Tel Aviv Diary October 21-5, 2007- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - October 21-5, 2007

October 21, 2007

Whoops. I erased again. Erased my calendar. Erased my entry for today. Almost erased the research paper I'm writing. But of course the day started with the fact that Iran can send us 11,000 rockets per minute and erase all of us. So it's no wonder.

Back to the calendar - If I had an appointment with you today, I'm sorry. If I have an appointment something this week - let me know!!! I've never been good at this memory thing - moved from ADD directly to the appearance of Alzheimers - so if you can find it in your heart, forgive me.

Strike. We're on strike. I thought it was because our salaries have eroded 30% in the past 6 years, but it turns out that in the past 15 years our salaries have eroded 50%.

October 22,2007

The university faculty is a strange body. The faculty would rather work than strike, and it is only the fact that they realize they (we realize we) have no choice and the universities themselves are in danger if the government doesn't change policies. But here we are on strike and we keep asking each other questions like - can we still correct papers? can we still direct theses? can we help our tutors teach? and we continue with our research with the same vengeance as always - we just don't want to let go. So the university faculty will be in that weird position of being 'on strike' and working almost as usual. You won't see me at the beach.

The problem, as has been pointed out here and there, is the loss of respect for education except as a direct tool for increasing wealth. Even as a direct tool for increasing wealth the universities are important, because there is proof that education increases gnp. But as long as people believe that education is elitist and therefore irrelevant, they don't even listen to the facts.

Still, I would really like this situation resolved.

October 23, 2007

Today begins the memorial for Yizchak Rabin.

All I can think about is how much was murdered on that day - how all those children who sat vigil that week in the square 12 years ago lost all they believed in that night.

Nothing else is as important as that.

I'm not going to Panic tonight because my cold got worse. Let me know how it was.

October 24, 2007

Our remembrances of Rabin do not lessen with the years. Today I felt it filled up the country - the sadness of a lost hope - the weight of the responsibility to take up the fallen torch - the need for a leader.

Of course the voices calling for the release of the murderer intensified this sense of loss. The sense that the destruction of the Prime Minister and the hope he represented was not caused by a single individual, but a way of thinking that remains alive and prospering in this country. As Tsipi Livni said last week, and I have long ago written in my poetry - this struggle is not between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but the moderates and the extremists.

The University senior faculty in Israel is on strike - and the Ministry of Education or the government or whoever we negotiate with is already coming out with disinformation about how much we make and how rich we are. The problem is someone may actually believe this! According to the papers today I make well over $6000 a month. The truth is I take home less than $2000. I don't get a car, or a phone or even a computer from the university. I get to buy a computer every four years, with my little extra fund, but the computer belongs to the university. And because my computer (Lenovo) was so stupid I bought a new one ($2500) Saturday night with my own money. Of course if I had been smarter I would have bought it while I was in the US where it would have cost $1500. As far as my work load is concerned I can't even begin to kvetch. I'm too tired.

October 25, 2007

Why am I tired? The number of faculty in my department has been cut in half in the past few years, but we have more students than ever before. The students are just as good as ever, but less prepared. We can't teach them proper composition because we don't have enough staff. We're incredibly fortunate that they learn quickly, and have long adjusted to faulty education systems. But we would like to change the entire system.

Take for example the library. I have written about the sad musty condition of our library and the lack of recent books, journals, and electronic material. I have written about the paucity of materials, electronic classes, and rooms. I have written about the lack of meeting places on campus (for students and/or faculty), the absence of an alumni association, the need for student aid, and so far and so on. None of this is new. But it is worse.

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