Tel Aviv Diary - October 8-12, 2013 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - October 8-12, 2013 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

October 8, 2013

What is the difference between normal children and those whose parents survived the holocaust? Last night I had the opportunity to see it clearly. My brother has been hard at work putting together the history of the family of my mother's mother, and after reading his tome, we spoke together on the phone. Cousins from California, nieces from Washington, relatives from all over the US - quite amazing! At the beginning my brother asked what to us was the purpose of coordinating such a document, and I perhaps in my weariness (it was long past my bedtime) said "so many of them had lung problems" as if we were doing a far-reaching medical history. That probably threw people off the goal, which was far more emotional. Why do we look into family histories? As Yehuda Poliker sang in his song by Yakov Gilad, it's all "dust and ashes" back there.

Except for a very few, most of these relatives were born in the US and had many memories available to share. But for me and perhaps for some of the others, the imperative to bring to consciousness a world which was lost, a crowd of human beings who lived, and loved, and did good deeds and made mistakes, is essential. Who WERE they? All those children lost in the war - I want to know each one - not because I'm lacking friends or relatives but because every single one of them deserves at the very least a bit of life, and we have a responsibility to give them as much as we can.

So the question my brother brought up near the end of the conversation about whether it is proper to tell unpleasant stories about our ancestors seemed to me obvious. Of Course. They too are life.

But the others were more discreet, wished to honor and respect. My niece had a better idea - giving the questionable stories a balance, a context, that would allow the stories to be useful to tell their children. Beautiful, constructive, and fine. But not truth. Good, but not what I cry out for.

I want that entire world to be reconstructed. Every piece of every thought. Of course it's ridiculous.

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef has passed away - in the past hour. Whatever others say of him, he was the man who took people with no education or culture and gave them a direction. Gradually the calendars of naked women in garages were replaced by icons of holy men. We may laugh at this idolatry but along with this turn to religion there evolved something of respect for others, and a consideration of values. For this we must mourn his death.

How could I say no culture and no education? It is not exactly true, but how can one express something of the remarkable changes many people of African origins had to experience when they arrived here? Women suddenly loose on the streets, wearing provocative clothes, when they were kept under guard at home in Tunis, in Fez, in Casablanca. Who could know what the social codes were?

October 9, 2013

Theater is so great here - except when it comes to Shakespeare. I've only walked out of two plays in my life - Richard III and Macbeth. This particular production of Macbeth was so bad I understand why the name of the play should not be mentioned. In this production of "The Scottish Play," as it is called, one line served for the whole week for me "Macbeth hath murdered sleep." I couldn't get over the waste of money and energy on almost every aspect of the production - All that running and shouting and dancing and showering. The clothes were nice, though.

Anyway it ruined my week and my entire attitude toward the Cameri theater, for the moment. Nili, who is very involved in Israeli theater, tried very hard to placate me and offered productions of classical theater done by the Cameri and the Habima and Gesher, but I am, for the moment, off high-budget Israeli theater.

Una Selva performed last night in Rothschild 12. And the critical spirit that was born the night before in the theater made me grumble that I had arrived on time and the performance began almost a quarter to midnight. No introduction, no lead-in time, no opening act. But what a performance! There is no question they belong in the big time.

Nobel Prize in chemistry went to three guys, two of whom are former Israelis. The big surprise here was that one of the prize winners isn't Israeli.

October 10, 2013

Flu shots were announced yesterday - and today we were in the health clinic bright and early. There was no line, and the only problem is that they also weigh you annually just after the shot. For Ezi no after-effects. For me, the usual kvetch. Fortunately I have immersed myself in acupuncture treatments and am already beginning to feel the relief from my regular aches and pains which have been exasperated by the little remodeling we're doing.

What remodeling? Long ago we turned one of the kids rooms into a closet with makeshift shelves and poles. Now we are getting a real closet. This demands emptying the closet, fixing the enormous cracks and holes, upgrading the window that shivers with the wind and cleaning out the mildew, painting the room, and then waiting for the cupboards to come. The window man is coming next week so we have a lot of work to sort out twenty five years of clothes appropriate to younger and thinner inhabitants. I've been dividing the stuff between friends and refugees. It actually gave me great pleasure to know that my running shoes participated in fund-raising marathons because I have otherwise mourned over the fact that I have grown two sizes.

October 11, 2013

For a break I read Taha Mohammed Ali's poetry. I take "Revenge" as a starting point for discussion because of his genuine griefs and his opening for empathy in that grief:

That's where I want to begin. Acknowledging every human element of the situation without ignoring any human element of the other. The history part I can't deal with. The houses my parents grew up in may still exist, but I'm not allowed access to them, nor to the factories of my uncles, nor to any hope of retribution. Different books say different things about how my aunt Malcah was killed - i'll probably never know what really happened. Bad Arolsen doesn't have records of my aunt Batya and her husband and children, even though my mother swore they were all killed in Auschwitz. And did Sasha Kaganovich make it out of the war? Never found out for sure

So let's forget that past and work with the genuineness of our emotions.


October 11, 2013

First entry on a Mac. Even old dogs learn tricks some times. It seems all the scientific minded people I know know everything there is to know about Macs and all the literary scholars and poets I know use PCs. I am neither - just a person who uses computers and writes the occasional poem when, as my first teacher taught me, I can't sleep without it.

My son-in-law kind of set up some of the major programs, like what program opens first on the internet - and when I couldn't decide he made the default we made it Ynet, the news channel in Hebrew. This does not make the experience of new computer a positive one. We didn't even have anyone in the running for the nobel prize for literature.

October 12, 2013

The other day I read and praised a manuscript of poems that was all about guilt of being Israeli. Today I talked with a group of people who were very proud of their Israeli identity, despite their first-hand knowledge of events peaceful and military. It was an interesting experience, because these people - of all ages and types - are all involved in various kinds of experiences concerned with positive relationships between Christian, Muslims, and Jews. I think I was the only negative voice in the crowd when I mentioned that I didn't like Teibe Beer... Whatever goes on politically around here - and a lot is going on - people want to talk, from all angles.

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