Tel Aviv Diary September 25-29, 2006- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - September 25, 2006 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 25, 2006

71 writers signed a letter asking the government to talk to whatever government will have talks with us. I wasn't asked but want to join their voices. So consider it 72.

At the same time 61 Irish academics have called for a boycott on Israeli academics. How interesting that instead of trying to increase communications so we could have a dialogue and maybe learn something, they want to cut us off.

September 26, 2006

Shopping in Ramat Hasharon. When I lived there thirty years ago it was an elegant little moshav, and it still has that flavor, especially for shopping. Today i got through half a block but i think i ran the cultural range here. A few examples: For shampoo I stopped in a tiny shop of beauty supplies. The owner couldn't explain anything about shampoo to me, but he knew prices - and they were not any lower than at my hairdressers'. I wasn't in the mood to argue, but I won't be going back. On other other hand, i got a little lesson in something else. His television was on and since I didn't recognize a single word in the language, I understood it must be Persian. Where is this coming from? I ask him. London, he replied. It's the Free Iran station. Can it do any good? Slowly but surely, he replied. You have to trust the Lord.

Next I fell in love with a shirt in the window of a shop manned by an Iraqi lady. Even though the love affair waned after I tried it on, I got a good price by offering a check. What a mess I made with the check, I said to her as my hand slipped on the word 'shekel.' Oh, don't worry about it, she answered. I can't write at all. What do you mean? I can read Hebrew but i can't write. You can't write in ANY language? I asked. Oh yes, in French I can write, she said. Maybe she isn't Iraqi, I thought. Maybe she's Moroccan. But the accent and the look was so clear, I couldn't be wrong. I was in a hurry by then so didn't stay to find out.

My third stop was an educational toy shop, where a dedicated Frenchwoman waxed romantic over European brands I had never heard of before. Of course the toys were universal - a hollow wooden drum, a wooden garage, a wooden car, a rag doll. But the experience was foreign. The flurry, the enthusiasm.

She doesn't get out much, you're thinking. But I do. Mostly I go for the anonymity and efficiency of shopping centers. But I never fail to be surprised by the variety of experiences in small shops.

And while we're on the subject of getting and spending, the two-shekel coin came out today. I didn't see it yet - but it looks big and heavy - a problem for someone like me. How fortunate that everyone takes checks or cards - noone even asks for ID.

September 27, 2006

All the little things that get you down.

All the little things that point to the big things. I was standing at the bus stop waiting, when i realized that even if the bus came right now I'd barely make it to my doctor's appointment on time, and I decided to quintuple my expense and spring for a cab. But the cab had barely begun its journey and turned the corner when we realized nothing was moving from either direction. "Probably a suspicious object 2 blocks down," said the cab driver, who was otherwise uncommunicative even though his cab radio was squawking out excited questions. So we stood there for half an hour and i wound up paying 10 times the bus ride and arriving late. and it wasn't anything worth mentioning on the news. how many suspicious objects that turn out to be duds have personally interfered with my life? and how many haven't turned out to be duds?

September 28, 2006

Forgiveness. If there is anything I could change in the next year it is the treatment of the Israeli government to minority citizens. East Jerusalem families separated, Bedouin villages without water lines, lack of respect.

It is difficult to expect Israelis to perceive the same people who are the source of danger as human beings. How does one overcome the fight or flight reaction.

September 29, 2006

Since even Sayyedd Kashua is making personal new year's resolutions, I think i'll try some too. But I've never kept any of the resolutions I've made, but I HAVE done some major reforms in my life. And that's not too bad.

One thing I've tried to change around here is the attitude to English speaking writers - it's been well over 26 years since I founded the Israel Association of Writers in Israel to stand alongside the Arab, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Georgian, and Yiddish associations. Most of them have fallen apart due to lack of support. We're still hanging on. Here's an invitation to the big conference on October 25 on American Aliyah: invitation . The poetry reading invitation will be out shortly.

As for personal resolutions, I will try to stop telling so many jokes. Just one more: What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup? The Englishman - throws out the cup and walks away. The American - takes out the fly and drinks the coffee. The Chinese - eats the fly and throws away the coffee. The Japanese - drinks the coffee with the fly, since it was extra with no charge. The Israeli - sells the coffee to the American, the fly to the Chinese, and buys himself a new cup of coffee. The Palestinian - blames the Israeli for the violent act of putting the fly in his coffee, asks the UN for aid, takes a loan from the European Union to buy a new cup of cuff eel, uses the money to purchase explosives and then blows up the coffeehouse where the Englishman, the American, the Chinese, the Japanese all try to explain to the Israeli that he was too aggressive...

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