Tel Aviv Diary September 15-19, 2018 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary September 15-19, 2018

Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 15, 2018

Packing. I turn on the television because i'm just not into packing. And on the national channel is a program about the archeology of Israel. I have to keep trying on clothes since for some reasons all my clothes have becoming longer and tighter on me, so i can't totally pay attention to the archeologists who are showing and talking about the sites they've been digging. From what I was given to understand years ago, there are two schools of archeology - from Hebrew U whose goals are concerned with following the bible and proving its historical verity, and the little rascals from Tel Aviv who are more 'objective' and are more interested in discovery the history of this land and its peoples. But the program show me a very different story. Most of the archeologists are indeed from Jerusalem, but they present their discoveries against footage of Jewish rituals and quotations from the bible, and one by one they disprove the historical possibilities of the authenticity of the details of the story. Camels were not domesticated at that point in history, there were altars to many gods in many cities then, etc. etc. The historical reality doesn't matter to me - specific authenticity has never been a reason for me to be a Jew - but i am amazed that something so questioning of the details of the bible can be shown, now, in a time when we seem to be getting religion shoved down our throats from all directions. One example - a ten-year-old grandchild was given a lesson, together with her class, about tashlich - the custom of casting our sins into a body of water. this in itself would not be surprising, but they walked three quarters of an hour to the sea, had their lesson under the midday summer sky, and then, were unable to walk back. The parents were called in to pick up the children, and it was clear that this attempt to add religious education was an individual act in the part of the observant teacher, and they would have done much better to spend the time learning about the concept of high holidays.

On the other hand, when a few friends got together the other day, one of them wanted to read the prayer from the Yom Kippur service about how we are like clay in the hands of the potter, and another woman kept interjecting, "I'm not - I decide what happens to me," and we all reacted strongly to her assertion. As if we all believed.

September 16, 2018

I may be off a bit - heading for medical opinions in NY. With a lot of wujaras in between. Wuje-aras is Arabic for head-ache. remember that phrase.

yes, we all have a little vocabulary of every day Arabic. Just as the Arabs who live here have Hebrew in their Arabic.

spent the day writing a letter in hebrew - for some reason i can't organize my thoughts properly in hebrew. I've got to figure out this problem - is it the language or is it me?

September 18, 2018

letter stil not written. i''d better wait for the jet lag to diminish before i make another stab at it.

We took a morning flight to Kennedy. Orit and the kids in the back, Ezi and me in the front. We diddled away the time on old movies for 11 hours, unable to sleep, and then , when we landed, i went searching for the way to the car rentals, while the family searched for Dunkin Doughnuts. This demands an airtrain which would be a cinch if we didn't have to herd the family. who behaved well and with humor. the problem began with the traffic jams as soon as we got on the road. why do children always lose their cool in traffic, especially when you're in a can of worms.

But we made it, children sleeping and all, to NJ. and disappeared into our beds.

Apparently we flew just a tiny bit more south west .to avoid the activity right above Israel, where maybe Israel was taunting the Syrians into shooting down a Russian fighter. which was greater hell, the air traffic avoiding a military encounter or the bely parkway?

. September 19, 2018


Yehuda Amichai


On the Day of Atonement in 1967
I put on my festive dark suit and went to the Old City in Jerusalem.
I stood for a long time before the alcove shop of an Arab
not far from the Damascus Gate, a store
of buttons and zippers and spools
of multicolor threads and snaps and buckles.
A splendid multi-colored light, like an open Holy Ark.

I told him in my heart that my father too
had just such a shop of threads and buttons.
I explained to him in my heart of all the decades
and the events and the reasons I am now here,
and my father's shop is burned up there and he is buried here.

When I finished it was the hour of Ne'ila.
He too pulled down the shutter and locked the gate
And I returned home with all the worshippers

*Ne'ila is the final prayer of the Day of Atonement, when the gates to heaven are locked as the fates of all have been sealed.

Translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut (This poem first appeared in Massachusetts Review)

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