Tel Aviv Diary September 1, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - September 1 , 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 1, 2005

Can't resist opening a new page on the first day of school. Anyway I somehow screwed up the linage to the previous page and it is harder for me to get to it and keep track - so I left Faulkner's brilliant but scary image of seeing at water level along the Mississippi and returned to Tel Aviv.

At the recommendation of my eye doctor I took a day away from my computer and spent good times in the land of Israel. Well Herzlia and Hofit anyway.

Linda took me to Yael Or's Hofit bird factory in the morning, and I came home with a multicolor papier mache bird I have yet to photograph. There were some pictures in the paper of the birds outside the cow shed behind her house in Yidiot a while ago, but I guess they aren't on line. Anyway they are colorful and my bird was given to me in the anticipation that I will take off and fly.

So I met with Cheli for lunch on the beach at Yam7 and the place so charmed me I brought the family back for dinner. Eating on the beach is pretty magical, but in the evening we ate inside and that might have prevented the total enjoyment I usually feel on the beach. Something about the enormous bill also helped. 13 shekel a roll indeed. They can market it as homemade bread, but it's a roll. And the rest of the meal had that same aura.

But I did enjoy the fact that downstairs by the beach they are serving hazarei and upstairs around the hotel are religious families walking about. I like that concept.

In between I proofed a thesis, and tried to get some research done. Actually, it is beginning to work. As the heat begins to diminish, the mind begins to operate (although there are no guarantees that sanity returns).

That's probably why Bibi is attempting his little likkud massada, and Barak made what I suspect is a brilliant move to unite his party, putting Shimon as the head, and the teachers worked it out at the last minute with the wicked witch of the west - opening schools with all the last minute changes incorporated (I know principals and coordinates who spent the past 2 weeks without sleep trying to get the previously fired and now restored teachers back into a new system.)

Anyway we're finally offering medical assistance to New Orleans. Vaguely, but apparently sincerely. After all we do have experience with buildings falling down, and people in need.

Somehow I think that is more beneficial than blaming the wind on an avenging jihad wind.

Sptember 2, 2005

Professor Barry Rubin runs a free online journal called Meria that is so good, astute, and objective I assumed it was sponsored by someone, but it turns out it is independent, and I wasn't reading carefully. Check it out.

The human misery in New Orleans, so preventable at different stages, and so curable with human generousity, is painful beyond belief. How can we help? To whom can we send money? How do we send helpers? Does anyone have an address?

A few answers already: You can contribute on the internet
United Jewish Communities Federations Katarina Emergency Fund.

or call Red Cross 1 800 Help Now

I will check out the other possibilities as soon as possible. It turns out that there are a number of scams already. Check them out before you give.

I know I have no business in this issue, but my heart is breaking over this needless loss of life. At home CNN is on all the time. And Jesse Jackson Jr. made some of the most important points for action. Like Airlifts: the way Israel airlifted thousands of Ethiopian Jews in 72 hours. Why can't the U.S. government do that now? And why can't the airlines pitch in. And why concentrate on looting now that people are hungry, dying, sick...

Still we did go out to Nona for lunch - a wonderful afternoon break. I love sitting on the beach during dinner, and all the other picturesque Tel Aviv sites, but there is nothing like people-watching on Ibn Gvirol. Nothing. It doesn't make me forget. It just makes me appreciate the temporary time I have for pleasure even more. Theodore Roethke in a poem called "The Movement" talks about climbing the spiral stairs of life and adds "And the abyss? The abyss? / 'The abyss you can't miss: / It's right where you are - / A step down the stair'" That's it.

But for a great site and a great project to give you hope, check out this site

September 3, 2005

We went to the Stalagtite Cave today - The photographs are unbelievable and I believe their hype, that this is the one of the most beautiful caves in the world. When Ezi decides to download some of the pictures I'll put one up. The hills around Beit Shemesh are also quite breathtaking and as we were admiring them, Ezi pointed out the silos in the landscape and noted that he had built them. So wait for pictures of them too.

We also had the tourist experience of going to the Elvis Restaurant in Abu Ghosh. We hadn't been there in years and the remodelling of this shrine to Elvis is pretty remarkable and shouldn't be missed. I love the combination of cultures, the hommous and the Elvis hamburger, the Armenian plate with the king in the middle, the postcards of Presley in a prater shawl by the Wailing Wall, the enormous kitschy statues against the background of the Jerusalem hills.

But the food waren't so great. Pretty mediocre compared to my expectations

Rivka pointed out to me that the long discussion that's been going around the web in Hebrew about "leave me in your mother," is now in abbreviated form in in Urban Dictionary. For the Hebrew, write me.

Ah hell, I'll just put it in here and you can skip it if you don't Hebrew:

פינת הלשון עוסקת הפעם בהתפתחויות המפתיעות שחלו במלה "תחת".
יותר מכל איבר אחר, נהנה התחת מנוכחות מסיבית בשפת הדיבור, בדרך כלל בהקשרים מזלזלים :
"שווה לתחת" הוא חסר ערך
"פרצוף תחת" הוא מכוער
"קוץ בתחת" הוא נודניק
"סיפור מהתחת" הוא סיפור רע או מופרך
"תפס תחת" הוא מי שהשתן עלה לו לראש
"מלקק תחת" הוא חנפן,
"כיסוי תחת" הוא התנערות מאחריות.
אלא שבשנים האחרונות מתחיל התחת לקבל את הכבוד המגיע לו.
בביטוי "לא בתחת שלי" הוא כבר מחליף את הראש (לא בתחת שלי הריאליטי של צביקה פיק – יש לי מספיק צרות משלי) .
"ליפול על התחת" זה להתפעל : "ראיתי את המאסטרו ולא נפלתי על התחת".
"הרוס על התחת" מבטא משיכה גדולה ("צביקה פיק מהמם, אני הרוסה על התחת שלו").
ההתפתחות האחרונה במצב התחת נרשמה השבוע במדור הספורט של "ידיעות אחרונות". למחרת התיקו עם אירלנד התפרסמה הכותרת הזו :
"בניון : כולם יודעים שלגרנט יש תחת" עד עכשיו חשבנו וידענו שיש לו ביצים, עכשיו מתברר יש לו גם תחת.
גברי לוי, יו"ר התאחדות לשעבר בראיון לגל"צ טען לזכויות יוצרים על הביטוי החדש והסביר שהתחת בהקשר לגרנט מייצג עצבים חזקים "שום דבר לא נגמר עד שהוא נגמר"
אחד שיש לו תחת הוא איפוא מי שלא מאבד את קור רוחו גם כשהכל נראה אבוד.
לדוגמה : טומי תפס תחת אבל לאריק יש תחת חבל על הזמן, עכשיו טומי שוה לתחת.

whoops. I erased the right file and put up the wrong one. So the hebrew one is about 'tachat' and not 'ba-ima shel-cha." if i change it now i'll be violating my first law, not to edit unless i've offended someone terribly. Better to make it into a joke. but that's for tomorrow.

September 4, 2005

In the old days we went to a nightclub in Jaffo where Yoel Barr was performing. He had a fast pace and would tell a joke in English and then say he'd quickly translate it to Hebrew but it would be a different joke, so whichever language you knew, you'd be entertained, and if you knew both, it would be even better - So that's here.

Rena pointed out by the way the "Be-ima shelcha" actually should be translated as "By your mother." as in "Swear - by your mother." She's sooo right.

Here are some of the promised pictures, courtesy of Ron Gut:

September 5, 2005

Richard wrote me to the effect that if Bush could screw up so badly in New Orleans, you can imagine what he's doing in Iraq.

This is New Orleans in happier days

For information on Yiddish activities in Tel Aviv in the next months click here

Boy if I ever edited this journal I'd really edited the short notes above for today. I'd been up all night thinking about New Orleans, seeing places i'd loved there and remembering that they would never be the same. (I didn't get to see the Tennessee Williams museum... There was this thigh high porcelain dog in some shop that I couldn't afford and couldn't carry but we wanted very much and comforted ourselves by promising to come back...There was something I wanted to order at Galatoires that I passed up but they'll probably come back to life and be grander than ever...) And then I finally gave up trying to sleep and turned on the television and there were all these local organizations that have sprouted up for relief of the people of New Orleans. This is very good, and very humanitarian, but the people of New Orleans will be relieved, sooner or later, and the people who have been 'disengaged' have also lost homes and employment and many will never be able to put their lives together again. Not that there is any way to compare the pain and agony of victims of Katrina with Gush Katif, and not the government isn't helping (if the settlers had cooperated most would have been resettled by now, and I hear they are getting $3-400,000 a piece), but just the fact of losing a sense of future - that blank look people have in the Houston Auditorium and in many of the settlers' faces.

The thing is that it is easier to identify totally with the innocent victims of Katrina, and so conflicting to sympathize with settlers - this is part of our jewish character - the absence of blind family loyalty.

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Tel Aviv Diary - September 6, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 6, 2005

Because it is my fate to be the mother of a cafe owner, i have aquired a critical eye in relation to hygiene, quality, service, etc. These are things I learned to ignore in the Israel of my youth. Public toilets, for example, were always off limits except in the case of emergencies. And then, only when you've brought your own toilet paper. But that was thirty, forty years ago. And I felt at home in Jordan a few years ago when I wound up taking a whirlwind tour in a condition that demanded frequent visits to every toilet from Amman to Petra. But this morning I took an ornery mood to Nona, and looked for flaws.

Nona - with its enormous window to the street, and strategic mirrors - was created for someone like me - a people watcher with an attention deficit disorder. I can see someone interesting coming past in the mirror and then slowly watch them going by. But this morning, as I found myself losing focus on a fascinating conversation with Dalit, I noticed there was something of a film on the window. "No one else but me will care," I thought. "I'm the only one who has to examine all the details of the passersby." But before I had managed to look away and look back, there were the managers with ladder and spongees,and the long tall window was sparkling. I should have realized that this is a national obsession and not just my own.

The need to see through clean windows.

As well as the need to measure ourselves by others.

September 7, 2005

Who killed Moussa Arafat? I know he was not the most popular of people - but to be dragged out of his home and murdered? I fear chaos in Gaza. Because if there is chaos there, we'll be going right be in there and making a mess. And the people there deserve peace and quiet and not more violence and lawlessness.

Someone sent me this just now and even though I don't know the source, I'm posting it:


Tulane University in New Orleans with an enrollment of thousands of students has been flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
All Israeli Universities have responded positively to this Jewish Agency initiative and will accept students by an accelerated procedure for the new academic year.
Thousands of students including 2,000 Jewish students from the disaster stricken New Orleans area will be able to continue their studies in Israel as part of an initiative of the Jewish Agency for them to study in English in programs for overseas students offered by Israeli universities.
In co-operation with Hillel - The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and the United Jewish Communities (UJC) - The Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency has approached all the Jewish Communities in America with the goal of locating students at Tulane University to offer them the alternative opportunity of studying in Israel. Tulane University has been flooded and courses are cancelled. The offer to come study in Israel has been extended to all denominations.
This week all Israeli Universities (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Haifa University. Bar Ilan University, Ben Gurion University) responded positively to the request of the Jewish Agency to expedite the registration of students from New Orleans wishing to study in Israel.
Courses are taught in English and Hebrew Language Learning courses (Ulpan) will also be made available. The existing programs will be expanded so as to accommodate as many applicants as possible.

The Jewish Agency is behind it. And there's a similar story on Ynet. I know so many of us keep trying of think of ways to help - Not just money. There is an art therapist I know who is looking for a way to go there to help ease the psychological pain.

September 8, 2005

The headline of the Tribune says "What killed Arafat" Infection a mystery" with a subtitle of "Both Poisoning and Aids Doubted in study of French Medical Records." Ha'aretz says "Experts: Yasser Arafat died of AIDS or poisoning." In both articles it's clear they don't know. And my point is no matter what he died of, his wife thought it was something shameful - probably AIDS - and therefore covered it up. And that he carried the HIV virus. "Where did he get the virus?" Linoy asks on channel 10 and Avri answers, "Not from Suha." And my question is, we've known about this for months, right? Why is it coming out right now after his nephew (and probably his son) was so brutally murdered in Gaza by the Hamas?

September 9, 2005

Lisa often tells less than she knows. You have to read between the lines. Like who is that politician who picks his nose during interviews. Fortunately there are also links to other places on her site that give you other sides of her.

Anyway Lisa says the question of Arafat's demise has been raised because a book on the subject is coming out now. What killed Arafat? I still don't understand. With all the talk I'm not seeing doctors' reports, blood tests, pathology, nothing.

Maybe he died, like Alexander Pope, "of a thousand good causes."

Don't ask me about synagogues. My own experiences is that they are a place to pray. Not that they are holy sites per say. So they can been moved, destroyed (with nothing holy inside), and made into something else. But if they were holy, they should be honored by the Palestinians, the way we honor all the mosques in our part. (I was even just a bit surprised at the amount of space the mosques were given in the "Mini-Israel" site - and delighted.)

But I can't get over the fact that the whole idea of Judaism is mobility. The Torah is holy. The ark is holy. The synagogue is holy only insofar as it is a place that signifies the holiness of the prayer. But not in and of itself.

Don't quote me on this. Maybe I'm wrong and the religion has changed since last time i checked in.

September 10, 2005

Meron Benvenisti says I'm wrong about the mosques. The local treatment of them has not been stellar. The reasons, however, seem to be neglect and not desire to abase the religion.

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