Tel Aviv Diary May 20, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from May 20, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

Look at Mifkad They've updated.

After the fifth suicide bombing in 2 days we are all a bit reserved. I was thinking today (yesterday - it's probably past midnight but i'm up - so i started a new page) that if all is okay I'll write a bit about Arab women's fashions... This morning there was a radio program - part of a series called Text and Textile that put me in the mood. And there are so many stylish variants of the traditional religious Moslem women that i wanted to contemplate them at leisure - the way the whole concept of fabric is different when it covers the entire body and head, the way graded shades of color are used, the ways facial features are emphasized... People don't wear embroidered dresses any more - at least not at the university - but i always enjoyed the way embroidery emphasized breasts and buttocks without revealing even the shape of the body.

But following repeated terrorist attacks - the women who seemed so attractive to me this morning suddenly appear menacing. I rub my eyes - they are the same women as before. But my desire to describe them, to encounter them, to relate to them is gone.

At least for the moment

The lady terrorist who blew some people up yesterday wore high heels - i suppose if her bag hadn't lit up the signals she's have made it through - and the damage would have been much greater, but as it is she killed the woman guard who confronted her, and two others, one in security. Dressed to kill.

My first reading in London in a long time will be At the Lounge

Bar Ilan University is having a conference on Jewish Creative Writing.

Here's the program:

Creative Texts, Jewish Contexts

A Conference on Jewish Writing
 to Inaugurate
the Bar-Ilan University
 English Department's
New Creative Writing Program

May 20 - 22, _2003
Bar-Ilan University

 Tuesday May 20, 2003

15:30-16:00 GREETINGS
Beck Moshe Kaveh
Auditorium       President
Bar-Ilan University
Shaindy Rudoff
English Department
Bar-Ilan University

Auditorium       From the Herring to the Leviathan
  Allen Hoffman, Jerusalem
                         Permanent Writer-in-Residence

Bar-Ilan University

The Pebble in the Shoe
Melvin Jules Bukiet, New York City
                         Sarah Lawrence College
Distinguished Visiting Writer
Bar-Ilan University

Response: Hana Wirth-Nesher
                 Tel-Aviv University

Mintz Rebecca Goldstein
Auditorium Steve Stern
Aryeh Lev Stollman
Introductions: Shaindy Rudoff

 Wednesday May 21, 2003

Feldman Chair: Miriyam Glazer
University of Judaism

Second Generation Memory
and the Inscription of Identity:
The Case of  The Holocaust Kid
Hannah Adelman Komy
Ben Gurion University

In Search of "Holy Patterns"
Tresa Grauer
Ben Gurion University

Embodying Gender in
Contemporary American Jewish Fiction
Janet Burstein
Drew University

Feldman Chair: Atar Hadari

Visions and Re-visions:
Contemporary Midrash in America
Alicia Ostriker
Rutgers University

Radical Nostalgia
Steve Stern
Skidmore College

The Midrashic Muse
Joseph Lowin
National Center for Hebrew Language

                          Lunch Break

Feldman Chair: Rachel Salmon Deshen
Bar-Ilan University

Text as Teacher:
The Continuing Vitality of
Nahman of Bratslav
Pearl Abraham
New York University

Jewish Sources:
Irritation and Inspiration
Linda Zisquit
Bar-Ilan University

Born in Yiddish, Raised in English,
Living Hebrew
Karen Alkalay-Gut
Tel Aviv University

Special 0ff-Campus Event

21:00-22:30 POETRY READING
Beit Bialik,       Alicia Ostriker
22 Bialik St.      Linda Zisquit
Tel-Aviv            Richard Sherwin
             Karen Alkalay-Gut
Greetings: Michael Richards
Cultural Attache, US Embassy
Introductions: Noga Tarnopolsky

 Thursday May 22, 2003

Beck Introductions: Sharon Friedman

11:30-13:15 THE JEWISH MIND
Beck                  AND THE CULTURE OF SCIENCE
Auditorium        Chair: Ellen Spolsky
 Bar-Ilan University

Neuroanatomy of the Imagination:
Memory and Creativity
Aryeh Lev Stollman
Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Two Cultures
Rebecca Goldstein
Trinity College

The Jewish "Subject" in
the Fiction of Rebecca Goldstein
and Aryeh Lev Stollman
Emily Budick
Hebrew University

Lunch Break

Beck Chair: Melvin Jules Bukiet
Re-inventing the Israeli-Jewish Story
Michal Govrin
Jerusalem School of Visual Theater

'Zion, Won't You Ask?':
 Jerusalem as Female Metaphor
Sidra Dekoven Ezrahi
Hebrew University

 16:00-17:30 FICTION READING
Beck Pearl Abraham
Auditorium Zvi Jagendorf
Melvin Jules Bukiet
Allen Hoffman
Introductions: Michael P. Kramer
                        Bar-Ilan University

17:45-18:30 REFLECTIONS 
Beck Jewish Texts, Creative Contexts
Auditorium       Michael P. Kramer
Allen Hoffman, Shaindy Rudoff

Now the concept of this is driving me crazy. Does this mean I am Jewish? How strange - i think I moved to Israel to have a break from the fact that everything i did was different from other people. i wanted to be with people who understood the need to be 'normal' and allow me to forget being jewish every minute of the day. And now everyone's talking about JEWISH writing. This is a pretty weird situation for me.

May 21,2003

After a grueling day at the conference I stop by the neighborhood grocery. He has a big tv facing the cash register going all day and is watching the 5 p.m. news.. "So what's been happening all day," I ask "Nothing much - no peace agreements signed, no new strikes, nobody exploded yet today..." this is a common interchange in this city. show's we've crossed the line of sanity long ago.

But then i went home and turned on the news and something Had happened. three more people committed suicide because of their financial situation bringing the total in the past 5 months to 17. So they're blowing us up and we're blowing ourselves up. A typical jewish response, right?

one must not forget the shattered hopes - the feeling of dead end that affects us all in every way.

But 17 people!

May 22, 2003

I wake up with this thought: If Sharon has any brains left he'll accept the 'road map.' Look at the terrible depression - the agonies each individual in this country is going through - economically, socially, politicially, psychologically- because of this fear of taking the chance with the Palestinians again. Yes, it is dangerous - there are terrible people who still will want to kill us (and all christians and jews) but i have no doubt it is the right thing to do. Then I think - come on - there are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who voted sharon and still believe in his games. They're not going to let him take this path.

And i wish i could go back to sleep.

On the other hand, there seems to be a bit of action with Hamas that may provide a bit of a reason for optimism - I mean not only have we embarassed the Hizbollah a bit by capturing that ship carrying info and bomb-gear to Gaza, but Hamas officials Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Ismail Hanieh have been meeting with Abu Mazen. We get these guys to agree on something and then maybe we all can sit down and talk.

And here's something else to do in Tel Aviv if you like poetry. Alicia Ostriker is reading with the students of Tel Aviv University on Sunday afternoon at 6:00 p.m. in Webb Building, room 01. To get to Webb you go to gate 1 of the university. Ostriker will open and will be followed by a string of some really interesting students. And I'll read "One of Those Nights." It should be a fun afternoon.

But if you're in Jerusalem, Alicia Ostriker and me are reading at Tmol Shilshom at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, on Yoel Solomon Street.

And if you don't like poetry, what are you doing on these pages? You can't be reading this for political commentary!

Ezi and I take opposite sides on the economic program - he actually agrees with the idea of attracting big companies with low taxes, and his argument is cogent in the long run, i suppose. I mean it really ISN'T the government's role to provide jobs, is it? But it breaks my heart. All those companies that closed down - each time they close another factory down I think, why don't they make them cooperatives? even if they lose money they'd be costing the government less in unemployment, and people wouldn't lose their pride. Or unemployment - when there is so much that needs to be done there has to be a system to make people work for their dole - even if it only a few hours a week - especially in helping out with all the social services. And only the government could push projects like that. But people who have been ruined by an education in economics laugh at me and say I am not practical. I say sometimes the practical isn't practical. You have to motivate people to participate in society, to volunteer their expertise if nothing else. I know great business managers who are unemployed now and sit home surfing all day. They couldn't give advice to people who have gotten into financial difficulties on how to coordinate their loans, refinance their homes, budget their household, and so on?

and while i'm on a tangent - there is one thing i really hate on principle - the surge of gourmet cooking shows on tv. People need to learn how to exist on beans and rice and they're showing how to cut fillet of beef. Come on.

May 23, 2003

So the Road Map is still alive - Sharon has reservations, but we're still thinking about talking. Abu Mazen accepts the road map. The little bird in my soul stirs. Let's turn this place around.

Of course i know that Sharon is just 'taking the road map to the cabinet' and he fully expects it to reject it, and Abu Mazen will get pushed out to office if he doesn't please Arafat, but who knows...

The right of return is going to be a problem, because people who left in '48 had children and grandchildren and where will they all fit? And how will it remain a 'jewish' state? It is quite possible that even though 2 states are established, demographically both will be palestinian.

Today in Jerusalem I was reminded of an article Yoram Kaniuk wrote years ago about English writers in Israel - he said they were divided into coastal poets and mountain poets. In jerusalem i feel like a philistine (they lived around tel aviv you know - the hedonism suits the neighborhood).

Jerusalem is charming and serious for me - and full of things that tug at my heart. In Linda Zisquit's wonderful art gallery, ARTSPACE, there was a big canvas of Michael Kovner of beach and sea and loneliness - wow. And Tmol Shilshom is such a combination of an old fashioned store-that-loves-books and great hip cuisine. I was going to put the pictures Ezi took on the site, but he erased them in his enthusiasm...

Obviously neither of us get out enough.

May 24, 2003

One of the big hits among the Palestinians is a song about burning Tel Aviv. It was played on the news tonight. A great subject for a pop song. And it put me in mind of our discussion with the waitress at Nona yesterday - She was telling us about the explosion across the street at the beginning of the week - about how she thought it was a car bomb and she saw the fire and she couldn't talk for 3 hours after. And how after her father spoke with her on the phone he took his motorcycle and came to the cafe even though the street was blocked off. When she described it, it was as though she was reliving the whole thing. And when she moved to the next table I saw from her hand gestures that she was telling them the story again. If we were not living in this nightmare, i would have thought she was a bit crazy, but the context is so wild that her extreme reactions are totally sane, understandable.

The God of Little Things has blessed me - suddenly the old site opened up to me and allowed me to create a link to this one. After over a month of wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth. Welcome back all you strangers who sought me in google...

Something just exploded near our house. All the dogs are barking like mad. I listen and hear nothing except their barking right now. I'm probably just becoming like the waitress at Nona. But it's time to turn on the radio.

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