Tel Aviv Diary July 16, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from July 16, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

July 16, 2003

I'm back. Just. After a night flight in which - as usual - i had to keep an eye on the pilot to make sure he wouldn't make any mistakes.

and i haven't begun to read the local papers yet so i don't know what's going on. after a while in London i gave up on the papers there. they seemed to work from opinion and not from facts. on all issues.

so it was too frustrating for me to try to follow what was going on here - i even know more about Tony Blair's activities from the papers here than there.

yes, maybe i was reading the wrong papers. maybe i was watching the wrong BBC. but it was almost impossible to decipher the real nature of the event - any event - from all that BBC interpretation.

But that's another story.

I was also in despair of any peaceful solution to the situation here when i was there. the books in the bookstore, the opinions of individuals. there seemed to be no hope.

and incredible distortion.

one example: one of the things that give me hope in this country is the number of people who oppose the settlements, and campaign in some way for their dismantlement. Soldiers, peace movements, individuals - there is a large percentage. This seems to be ignored abroad, and we are presented as a united people behind Sharon. When it is noted - it is used as proof of the wrongness of the government and as a point that questions the right of a jewish state to exist.

The possibility that a jewish state doesn't have a right to exist is a particularly problematic issue to raise with me when i am in London. - When I went to visit the house in Stoke Newington where we lived during the war and then for the first three years of my life, Shaun - who took the picture i will post as soon as i unpack - asked me why we left england in 1948. We got kicked out friends. we were bloody refugees and had to find ourselves a home to live. my parents were afraid of trying palestine again because the bloody british had already kicked them out of palestine in 1939 on the eve of the war.

so i have a bit of an ambivalent relationship with england, i guess.

Maybe I spoke to the wrong people

(Fred already wrote me about this - what kinds of facts are missing in England, he asked. I wrote him, Jenin, for one. I was asked at least 3 times about the massacre in Jenin. "What massacre?" I said, and told them about my son-in-law who was there and reported back. i wrote about it then. "thousands," they answered. "fifty-five" I said. Today's Jerusalem Post has an article about it by Jay Leyden. He says:"Palestinian sources confirm that at least 34 Palestinian armed terrorists were killed fighting in the battle for the Jenin Refugee Camp.

"The total number of Palestinian causalities in the battle was 52, a sharp contrast from the claims of Palestinian propaganda professionals who have openly stated that thousands had died."

The complete article is in the Post today.

Also check out the new bat shalom website. There's English and they are working on the Single Mothers' Economic protests right now. This is a quote from their site: "Vicki Knafo, a single mother from Mitzpe Ramon, began a protest walk several days ago against the economic policy of the Israeli government. She is walking from her house in Mitzpe Ramon to the office of the Treasury Minister in Jerusalem.

"Bat Shalom is joining the women of "Achoti" in their call to support Vicki Knafo in her walk. Vicki is currently (Sunday July 6, 2003) in the area of Masmiya and she will arrive tomorrow (Monday) evening in Jerusalem. We are in contact with her regarding her route and her time of arrival, and we intend to meet her at the entrance to the city. Those who are interested in joining us, please call Bat Shalom at 02-5631477 or 5632622."

They assume you know that Netanyahu's new policies are particularly injurious to single mothers. There was a woman quoted in Yidiot yesterday who said she is coming to believe that the only thing that can save her is if she sells a kidney.

I seem to be rushing to make up for time lost - but there is so much to look at. There's a review on J Books about my favorite subject - the Jews on sit coms. It's called "The Jews of Prime Time" by David Zurawik, and I have to order it. Does anyone out there know it?


John is right. he questioned the phrase "jewish state" - and i meant a refuge for jews.

As far as the Arabs are concerned - and i say this without a bit of irony - what would i do without them. i cannot imagine (and wouldn't want to) living without the Arabs here.


Did I give the impression i had a shitty time in England? I had a WONDERFUL time. it was just a shock politically. But personally it was great.

And I love to complain

And i hate the computer at the British Library. They have half a room filled with computer catalogues and people are all working away on the computer catalogues because it takes them hours to find what would take them five minutes at any decent university in the US.

That was fun

the complaining i mean

July 17, 2003

My poor helper Michal is waiting to have a liver test to see why she has some kind of blockage - she's scared and knows it's urgent, but with the crisis in health care here, they are postponing all 'scopies for a few weeks. And she's had enough tsures with the kidnapping of her neighbor Eliyahu Gurel - She doesn't even talk about coming back to work. And she's worked for me for over 21 years without a break.

Eliyahu Gurel who's he? He's still all over the news here but i didnt hear about him abroad. A cab driver about my age. Got kidnapped on Friday and was kept in a hole in the ground for 3 days before he was rescued. It isn't clear whether this was political or criminal - i mean the guys might have expected to sell him to some political organization but because of the Hudna they didn't. Anyway he was rescued by the Israelis apparently - but there must have been cooperation from the Palestinians.

And he seems - from the little interview i saw with him on TV - to be a very direct and sensitive guy. when he was asked what he said to the kidnappers he said, 'mostly i cried.' they said to him that they wouldn't kill him, that he had nothing to worry about, but he answered with "how would you feel if you were in my place?" and they didn't answer.

The reason i mention this is the fact that these 'political' incidents have real human beings involved - on both sides.

So they tell this story that must have happened when I wasn't here - about this woman who has a cosmetics factory who gets a flat tire on the Beer Sheva road and this Arab guy with a smashed window stops and changes it for her. "Youre lucky there's a Hudna," he says. And he tells her he's just stolen this car in Beer Sheva and he's bringing it to the border or something.

Real people.

July 18, 2003

This business about real people is basic to me. The health care crisis - which has always loomed over israel because everyone is covered (Yes, Palestinians who are residents of Israel are covered too) and it is very hard to take care of all the needs of all the people without extesive funds - has always been dealt with by the government's awareness of the potential suffering of real people. Individuals. Michal should not have to spend the next few weeks wondering if she's got life-threatening cancer, physically unable to work, and paralyzed by fear.

It's only this particular economic policy - only the inappropriate application of Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher to a socialistically constucted Israel that is so problematic.

I mean you can see that Thatcher's policies in England worked in a way - made people actually work, but also made the whole society incredibly selfish.

But here the initial principle was one of socialism - in the sense that individuals work communally.

Yes, what does she say - Lucille Clifton - "she a poet...she don't know nothin'"

I don't know about economics. But I do know about people. I do know that given the right environment people work together, help each other out. Given the wrong environment, they kill each other. That has international implications.

Okay I'm stretching it, but Edward's Said's Orientalist theories - that includes the fact that the west is at fault for the situation of the East and therefore can't criticize it - is one of the reasons for the strange relation between East adn West today. I mean Said himself was raised and educated and enabled in the West, and then uses it against the society that fostered him.

Sort of like Zyggy's terrorist poem I keep quoting in these pages - in which the terrorist use the benefits of society to destroy it.

July 19, 2003

I seem to be writing in footnotes - the bottom line and not the whole story - this is because i'm trying to catch up - in my life as well as here.

and there's so much going on here - as soon as there is a lull in the war situation, the social issues loom. the things we put second when we're scared of being blown up - like the fact that there is no money in the hospitals for medicines, that operations are being postponed (re Michal and a few hundred thousand others), the single parent families are suffering the most in these economic reforms, etc. etc.

Some of these people - a few thousand - are marching to Jerusalem to demonstrate to the finance minister (he responds - if they can walk 150 miles they can go to work too).

The issue of Sharon's sons not wanting to respond under questioning about their election expenses and incomes is also coming to the fore.

Each issue is worth pages of analysis and commentary - but me, I'm going to Amy's party in Bat Shlomo tonight.

July 19, 2003

David Alkalay sent me this - It seems to reflect many of my personal conflicts:

Subject: Zen Judaism

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single oy.

If you wish to know The Way, don't ask for directions. Argue.

Take only what is given. Own nothing but your robes and an alms bowl. Unless, of course, you have the closet space.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as the wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with posture like that.

There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?

Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.

To practice Zen and the art of Jewish motorcycle maintenance, do the following: get rid of the motorcycle. What were you thinking?

Learn of the pine from the pine. Learn of the bamboo from the bamboo. Learn of the kugel from the kugel.

Be aware of your body. Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao is not Jewish.

Drink tea and nourish life. With the first sip, joy. With the second, satisfaction. With the third, Danish.

The Buddha taught that one should practice loving kindness to all sentient beings. Still, would it kill you to find a nice sentient being who happens to be Jewish?

Be patient and achieve all things. Be impatient and achieve all things faster.

To Find the Buddha, look within. Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers. Each flower blossoms ten thousand times. Each blossom has ten thousand petals. You might want to see a specialist.

Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?

Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkes.

So it has nothing to do with politics - but it is a part of my life.

And it explains to me our obsession with medicine in this country, and why the medical crisis is so central here.

But i don't agree with my friends who believe that all jews are hypochondriacs. I think we're more scared.

Appropos scared. Some readers and friends have been questioning my objectivity in suggesting that there is antisemitism in England. I agree I'm not objective. But I don't agree with David who says that Jews are so much an integral part of British culture that their contributions don't have to be singled out - it still seems to me that there is a snide unwillingness on the part of the British media, and perhaps the society, to make any effort to discover and understand the jewish culture, although there is a willingness to discover and understand other cultures.

Part of this can be blamed on the paranoid attitude of the jews - but not all.

Go to - go to - says Michael. You are too sensitive. Remember, this is the culture that brought the world Shylock. And Fagin... Hmmm.

And even tonight at a party I asked some fine Europeans about whether I was oversensitive, and they thought perhaps I was. Then I came home and Linda had sent me some statistics from the antidefamation league about antisemitism in Europe. It is amazing.

June 20, 2003

I don't believe anything any more. David Kelly - biological war expert, stabs himself to death in the heart. if i were a biological war expert i'd take a pill. and yet the possibility of it not being suicide has not been questioned.

Sharon and MAzeh meet today - same old same old - and Sharon refuses to have a parliament meeting about the single moms... Old man stabbed in Jerusalem (terrorism)...

Let's talk instead about the new tv local music channel - Yoav Kutner. all kinds of israeli music - is there hope? Margalit Tzanani -a great yemenite soul singer - warned that there has to be fair representation on this channel. or else. So the Israeli music channel is accurately reflecting the social situation.

The suspicion that your are being screwed.

Sometimes when the Palestinians complain of bad tretment by israel, i think - yes - we poison our own wells, why not theirs?

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