Tel Aviv Diary October 5- 9, 2006- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - October 5, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

October 5, 2006

I really hate spreading propaganda around - on either side - and try to avoid it whenever I can. But this video of anIranian Classroom disturbed me in particular. Not just because he was deconstructing one of my childhood favorite cartoons, not just because 90% of the facts are simple wrong, not only because the interpretation of the professor is 100% off the mark, but because THE STUDENTS WERE WRITING IT DOWN!

Now some of my best friends are professors, and some of them are absolutely full of it, and they sometimes try to propose outrageous theories to their students, but they will be caught immediately. "Come on," someone will say from the corner, "that doesn't make sense." And then the other students will start arguing... and the class goes wild.

When I was a student some psych prof decided to test us, and after presenting Freud's theories, Jung, Adler, Horney and Rogers, he presented Edgar Borgatta's theory of digital gratification, mammary envy, trauma of the loss on the umbilical cord. It was a pure hoax but I looked around and the whole class was busy recording it into their notebooks. (Weren't you in that class, Richard?) That's about the time I decided to get out of lectures and into seminars where we could talk. Actually that's about the time I decided to go to Israel.

While I'm on this subject I think I'll recount another little traumatic classroom experience that changed my thinking. It was in October of 2001. Tel Aviv was blowing up cafe by cafe, the Israeli police had just killed 13 Arab demonstrators, and we were all so shaken we could barely make it through the day. The semester began and with it my seminar on Decadent Poetry. As we went around the class introducing ourselves, Amal began to speak in her slight Arab accent. "Don't you think we should talk about what's going on around us," she asked. There was silence. Even I didn't know how to begin to bring the totally confused world into the classroom.

I think it took me a month or two to come up with the idea of a trilingual anthology of student poetry. Entitled Here it was based on the principle that "here" is a different place for all of us, even though we're living in a different country. Take a look at the anthology. I still think it's pretty amazing. Of course Amal is one of the editors.

October 6, 2006

The point being that the most important thing to teach students is to think for themselves. Even if they come out with outrageous ideas and they have to be shaped into logic. Without that we've got these puppets who'll swallow whatever they're given. That's why I don't hate entirely the chaos into which panelists descend on tv here when they're discussing politics. Unfortunately they are so individualistic they don't listen to any of the others and miss getting the facts that might make what they have to say relevant.

October 6, 2006

And while we're on the subject of individualism, we were at a wedding last night - well a second wedding because the couple had been married a few years ago abroad but wanted the public acknowledgment of their partnership among their friends and family. As kinky as the ceremony was - with a non-rabbi officiating - it followed the script of a jewish wedding- 7 times the bride circles the groom, 7 blessings, glass broken, etc - but all with a newage interpretation that gave me pleasure if only because of its dialogue with tradition.

October 7, 2006

I know we're coming to the end of the beach season, but I couldn't go all summer for all kinds of health reasons. So tonight i saw the sun set on the Mediterranean from the Mediterranean. And i have a question for all you ecology people - isn't there something funny about the consistency of the sea water? I loved the sea and loved it today, but it was a tiny bit like swimming in salad dressing. Maybe it's because it's October, and the water has been warmed from the summer.

Ah but dinner at Ahmed et Salem's never changes. Even though the restaurant is in a gas station it is always fun to eat there. Always informal. Always easy. i absolutely arrived in a bathrobe and crocs, and asked to be hidden in the back. "Why in the back?" the owner asks - "you've just come from the beach!" "No," says Oren, "actually she's only out of the hospital for a few hours." Ahmed understood immediately that Oren was suggesting a mental institution... no, a looney bin, and began to test me on what my -- not yet present -- husband would order. i couldn't guess. he could. and he was right. By the time we came to actually order the food, then, we were drunk with good humor.

October 8, 2006

I always refer you to ariga for REAL interpretation of the news, but Robert Rosenberg, the man behind the site, has not been well and not been updating the site. In fact, if you know him, it would be a good time to be in touch, and to share some love.

And jokes.

Discovered tonight that most everyone I know is on vacation and/or abroad. Only people too poor or too busy to travel are around. And me. Statistics - 70% on vacation check back with work. We are pretty much all workoholics even if we go away. After all, work is a wonderful escape from the existential realities around here.

Here's a kind of escape - the first conference on english=speaking aliyah.

invitation .

October 9, 2006

Ezi's throat was still sore, after two weeks, and even though he's been kind of functioning, he came home looking awful yesterday and complaining of a lump on his tonsil. And he's got to go abroad next week. So although it was 9 p.m. and we were late for a party, we took off for the health clinic for a throat swab.

So this is where all of Israel is, I said to Ezi as we descended the stairs into the large and crowded waiting room in Ramat Hasharon's Maccabi clinic. There were more people there than I'd seen in weeks. All the hypochondriacs of the neighborhood.

I did a throat swab too. After all, I'm one of them.

And now I'll look the results up on the internet.

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