Tel Aviv Diary - September 19-23, 2013 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - September 19-23, 2013 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 19, 2013

My daughter-in-law has been involved in getting nursery school helpers to involve the workers' union to increase their pay from minimum wages. She even appeared on television. But it's a difficult cause. Who cares about education around here? Especially when it involves changing diapers.

But as someone who shares the suffering of her grandson's acclimatization to a public nursery school, I can vouch for how important these helpers are - especially when there are way too few teachers.

What she's working for here is a kind of sum total of numerous causes I've always believed in: 1. women's rights 2. equal rights for people in all parts of the country 3. workers' responsibility 4. recognition of the importance of education on all levels.

When I was first teaching at the university of the Negev, and a few other colleges I would get fired in June and then rehired in October. Because I didn't understand the cruel system, I would have a nervous breakdown every June. (No job, no money, no respect) At some point I got to a better place - and started getting salaries year long, but I still remember the feeling of being abused.

Not to mention the economic constraints.

But there also the rights of little kids to consider. The ones whose mothers work all day and need a little attention, someone to help them eat, maybe help them take a nap, not to mention a change of diapers once in a while.

Just watched A Matter of Size" about some guys in Ramle who become Sumo wrestlers. It's a surprisingly good film, considering the absurdity of the principle. I loved it.

September 21, 2013

For some reason I came back from Jerusalem yesterday all achy and went to bed. We only went to see Rochelle Mass's opening at the Jerusalem theater, and I got to hear the talks about her paintings. I was just about to jump in and say a few words about her poetry in the context of the painting when Ezi whispered in my ear that Omer had an accident and needs to be changed immediately and Ezi was going to the car for supplies. So my thought of contributing something to the serious occasion disappeared. But I think that being witness to a unique event is also important. Who else can say they saw someone poop in the Crowne Theater, the National Theater of Israel?

You can see that my sense of irony and Tel Aviv jealousy for the public wealth of Jerusalem surfaces on occasion. I have probably written about the way I am negatively impressed by Jerusalem and use any excuse to promote this prejudice within me. Yesterday, for example, when I found Omer who had escaped into the theater to be alone for his 'accident' I recommended to him that we take the elevator down to the toilets. Wheelchair accessible, the buttons of the elevator are low enough even for a three year old to reach, and the streamlined environment provides some distraction from uncomfortable trousers. The elevator takes one directly down to the 'special' toilets which are even better equipped than the regular ones and not only have soap, but automatic soap dispensers, enabling our clean-up job to be quick and simple. Armchairs, three way mirrors, gorgeous paintings, and a general air of wealth and sophistication could not but bring out the sarcasm in me.

The amount of gorgeous and pretentious building in Jerusalem constantly irritates me. It seems every little group builds a high-walled edifice welcoming the 'belongers' and impressing yet forbidding to the 'unbelongers.' This is especially true of religious-related buildings. Spacious and sparing little expense, they seem to reinforce the notion of the 'chosen people' in the 'holy city.' A truly religious edifice to me would be a place meant for all, not just wealthy shoppers, not just deep-pocketed tourists, but all the people who live in the city.

The fact that this is one of the few holidays in which we open our doors to all made it even worse to me. For Sukkot especially, we are told to open our Sukka to all, encouraging dialogue with the stranger in our midst.

This afternoon a friend - a single mother - came by with her 8 year old son. She has to visit with her son because she has no relatives, and there is no place her son can be if not at home. At his age I had the public library, the playground, the park. They were all watched over by professional adults (or maybe teenagers) who had charge of the areas. It wasn't a good neighborhood, but it was pretty safe for children - not because there were fewer perverts around, but because there was more of a sense of community responsibility. Even though I've heard complaints about this thousands of times - especially from mothers who are homebound because of their children, I was not really thinking about it much until the current polio scare - it reminded me of Philip Roth's Nemesis where the playgound director tries and fails to shield the children unsuccessfully from the epidemic.

September 22, 2013

Something has bitten Ezi and me. We're feeling like the tse-tse fly has gotten to us.

September 23, 2013

Taxi driver, about 40 years old, a few molars missing, tells me even women my age can go to clubs and meet interested men. With a little pressing he gave me a list of addresses. Don't tell me there aren't any potential husbands around here. It's just that they're pretty creepy. I don't even want to begin to tell you about the other guys I met this week.

I think the best news I heard today was that a shared cab system (sherut) is now coming to our neighborhood. The system has been in place in Israel for years - I used to take a "sherut" to Beer Sheva in the seventies when I taught there. But today I not only learned it is now coming to Ramat Aviv, but also someone told me that the word "sherut" comes from "shared-route." Wow, what a discovery!

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