Tel Aviv Diary - September 13-17, 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - September 13, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 13, 2009

It was such a lovely day until a friend called me with the still-secret news that Assaf Ramon had been killed in a training accident. Both of us stopped breathing in those moments. And as the news spread I am sure many many thousands of people also stopped breathing. That the son of Ilan Ramon, killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, could also die in the sky, is too terrible to bear. And of course our thoughts went next to Rona, the widow and now bereaved mother.

September 14, 2009

I've been trying to revive the defunct PEN organization in Israel, and although I've been working on it for months, and there were hundreds of members less than a decade ago, the sense of unity seems to have vanished. Or perhaps it never existed but people gathered around money. When I first became interested in writers organizations in Israel there was government support of all of them - a sense that writers enriched the language and therefore the culture. Many of the writers didn't really respect the other writers and had fearful arguments with each other, often on ideological grounds, but there was a home, the writers' house, for almost all of them. That's gone. There were two women sitting in the hallway of the shabby neglected building in the heart of tel aviv when i came by today, and nothing going on. The archives was unmanned and open, the offices were empty. This has to change.

September 15, 2009

My father's youngest sister died of lung cancer 10 years ago, even though she never smoked, always ate with great attention to health, and lived as good a life as one can in these days. Her daughter, Susan, was inspired to created an organization entitled The Lung Cancer Circle of Hope to raise money for lung cancer research and to give encouragement to patients and their families. It is inspiring that Chasia Levin has managed to do so much good even after her death.

As a departure from my usual spontaneity, I am enclosing a little piece I did for the momenti journal about 10 minutes, from 5:50 - 6:00 p.m. yesterday:

Dog Day: Ten Minutes on the Streets of Tel Aviv Karen Alkalay-Gut At her advanced age of fourteen Shusha the terrier can manage one square block in the posh and quiet neighborhood of Afeka in Tel Aviv where there are few cars to scare her. With no leash so I can take pictures if I want, she is the one who decides which way to go, and I follow. The beat is standard and the time is regular. We cross one street and pass the house that hasn’t been changed since the fifties, then the bare-blocked frame that hasn’t gotten a license to finish building for at least two years. Shusha pees there. She doesn’t stop at the new villa with the enormous shaded windows and the security cameras, but squats to finish her business as soon as we pass it. I have a little problem manipulating the doggie bag to pick up her product without getting my little digital camera involved, and erase the architectural documentation by mistake. Now she is walking more lightly and turns the corner at a slightly faster pace. Some dogs are barking but they’re locked inside the fortress-like walls so we pay no attention. She breaks into a run rounding the last quarter because she is suddenly reminded there is something interesting ahead.

The little hidden grocery is where she likes to stop to see if anyone dropped something she can eat on the way out. The cats like this place too, for the same reason, but even though the weather is beginning to cool and become even pleasant, most of them are not out yet.

The pickings are very slim anyway – the crows have probably been there before them. For sure there haven’t been any street cleaners around lately, but it doesn’t take all that long to examine this little square of sidewalk to see that most of the dirt is not edible.

Once past the grocery we visit a little grove of fichus trees, where extra garbage is sometimes dumped and sometimes one can find the remains of a picnic someone left for the cats, but the few broken plastic chairs and some cut branches don’t impress her, and she’s ready to leave. We’re on our way home now, and except for the cats and Nachman the grocer, all of whom have ignored Shusha because she has a tendency to shriek when approached, we haven’t seen a soul.

This ancient mixed-breed dog, followed by her faithful valet - me, owns the street.

September 17, 2009

Everything has to be round for Rosh Hashana, so that the year will maintain its wholeness, and not be ragged or cut off. That is the reason for the apple in honey - wholeness and sweetness. So I got the last of the round challahs and am serving not only round gefilte fish with the carrot slice on the top, but also roundish kreplach in the soup, spinach with pinolas and sultanas, a whole chicken, whole potatoes, a round roast, a honey cake, and apple cake, and a plum cake. Can't figure out how to round out the salad, but maybe it will come to me when I get home from my meetings tomorrow.

The big question is how to complete the bigger issues, how to make a round and sweet life.

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