Tel Aviv Diary - from May 15, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut
Apparently i had wrong information about last night's new labor party - it is a reorganization of the old labor party and they had invited ami ayalon and sari nusseibeh from mifkad to speak. The website of Mifkad remains Mifkad and it is put together by Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh.
Labor is just trying to reorganize so they can get the old people who keep stopping progress out of power.
In any event you've got some attempt at reorganization of the left.
I hate that distinction - left / right/ i wrote about that a lot in my poems - its a dehumanizing term that prevents open dialogue and thinking. In the middle4 of the night last night we caught a program in which the settlers from Hebron were interviewed as well as the members of kibbutz netzer. neither wanted to meet with the other although they had both suffered terrible tragedies. they all had only evil things to say about each other. that is a reversible situation but it reveals the extent of the divisions here between 'left' and 'right' and their total similarities.
Another thing i liked about Sapir was that he was not ashamed of asking for money. The predictions that one child in three will be poor by next year is horrifying. Isn't anyone collecting money to get these kids educated properly? Doesn't anyone care that the children of israel all study for very few hours in overcrowded classrooms with no equipment and undereducated teachers? that only people with money can supplement this disgraceful education? I don't know and don't know where to find out. But it looks to me like people are only interested in 'designer projects' - projects furthering cooperation and an art show here and there stuff like that. we need basic money for education, for old age day centers, for mental institutions for holocaust victims, etc.
Because Anthony Julius was here and we were talking about antisemitic poetry we suddenly became aware of antisemitism. It's a concept Israelis often feel very estranged from - something at belongs to a paranoid diaspora mentality I think. I mean we use the term every once in a while, but don't often feel threatened even by direct antisemitic statements. But as we talked today I realized how much I glide over - say for example in my field of poetry. Just this year alone there was Imiri Baraka's blatant antisemitic remarks in his poem about September 11, Tom Paulin's "On Being Dealt the Antisemitic Card," and a few rock songs... All of them made headlines and were forgotten. But I suspect we've got a new trend. What do you think? Do you know any antisemitic poems?
And let me connect tis to a subject i talked about on memorial day - about how Israelis have no hate songs about enemies. Who do we hate, someone asked me. Why, ourselves!
Tad just wrote me, as I was getting ready to sign off, about an idea he has for a 'democratic doomsday clock.' i think its brilliant - see here
May 16, 2003
Robert just wrote me about my sentimental idea that Israelis don't write hate songs: "I'm not a delusional leftist , but even I was taken aback by a tape that one our my Israeli friends (very nice people but a bit wacko in politics) gave me with sarcastic "hate songs" about Palestinians. I tossed the CD into the trash after hearing it once and can't remember who the "artist" is."
Friday is usually 'sex' in the morning. In Hebrew 'Siddurim, Kniyot, Sponga' - untranslatable literally but 'sex' becomes an abbreviation for 'chores, shopping, cleaning.' this usually takes me from shopping center to shopping center and then a cafe. I kept thinking about the consequences of the arrest of the Sheikh in Uhm El Fahm (Sheikh Ra'ed Salah.) on funneling large sums of money to the Hamas - whether there would be a call for attacks in the mosques today. I don't know if the Muslim organizations in Israel are sponsoring terror attacks or supporting hte families of suicide bombers - but i do want to get through my sex in one piece.
May 17, 2003
A mass demonstration for Sheikh Ra'ed Salah is going on now in Uhm El Fahm. I wonder how people can make their minds up one way or another when we have no evidence except who we believe in. But it continues.
Instead of demonstrations we went to the museum where i once again fell in love with the work of Philip Rantzer. He has a sculpture there of Tel Aviv built up from a tricycle (the kind used in Tel Aviv for transporting merchandise) consisting of cartons and cans commonly found in the exposed garbage of the streets painted occasionally to look like apartment buildings. The sense of precarious balance, beauty out of ugliness, ready-made, and humor, is so much the identity of the city.
Especially now as the garbage piles up and we seem at a loss even to try to compress or isolate it.
Our entertainment also consisted of a concert of Ladino and Spanish music at the museum sung by soprano Orna Zakai - the combination of medieval instruments, a classical voice, and Jewish music was a wonderful and surprising one. I have heard this group in many contexts - troubadour music, medieval, but this one was a tour de force.
And, yes, to answer Howard's question, we did the cafe scene yesterday despite my sudden flash of terror. I just haven't been writing much here because of my depression over this website upgrade that suddenly made me inaccessible. And the barrage of viruses that my email has been subject to in the past week.
In response to you lazy people who can't be bothered to look at my reading schedule this is what I'm doing in poetry for the next week. On Wednesday at 2 I'm giving a talk with poetry entitled "Born Yiddish, Raised English, Living Hebrew." It was a realy pleasure writing that talk! That evening there is a reading at Beit Bialik. I think the poems in the evening will concentrate on food. On Friday at 3 I'm reading with Alicia Ostriker at Tmol Shilshom in Jerusalem. On Sunday a few poems at the university at the student reading that features Alicia. There are a few the week after but i can't remember. And on July 4 I'll be reading in London. Later that month in Jaffo.
In the latest Palestine Israel Journal I appear side by side with Fadwa Tucan. What is interesting about it is that my poems are about the other and the attempt to understand the other and appear objective. Hers are about Arab identity. They are much stronger than mine, more singular and powerful. I do not mean to analyze the value of my poetry or hers - but when you are very sure about a subject, it is definite. She speaks for her people. I analyze.
(I just realized that in the 13 odd months I've been writing here daily i never mentioned my poetry before. Just like I never talk about my students or my love life. I wonder what is causing this meta-analysis. Probably something i ate. But a diary is a diary and i don't erase - just cringe)
So while I was blabbering away about myself a suicide bomber blew himself and a few other people up in Hebron. Probably just to torpedo the Abu Mazen-Sharon talks. There are human consequences to political statements.
The details of this awful event and my embarassment about dithering away about my poetry in the midst of all this momumental woe and strife, brought one thing home to me, however. The holocaust-guilt syndrome that has now become a part of contemporary life in Israel. How can you say, "Im fine" when someone asks you in the midst of one shock after another? Are you THAT egotistical and narcissistic? So for the past 2 1/2 years people say, "as well as can be expected, given the situation" or "I'M fine, in my own life, but of course..." I think we've also talked about shame in spending - that people with money in Israel so not spend less because so many others are going without, but they try to go to places where there ARE no people who are going without...
That's also only a partial view of the reality - there's also a lot more public service as the government gives less - volunteer police, volunteer soup kitchens, charity on the street.
A word about the war in Iraq: everybody's been complaining that the whole basis for the war was either erroneous or untrue - either there was insuffient information with all the GPSes and spying equipment or Bush lied. Why? Becuase no one has found the weapons. But no one has found Saddam either, and we know he's there. So hold off. Just a bit longer. Then decide.
May 18, 2003
We're back to keeping the radio on all the time - keeping the phone free - who was affected by these latest attacks? 2 only this morning - No wonder i keep a diary - i have to be able to tell you i'm okay so far - i have to be able to say what i said yesterday is no longer relevant. what better media...
Appropos the speed of the media: Some of the Palestinians are already saying that the latest 2 bombings are a reaction to the failure of the talks between Sharon and Abu Mazen. Duh. It takes a few hours to get a bomb together, doesn't it. Others are saying that world terror is all connected - i already saw a cartoon of Bin Laden surrounded by tiny wind-up dolls going around the world blowing themselves up.
But when they interviewed Saed Erecat on TV this morning he strted blamng sharon without even knowing about the bombings
Erecat - i do like him - i do believe him when he says he just couldn't bear going through another runaround with Sharon and so quit. I keep going back to this simple principle - it's not the policies or the program - it's the people.
That's why i thought Lipkin-Shahak should have been PM here - or later Mitzna. They are intelligent believable people - who mean what they say and have the capability of seeing the other. That's the basis for any negotiation.
The list of victims is told, together with their ages, and i grasp at straws and say - thank goodness they are near my age, not children on their way to school, not students, not newly weds. this is true reduction isn't it - being satisfied with what i can get...
9:40 this one was closer - a gas balloon at Giraffe opposite Nona half an hour ago. we checked the immediate family and every one has all their fingers and toes. now for a wider search.
But - it was an accident, not a suicide bomber. We're so wound up it doesn't matter. So far 32 injured - oren says everyone in Nona is okay. But I'll bet that great glass front is gone.
May 19, 2003
It is. But Oren says by a miracle no one there was hurt. Nona has been for me the signal cafe - embodying the spirit of Tel Aviv. So I want to see it back as soon as possible. Looking better than before, if that's possible. We were there on Friday and i kept looking around and enjoying the way it looked, and the ease and comfort of the atmosphere.
Once again we're closing the borders to the territories. It is very bad, but as usual, it is a relief. too many terrorist attacks - too many people killed to take more chances.
Peres is back in charge of Labor. I am thrilled! At least there will be some leadership around here - and maybe something can be done with Sharon.
4 Dead, 20 injured at the entrance to the shopping center in Afula. This must be the work of a woman - Of all the recent wave of terror that began with Abu Mazen's ministry, this one is the most frightening - even though there are probably fewer dead this time (but the number - sadly - will rise) than the bus in Jerusalem.
Poor Abu Mazen - this is against him as well as us. Against the peace plan. Against any possibility for talking.
A real wave of terror.
And now I must check the family. Then friends.
Stick with Mifkad They've updated.
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