Tel Aviv Diary - September 8, 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - September 8, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 8, 2009

We don't kiss the ground when we arrive in Ben Gurion Airport. We speed through the customs as fast as we can, and only when we arrive home do we allow ourselves to breathe deeply. There is usually a two-day process of unpacking, reading mail, paying bills, rearranging the usual messes. But this time we seem more enthusiastic then ever to get back into daily existence.

"How can you possibly complain about life in Israel?" one my oldest friends beranged me. "You earn less money but you live so much better!" He began to enumerate the list of health benefits, travel expenses, social and cultural existence, etc. etc. and I began to realize how true it was. Whatever the political disagreements I have with the government, with the peace movement, etc. etc. I'm happy here.

September 9, 2009

The big controversy among my US friends is concerning health care. As one who has enjoyed the benefits of socialized medicine for many years I sympathized with the problems. After all it is incredibly difficult to adjust the system - after years of private insurance, manifest corruption, malpractice fears, etc. When I was in the Long Island a few dozen years ago I complained to my doctor of a pain in my side. Since i no longer had an appendix it was strange. The doctor sent me first for an ultrasound, then the gynecologist sent me to a gastroenteroloist who sent me for a barium enema, and then finally to a colonoscopy. By then the pain had gone away, and the nasty lump in my pocket had been removed. And now that I think about it, I had never been examined. A few months later I found myself at the local chiropractor, who asked me to lie down on my stomach. "Sometimes I have problems with that, because i get a little pain in my side." "Oh, that's sciatica," he answered, and twisted it away. He charged 25$, a miracle considering the thousands of dollars my insurance paid for my tests.

What is the answer? You can't work with the same system. It's too corrupt and unsupervised. And the very same lawyers who support the president are the ones who make money from this system. The Israelis I know in the US suggest a 'chaltura' solution, slowly moving down the age of medicare until it covers everyone.

But enough of America. I'm back in Israel and have to set up an appointment with my endocrinologist - whom i detest.

If you ARE American, though, and support the health plan, write your representative here . Why am I crazy for health care? Because here is a way to improve the quality of life. Period.

September 10, 2009

Does everyone have this problem? This cultural jetlag? I can manage the 7 hours difference in time but I have totally forgotten where I was when I left. Where are my keys? What is the code to my car? Which door do I have to push and which pull? What books do i have to give back to the library? What papers was I supposed to have read?

The problem is aggravated by the fact that my sunglasses disappeared somewhere in Macy's and I can't see a thing without them. This meant that before I can run all the usual errands I have to get a new pair of shades. It was also a symbolic necessity, because, as they say in Hebrew "things that you see from here you can't see from over there." You need another pair of glasses. The world here is really that different.

Examples? The coming holidays - so much is concentrated on plans for the new year. Not only is it about who's going where and who's being invited when. Nor is it only about vacations and stores closing, or gifts and new clothes. We've had three calls from charities since we've been back asking for food baskets. The phone is ringing off the hook about the new year - the new schedules, plans, fears, needs. The Hebrew calendar begins, the school year begins, and religious reckoning is profound. It just doesn't compare with autumn leaves in the department store window with fall clothes.

And that's just one example.

September 11, 2009

Nothing I can say on this day can seem important in the face of the tragedy that is revealed to be more and more earthshattering as the years pass. The incremental sense of tragedy is caused not only by the terrible effects on society, politics, economy, but by the awareness that worse events can and will take place.

And yet, there is something so idyllic about life in this land. Even Sayyed Kashua's complaints of discrimination in today's Ha'aretz are suggestive of Eden. Like living in Kubla Khan's pleasure dome knowing that it's only this place at this moment because "ancestral voices prophesy war."

September 12, 2009

My plan of getting through the holiday preparations is to eat out at much as possible. Oh, sure, the sweet chicken, the tsimmes, the roast, the vegetable pie, maybe a kugel, maybe taiglach. But for those days when i'm not hosting, I'm off to Pappas.

Here's the chicken i'm considering:


2 (3 lb.) chickens cut into 8 pieces each
6 cloves of garlic, minced fine
2 tbsp. dried thyme
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
4 tsp. green peppercorns, drained
1 1/2 c. dried apricots
1 c. dried sm. figs or lg. fig pieces
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
1 c. black olives
1/2 c. Madeira wine
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 c. lg. pecan pieces
Day before serving, combine chicken, garlic, thyme, cumin, ginger, salt, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, olives, apricots and figs in a large bowl. Marinate, covered, overnight in refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large shallow baking pan. Spoon the marinade mixture evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle with the sugar and pour the Madeira between the pieces. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a skewer, 40 to 50 minutes. Using a fork and slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, olives and fruit to a large serving platter. Drizzle with a few large spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle with the pecans. Sprinkle the grated zest of the lemons over all. Pass the remaining pan juices in a sauceboat. Serves 6

Oh, yes, and if you can't invite some strangers to your table, give one of the local charities a few food baskets.

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