Tel Aviv Diary - October 23-27, 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - October 23-27, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

October 23, 2009

Having grown up with all kinds of political activity on campus, I have always been surprised that so little is visible at the universities here. Maybe they think we have enough politics in this country, or maybe the students are too busy earning a living, or maybe people are trying to get a broader and more intelligent perspective on the specific situation, but the amount of actual political activity on campus is pretty minimal. So I was a little surprised to read Benjamin Pogrund's piece in the pages of Ha'aretz today. Then I remembered how I graduated from the University of Rochester in 1966. Our distinguished speaker was Richard M. Nixon, coming back from a long silence after "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore." And we all know it was going to be trouble. A large group of us didn't want to attend the ceremony but we were warned that we wouldn't get our degrees, and so there was a brief movement to show up, but turn our chairs around on the green in protest when he began speaking. But we didn't. We sat there and listened to him, and from that day he came back into politics, became president, and I left the U.S. instead. Often I regret my silence, but then I remember: At the very least, the campus is supposed to be a place of open discussion on all sides.

October 24, 2009

It has been a while since we've visited the Land of Israel Museum, even though I buy many many gifts from the store there. The thing that spurred me on today was the fact that the sand sculptures of landmarks in old Tel Aviv were going to be dismantled, or rained on, this week. So we ventured out in the heat of the day to see them, and then raced for the cafeteria for a drink, before we hid in the rothchild building at the exhibit of "faces." The website doesn't begin to illustrate the marvel of this exhibit, and the local fascination with others.

I mean eye contact and staring for starters. I can pick an Israeli out of a crowd because he is likely to be looking at someone else. The old story goes that the only reason people don't make love in the streets of Tel Aviv is that everyone else would be stopping to give advice. It's not necessarily sympathy, but definitely curiousity.

October 25, 2009

I'm pretty used to Pappa's - a peroni on the balcony, some elegant main course like the scallopini, terramisu and grappa... But for a local family birthday party tonight we went to Moses where the food is basic hamburger, fries with smiley faces, and ice cream for dessert. That whole area of Ramat Hachayal, near the new Assuta hospital, is high tech - with lots of basic fast food. I asked for a doggie bag but someone in the kitchen forgot, so i wound up taking home a free kid's meal for Shusha. Not bad for service.

Actually I wanted to write about the value of human life in Israel, but I'm too tired to tackle that subject right now - the Goldstone Report, the recent murders around here, the amazing situation of public health - all these mix up the whole question of how we value life. Of course you can help me out and give me some ideas for tomorrow.

October 27, 2009

So much for your ideas. I was hoping someone would write me about how our theoretical values on human life in this country, illustrated in our health care system, and emphasized in our religion, square with greater punishments for people who destroy property than those who destroy lives. But I know this is a situation much more complex than we can figure out without a long discussion and a careful examination of the sources of the decisions made. Still I would like to keep this value in mind all the time when we encounter individual cases.

But by last night when I was perhaps supposed to be writing more about this on the log, I was deeply involved in a discussion with friends about the chnging role of parents and children in contemporary societry and in this country. Most of us, children of Holocaust survivors, have always felt a sense of responsibility for our parents, accompanied often by a sense of disdain for their strangeness in the contemporary society. Now that they are unable to take care of themselves, we are not only cognizant of the amazing complexity of their past lives, but also their absolute dependece upon us. Even though I lost my parents over twnety years ago, my sense of responsibility for them only grows and much of what i do now is connected with preserving their memory in a manner that is appropriate for them.

On the other hand we parents in Israel play an important role in our children's lives. I don't know anyone my age in Israel who isn't contributing in some major way to their children's lives. This could be with money, with child care, and/or with food.

You bet I mean Arabs as well as Jews. I think the increased care we take with our children has something to do with a diminished trust in the society and government.

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