Tel Aviv Diary August 22, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from August 22, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

As soon as the little ones leave the house i race to the newspaper, settle in for the news on television, become a different person. In Sefad 2 days ago i would look at the parents of innumerable children and wonder how they could be so placid, so involved in their lives that the agony of the bus explosion - the thought of tiny children as victims of a terrorist who was a father himself - could not be seen on their faces.

But suddenly i see how i too changed everything about myself so that i would continue to appear normal - so that the family would not be affected. Ezi and I saw almost no news, read little, and seemed to say to each other 'we'll deal with it when we go back to reality.' And the moment we returned, we were back.

And not breathing.

And even as i am considering how children affect the way we address the political situation, i read Rena's email about how she has let her daughter see the pictures from the bomb blast. They are part of it, she says, and they have to know.

Then the news features a summer camp for Arab and Jewish children in Neve Shalom who have lost a family member to terrorism (from both sides) - they talk about how they have learned to see the other as human beings. And then an interview with a terrorist who once believed in talking but lost his brother and mother in jenin to israelis. he was interviewed with his infant son - one arm with a newborn another with a machine gun - and believes what he is doing is also for a better life for his son.

ah the news here messes up all stereotypes - a cousin of the same guy who blew up the children - Misk - is a doctor who treated the children after the attack.

Anyone who thinks he's got answers here - any kind of answers - is crazy. its only the one on one repair that can help. and a good fence to keep the ones who don't want to repair away from the others.

August 23, 2003

Last night i was watching Shlomo Ben Ami being interviewed on Hard Talk with Tim Sebastian, and it seemed to me that there was something fundamentally wrong. Ben Ami was the Minister of Defence when the Intifada broke out, should in some way have taken a bit of the responsibility for events like the killing of 13 demonstrating Israeli Arabs. But hasn't noted any connection all along. Now he was being very intelligent - analyzing all of Bush's mistakes with the war in Iraq and Israel's mishandling of the whole 'ill conceived' road map. He was right about almost everything, but i wanted to kill him. Because all he was proving was how smart he is as a theoretician. I too can say that the war in Iraq looks like it might have been a mistake (and maybe i can say 'i knew it all along' - because i can trust that you won't check my diary in those months and won't notice that i actually was terrified of saddam and couldn't wait for the u.s. to get in there...) I was wrong. But now - at this moment - there is no good to be done by criticizing anyone. there is instead a need to think together about how to solve the problems we now have as the result of this and other mistakes (some of which were made by Ben Ami himself).

there is a need for example to try to figure out how to get a cease fire back in force. i know most people here believe the cease fire is only a cover for the hamas to arm themselves to the teeth but most people also believe we have to go for it.

and now a few words about the news and children. the debate about what to let your children watch or read here continues. it has been going on for a long time, but only now do i feel it on my bones. in my home. anyway the most creative little point i heard today is that Israel must be the only country in the world where the debate is about letting your child watch the news. not mtv, not porno - all that's okay - but the news

and now i've got a virus and a headache and am going to relax and watch tv.

August 24, 2003

This morning i go to the grocers. There is a little girl standing outside the age of my older granddaughter - 4. She is looking at the newstand with a picture of a baby in a hospital bed who has burns all over. She doesn't say anything but goes in the store with her mother and begins clamoring for an ice cream cone. How can her mother refuse.

Vittorio Biagini just wrote me from Florence that the Palestinians will not be attending the poetry festival planned for Sept 2-7. Because of the situation. I am mortified.

I start to think - they're not coming because they can't get visas like last time - and it is awful that we make it so difficult for poets to present their work abroad. and i start thinking about writing to ministers in the government and start putting together a list of journalists.

and then it hits me - they're not coming because THEY don't want to. They don't want to talk about peace through poetry with us.

Then I turn on the TV and Saib Erekat is being interviewed on the Israeli channel. And he says: "Enough with the violence! Enough with your retributions!"

21 people were killed and we targetted a leader who helped plan it.

something is crooked in the logic here.

Still. I am mortified that the Palestinians are not coming.

August 25, 2003

The 20 victims of the Jerusalem #2 bus attack are:

Shmuel Zargari, 11 months, from the Bucharim neighborhood of Jerusalem. His parents and two sisters were wounded.

Goldie Taubenfeld, 43, of New Square, New York and one of her 13 children, 3-month-old Shmuel; another daughter was wounded

Tehilla Natanson, 3, from Jerusalem; her family immigrated to Israel from Monsey, NY, and her mother was wounded

Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Reinitz, 49, father of 11, and his 9-year-old son Yissachar Dov, from Netanya; originally from New York. Their 11-year-old son Mendy was wounded in the attack, and is hospitalized in Laniado Hospital in Netanya, where his family is sitting shiva [the traditional mourning period]. Rabbi Reinitz was the principal of the 600-student Hassidei Zanz Talmud Torah.

Avraham Bar-Or, 12, from Jerusalem. His parents and six siblings were injured in the attack.

Binyamin Bergman, 15, Beit Yisrael, Jerusalem. The youngest of nine siblings.

Elisheva Meshulami, 16, Bnei Brak. Youngest of eight children. Her mother was also wounded.

Chava Rechnitzer, 19, from Bnei Brak; engaged to be married two months from now, survived by parents and 12 siblings.

Miriam Eisenstein, 20, from Bnei Brak - volunteered with the elderly and Down Syndrome children

Lilach Kardi, 22, Jerusalem - in her 9th month of pregnancy, mother of a 1-year-old son, and caretaker of her orphan brother

Menachem Leibel, 24, from the Bucharim neighborhood of Jerusalem - a charity-organization volunteer, survived by parents and six siblings. "He visited the Kotel [Western Wall] every day," his brother said.

Rabbi Eliezer Weissfish, 42, from Ramat Shlomo, Jerusalem. Described as a "righteous and humble, and a man of chessed [deeds of kindness]."

Rabbi Yaakov Binder, 50, from the Shumel HaNavi section of Jerusalem. Father of seven, head of the Kashrut Department of the Jerusalem Religious Council. Was killed while walking outside the bus.

Liba Schwartz, 54, Jerusalem. Mother of five and grandmother of 11, whose custom it was to pray at the Kotel every day.

Rabbi Chanoch Segal, 65, Bnei Brak, a well-known educator and scholar, survived by wife and 5 children, 20 grandchildren, and 2 great-granddaughters.

Shmuel Volner, 50, from Jerusalem. Together with his brother, he ran the Keter book store in Meah She'arim. His son's wedding is scheduled for six weeks from now.

Tzipora Dushinsky, 50, from Jerusalem

an unidentified foreign worker

This list doesn't include the mother who was blinded, her one month baby who disappeared from her arms, etc. etc.

NONE OF THIS JUSTIFIED THE FACT THAT WE SEEM TO HAVE GIVEN OVER THE DECISION MAKING TO THE GENERALS. We are doing these assasinations on the basis of what Mofaz says or some other general. This is not 'government policy' but 'security policy' and it smells of fascism.

At the same time it is very important to remember that suicide bombings are what is destroying the peace process and the road map. How can Israelis NOT react to the deliberate killing of children and grandmothers? Ami Isseroff talks about this and more very well.

And now it looks like Arafat is going to win - and replace Abu Mazen with Abu Alla.

There is no doubt in my mind the all the violence around us helps to create violence within the society - another woman-murder and suicide took place this friday in Haifa. Girlfriend and wife murders and suicides seem to becoming a trend. How can there not be a connection between the inability to discuss things in politics and the inability to discuss things at home.

I wish I lived in boring times.

I wrote those words and went into the next room where the portrait of Kurt Gerron smirked at me: compared to mine your life IS boring, he says. Thanks. My own personal Holocaust meter.

August 26, 2003

Last night reports began to emerge of a German reporter's visit to Elchanan Tennenbaum, being held by the Hizullah. It was said that his health is satisfactory, and it began to look like the reason the bodies of the Hizbullah's soldiers were returned yesterday is that a deal was being made for Tennenbaum's return.

Now Tennenbaum is about my age, a neighbor, and like me on blood pressure stuff. He was kidnapped in Europe, not in some dangerous place where he had consciously taken a chance. And most of my neighbors know him - some better, some less.

So when on the morning he was kidnapped over 1000 days ago I was in the local grocery and a woman came in announcing to Velvel, who was manning the till: "Did you hear - they've got 'genius'!" a very long and lively discussion ensued. Why him? Was it was because he knew so much (that's why they've called him 'genius' most of his life), or because he was making a deal with them, or what? But no one could come up with any solid evidence that he was anything other than a business man. (If he's been a spy we would have known - we know about the other spies on the block, believe me.) What bothered me was that he had a heart condition, that he was on medication, that he was not going to have an easy time if he wasn't killed.

And for some of the time it was clear at all if he was alive or not. In what condition.

So I thought about him a lot.

But today, when it appears he was being 'traded' for the guy who captured Ron Arad and Sheikh Ubiaid, I'm suddenly sad - this means in a way that Ron Arad's cards for trading are being used up - and there's no chance he'll be returned.

Now Ron Arad has been in captivity for six times as long as Tennenbaum.

I don't know what it means. Maybe nothing.

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