Tel Aviv Diary September 20-4, 2006- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - september 20, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 20, 2006

I was looking through Lisa's book on Tel Aviv - at some of my favorite places for eating and shopping, and my love of the city and its cafes was overwhelming. I've been to two cafes today and am on to the third.

But, as I told Lisa today, Tel Aviv cafes are talked about as the symbol of decadence. People sitting in cafes while the world is at war... Don't you remember when I started this diary - how cafes were the Front? I think the whole idea of cafe decadence comes from the 20's and 30's, and it wasn't limited to Tel Aviv. And even then it was linked to a desperate need to escape the horrors of war just outside the cafe. It reminds me of Zyggy Frankel's novel, "Diary of a Deliciously Plump Woman" in which the diarist, a Polish woman during World War II, is just thinking about what kinds of pastries she can get and who she flirt with. And that was written in Israel during the Gulf War.

But I digress. Cafes in the sixties and seventies in Tel Aviv were wonderful places on Friday afternoon, because you could find a partner for Friday night. But today, cafes are a neutral place to meet - for business, a quick conversation, relaxing, or food. I have been in a dozen cafes this week. And in none of them did I feel I was being the dilletante I would like to be. Let's see: I was at Marilyn Monroes to catch up with a friend, I was at Nona's to turn down a job, I was in some nameless neighborhood cafe in Bavli to discuss bringing poets to Israel, I was in Tamar to meet Lisa (who really has come to dinner next week), a place on King George for parental purposes, Wooden Horse just to decide if i want to go on with love soup (no) and this is just the last few days.

September 21, 2006

Notice that the Jewish New Year and Ramadan begin pretty much together after the equinox. It should be a time of equality and equation. And look where we are, wondering if we're going to make it to the next equinox at all.

Happy New Year This is a poem of Rony Sommek with Odded Halahhmy's graphics. Rony once said I could put it on my site but the copyright and the use of a woman's body bothered me.

Today I say - to hell with it - its a nice poem. if it disturbs someone, or me enough, I'll take it down. But mind the copyright.

Noone seems to be functioning today - everyone all in a tither over the holiday. who is going where and with whom. I think we're even more hysterical than usual because of the war. The past and the future. And the present state is not all that great either.

September 22,2006

So I took great pleasure in discovering Emma Lazarus' poem on Rosh Hashanah

"The New Year"

"The New Year"

Rosh Hashanah, 5643

Now while the snow-shroud round

dead earth is rolled,

And naked branches point to frozen skies, --

When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,

The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn

A sea of beauty and abundance lies,

Then the New Year is born.

Look where the mother of the months uplifts

In the green clearness of the unsunned West,

Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,

Cool, harvest-feeding dews,

fine-winnowed light;

Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest

Profusely to requite.

Blow, Israel, the sacred coronet! Call

Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb

With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.

The red, dark year is dead, the year just born

Leads on from anguish wrought

by priest and mob,

To what undreamed-of morn?

For never yet, since on the holy height,

The Temple's marble walls of white and green

Carved like the sea-waves, fell, and the world's light

Went out in darkness, -- never was the year

Greater with potent and with promise seen,

Than this eve now and here.

Even as the Prophet promised, so your tent

Hath been enlarged unto earth's farthest rim.

To snow-capped Sierras from vast steppes ye went,

Through fire and blood and

tempest-tossing wave,

Mighty to slay and save.


High above flood and fire ye held the scroll,

Out of the depths ye published still the Word.

No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul:

Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths,

Lived to bear witness to the living Lord,

Or died a thousand deaths.

In two divided streams the exiles part,

One rolling homeward to its ancient source,

One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart.

By each truth is spread, the law unfurled,

Each separate soul contains the nation's force,

And both embrace the world.

Kindle the silver candle's seven rays,

Offer the first fruits of the

clustered bowers,

The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise

Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove

How strength of supreme suffering still is ours.

For Truth and Law and Love.



September 23, 2006

Everyone in my neighborhood was in someone's house last night, and those that were in the streets were walking around with pots of food they had brought, or empty pots they were taking home. And today the family eating continued. Of course there were other neighborhoods where everyone was in Synagogue, and still other neighborhoods where everyone was trying to get something to eat. I find it difficult to forget them all.

September 24,2006

Patti Smith has come out with a song against Israel's bombing of Lebanon. I read about it in the Independent and felt sick. Ezi mentioned a quote from Bibi (not his favorite source of ideas) that if the Arab countries laid down their arms, there would be no war. If Israel laid down its arms, there would be no Israel.

On the way back from visiting Amos in the hospital at Holon/Bat Yam we got stuck in a traffic jam in Jaffa. On Jewish holidays the main street is as busy as Bidya used to be before the intifada, a tortuously slow single file with sales being made on both sides of the street - barbeque grills, ice, coals, meat, pita, etc. Women in traditional Muslim dress backing 4 wheel drives full of children into the traffic, children hawking bread, nuns hurrying down the sidewalk.... Every neighborhood in Tel Aviv is a different world, but Jaffa is special. During the intifada we took Sara there -i think she was 90 then. "I haven't been here for fifty years," she said, "Nothing has changed." She was shocked - and appalled. "Nothing has changed."

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