Tel Aviv Diary - October 16-20, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

October 16, 2010

The Magic of Galapagos

Photos: Ezra Gut

Poems: Karen Alkalay-Gut

Hebrew: Dina Milano

Presentation: October 17, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. in room 01 in Webb Building, next door.

Exhibit: from October 12-28

The idea of the presentation, is not to escape from the Middle East, but to examine some of the options to be considered about our responsibilities to each other and to the world.

Ahmidinajhad has made some more ridiculous remarks in Lebanon, and I'd be rolling about laughing if he wasn't so dangerous. Somebody is taking him seriously when he accuses Israel of causing the climate change. Somebody ignorant, perhaps, but an ignorant man with a weapon created by smart people is more vicious than a smart person.

October 18, 2010

Exhausted. I am just getting over the attack of the mad dentist and the university has begun the semester. So because I teach at noon I brought my computers and my notes over early, so I could park close to my office. And then the nightmare began. There was no parking anywhere. I finally went home, and got Ezi to bring me back and drop me off. This was a bad way to begin a day so I thought I'd get some coffee to modify the sense of frustration. But there was a long line and the nearby cafe, and the next one over had been replaced by a machine, and by the time I discovered all this I barely had time to get a coke and run to class, discovering too late that I'd left my notes in the car. Don't ask about the rest of the day - everyone was wonderful and everything academic was fine, but by the time I walked home I was finished.

October 19, 2010

Every year the mourning seems more remote, and the implications of his murder more severe. Ceremonies in memory of Yitzhak Rabin now hold immediacy only to those who remember him, but incredible importance to those who were born after. The chaos that has ensured as a result of the murder of a leader has proved irreperable. It has spread into every element of our lives. Every year my heart returns to the poem I wrote that night, unlike most of my poems that I barely remember, and I see again how true it was.


On the night Rabin died I dreamt I wandered the streets
homeless and lonely in a crowd of confusion, ricocheting
off relatives and friends barely regarded, while dogs of peace
ran with panthers and tigers all loose and all free.

No one was working – everyone
out on the streets or in groups
sleeping in different houses, using
interchangeably each others’ phones –
connecting with wrong numbers
saying a few impotent words,
disconnecting indifferently

Unseasonable cold penetrated my clothes,
and uncoated I sought shelter
in cloaks of the dead,
but found myself in other byways
before I could wrap myself in them

The river was solid and the earth
liquid under our feet – the worst
walked on water while the best
fell in the treacherous sands.

Nothing held the dream together
and everything could fall apart
at any random moment

October 20, 2010

I spent last night doing an MRI. My appointment, arranged months ago, was for 2:00 a.m. so I could have taken a nap before. But of course I couldn't sleep. I arrived at 1:30 a.m. with all my papers in order (no mean trick), was taken into the hall and injected with something, and within minutes I was in the tunnel with Nina Simone and an enormous amount of noise and shuddering. By 2:35 I was out, waiting for the disk. It was still warm when I got it, and by 3:15 we were home, in bed. Okay, it may take me a little while to recover from the trauma, but it was as tranquil as a test like that could be, and I remain in great admiration of the health system here.

Among other things, it is the round the clock utilization of expensive equipment. In contrast, the university begins to grow dark at 6:00 p.m., and is almost totally shut down by eight. I could think of innumerable nocturnal uses for the lecture hall in our building, including screenings of films, poetry readings and workshops, adult education and nocturnal student concerts. But we are not organized for such efficiency and the organizational demands are enormous. The staff alone needed to keep the buildings open would be prohibitive given our budget. So the humanities departments continue to shrink in the recognition of our university.

But still I dream. How much would it take to organize a series of contemporary poets insufficiently recognized in society - Moti Geldmann, Sabena Messag, Raquel Halfi, MAya Bejerano, Tamir Greenberg, etc. All you need is one superintendent, one series manager, and a secretary to send out invitations and make sure there is a notice in the paper. And someone to collect the 25 shekel at the door, give 5 to the poet, 5 to the super, 5 to the host, and 10 to the university. I think about this all the time, especially when I'm in a long tube and told not to move for 30 minutes .

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