of bird flu (is there really a connection? probably not) that lines are long and supplies are short. Ever since I've been getting flu shots (because I'm old and come into contact with a lot of people) my flus have become rare and brief, but waiting for hours? that's enough to make one sick on its own.

Apparently the reason that the situation has become more dangerous - and three young people were killed yesterday - is that our checkpoints have been relaxed and even abandoned. While El Kaida is now operating in Gaza, and Hamas is working on terrorism, we are leaving it all to Abu Mazen. So the funerals of 23 year old Kinneret Mendel, her cousin Matat Rosenfeld, and 15 year old Oz Ben Meir are being held today because we want to believe that we are making peace.

IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUKKOT. I say this every year because it RAINS every year.

Here's something I got from a few people this year - but I don't know the author.

Subject: The Laws of the Sukkah according to Dr. Suess Rules of the Sukkah (with numbered footnotes)

You can build it very small (1)
You can build it very tall (2)
You can build it very large (3)
You can build it on a barge
You can build it on a ship (4)
Or on a roof but please don't slip (5)
You can build it in an alley (6)
You shouldn't build it in a valley (7)
You can build it on a wagon (8)
You can build it on a dragon (9)
You can make the skakh of wood (10)
Would you, could you, yes you should Make the skakh from leaves of tree
You shouldn't bend it at the knee (11)
Build your Sukkah tall or short
No Sukkah is built in the Temple Court
You can build it somewhat soon
You cannot build it in the month of June (12)
If your Sukkah is well made
You'll have the right amount of shade (13)
You can build it very wide
You can not build it on its side
Build if your name is Jim
Or Bob or Sam or even Tim
Build it if your name is Sue (14)
Do you build it, yes you do!
From the Sukkah you can roam
But you should treat it as your home (15)
You can invite some special guests
Don't stay in it if there are pests
You can sleep upon some rugs
Don't you build it where there's bugs
In the Sukkah you should sit
And eat and drink but never ____
If in the Sukkah it should rain
To stay there would be such a pain (16)
And if it should be very cold
Stay there only if you're bold
So build a Sukkah one and all
Make it large or make it small
Sukkah rules are short and snappy
Enjoy Sukkot, rejoice be happy.

Footnotes: 1. Maimonides (RMBM) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Sukkah, Chapter 4, Section 1. The minimum height of a Sukkah is 10 tefachim. A tefach is a measure of the width of the four fingers of one's hand. My hand is 3 1/4 inches wide for a minimum Sukkah height of 32 1/2 inches. The minimum allowable width is 7 tefachim by 7 tefachim. This would result in a Sukkah of 22 3/4 inches by 22 3/4 inches. 2. The maximum height is 20 Amot. An Amah is the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. My Amah is 15 1/2 inches for a maximum height of 25 feet. Others say that 30 feet is the maximum. 3. According to RMBM the Sukkah can be built to a width of several miles. Shulchan Aruch also says there is no limit on the size of the width. 4. RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 6. 5. RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 11. RMBM states that one may construct a Sukkah by wedging poles in the four corners of the roof and suspending scakh from the poles. The walls of the building underneath are considered to reach upward to the edge of the scakh. 6. RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 8-10 discusses the ins and outs of building your Sukkah in an alley or passageway. 7. There is a location referred to in the Talmud called Ashtarot Karnayim. According to the discussion there are two hills, with a valley in between where the Sun does not reach. Therefore it is impossible to sit in the shade of the roof of the Sukkah. I can't find the reference...hopefully next year. 8. RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 6. You can go into a Sukkah built on a wagon or a ship even on Yom Tov. 9. RMBM Hilchot Sukkah Chapter 4, Section 6. OK, RMBM says a camel but dragon rhymes with wagon a lot better, don't you agree. Anyway, RMBM says you can build your Sukkah on a wagon or in the crown of a tree, but you can't go into it on Yom Tov. There is a general rule against riding a beast or ascending into the crown of a tree on Yom Tov. 10. Chapter 5 deals with the rules for the scakh. Basically, you can use that which has grown from the ground, and is completely detached from the ground. So, for example, you cannot bend the branches of a tree over the Sukkah to form the scakh. But you can cut the branches from a tree and use them as scakh. 11. This would be a violation of the rule cited in the prior footnote. 12. Shulchan Aruch, Hilchot Sukkah, Perek 636, Section 1. The Sukkah should not be built sooner than 30 days before the Hag. However, if the structure is built prior to 30 days, as long as something new is added within the 30 days, the Sukkah is kosher. 13. Of course it's a well known rule that you must sit in the shade from the roof of the Sukkah and not in the shade that may be cast by the walls. It seems that this might affect the height of the walls, depending on the longitude of the location where you are building your Sukkah. 14. Technically, women, servants and minors are exempt from the Mitzvah of Sukkah. In our day we hope we know better than to read out half the Jewish people from the observance of Mitzvot. Of course, that's just a personal opinion of the author. 15. RMBM ibid Chapter 6, Section 6 explains that you should eat, drink and live in the Sukkah for the 7 days as you live in your own home. One should not even take a nap outside of the Sukkah. 16. RMBM ibid, Section 10. If it rains one should go into the house. How does one know if it is raining hard enough? If sufficient raindrops fall through the scakh (roof covering) and into the food so that the food is spoiled - go inside!

This poem was written and is Rabbi Arthur E. Gould 1999-2006. It is properly titled "Ruless of the Sukkah." I add this information only three months later, because only now did i discover this. I'll try to find out who sent this to me, because even then there was a search for the real author.

October 18, 2005

The fact that Dahlia Ravikovich did not commit suicide, but fell down and died from a blow to the head, seems to have made a very big difference to a lot of poets here. We really need our heroes to be positive. I've never appreciated the connection of depression and poetry, and for Israel it is absolutely necessary that we have role models. More that everything I'm sorry she's dead, sorry she isn't writing any more. Who knows how she would have developed?

Speaking of role models - 8 Nobel Laurates from Israel. That's a lot for a country of our size and our age. I've often disagreed with the choices for the Nobel Prizes, especially since Amichai didn't get one, but this year I'm less angry with them.

October 19, 2005

Autumn is in the air - suddenly the windows are dark. Suddenly you go out and it rains on you. And then the sun comes out. Suddenly - and together with the end of daily savings (don't get me started on that) it gets dark by 5:30. I hate that.

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