Tel Aviv Diary May 25, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from May 25, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

It looks like we got a majority in the cabinet for approval. the road map (which bring spin doctor made that term up) has thumbs up. Can this be? At what point will we falter, stumble, fall?

What can't it be the Palestinians who stmble? They have less to lose. Simple. And then we become the intransigent ones.

Notice I do not even see the plan for it working. And yet we trust...

People keep sending me letters about how dangerous this road map is and how with a smaller israel there is a danger of nuclear weapons in the region. I must get about 20 letters a day with "official" political material. From both directions. We must we mustn't. Now I would not mind being in a position where my opinion actually matters - but as it should be clear i have done nothing to put myself into the government, and have too bad a back and am too allergic to sun to demonstrate on street corners. And do not write for the papers, and did nothing to formalize and advertise this blog so there is a great deal of evidence to suggest I (like Sapir and a few hundred thousand others in this country) fear the courage of my convictions. Nevertheless I have to state - that the road map must be given a chance. The situation is controlled enough that if Abu Mazen turns out to be like Arafat, constantly reneging on his promises, we can ameliorate the damage. And maybe - like with Arafat - the damage will be long range - but we have to take a chance.

I spent the weekend reading about two items close to home:1. the gas explosion across the street from Nona. The tenants of the building (whose gas tank it was) had been trying to get the leak corrected for months - there are letters to prove it. Apparently no one paid attention to them. I figure people are so distracted by terrorism and poverty that they think it is impossible that their fate will be determined by other factors.

The damage is incredible. I cannot get over the picture of sitting in Nona the other night and seeing each apartment - exposed in its damage. The way HD said in WWII. A house suddenly becomes a museum.

2. The other item is of interest to me because of an acquaintance with the people - the murder by a schizophrenic of a heroine addict last week, perhaps, as they said in the paper, over 300 shekel rent. The entire building they lived in is full of crazies - a woman who can't get over the shock of having been in a bus explosion (on dizengoff about 8 years ago), a survivor from auschwitz, an immigrant from persia who never learned to adjust to the new country, for example. These are people who are trying to get their lives togehter, and if we could get ourselves together to have a normal civilization it would be okay - there would be a place for them - we would have more rehab programs, social services, etc. But as it is, we just can't afford to take care of them - or so we say. All of these people have faces very similar to mine. And most of them have intelligences similar to or greater than mine. And I am ashamed to live in a society that does not care for the people in it.

May 26, 2003

The moment the road map was accepted by the cabinet yesterday i began to imagine the possibilities of peace and a more positive society. There is no doubt that our dream is of a more positive culture here. I sometimes wonder how it can be that the Palestinians do not seem to dream this way - that their dreams do not go beyond the slaughter of their enemies. But it is possible that it is only a question of situation. Education helps. As Richard points out to me again and again, murder and suicide is taught in Palestine schools. This creates character - but a school program can change.

i would love to be a part of that change.

What exactly IS the road map - we are not totally sure of the details. I keep getting contradictory information and haven't read the document. It is a also question of faith. Do i trust Bush? Sharon? Abu Mazen?

What else is there to do?

On another note, I met a Rabbi on Friday in Jerusalem and mentioned my fascination with poetic series on medical processes, like Abba Kovner's Sloan-Kettering. His name disappeared in my memory but his suggestion that i look at the last poems of Zelda was burned in my heart. The book was next to my bed and i found myself translating the last poem without thinking:

When the dark-faced woman scrubbing the floor

heard the doctor's words, she told me:

I will pray for you.

A sudden friend, unknown yesterday

told me:

I will pray for you.

May 27, 2003

I think I'll still asleep when the morning news goes on. Sharon says the occupation is bad. he says it is wrong to be in charge of 3,500,000 Arabs and we must arrive at a political arrangement. he says things that i never would have believed. And he isn't taking it to parliament - so it's through. Our foreign minister met with syria even yesterday.

Syria is still blaming us for everything, but rhetoric, as we see, can change.

A number of people wrote me about Zelda's poem - more than are on the counter of both sites - Thanks to Alan Mumford for sending me this site: Literature and Medicine poems . Why am I posting it on this site? maybe because I see a connection between the "spontaneous" charting of a disease and what i do here - writing with imperfect knowledge and limited vision, and terrified of the results…

And working with an imperfect medium. Everything I wrote this morning seems to have disappeared – some internal erorr. Let me try to recap.

Last night when we went to Ahmed & Salem's for dinner we found ourselves alone in the restaurant. The waiter, manager, owner, everyone came out to thank us, fawn over us, and as we left, accompany us almost to the car. The food was great, the service wonderful – why was it empty? As usual I turn to my expert on night life, Oren. He said a few nights ago that now that people aren't terrified of dying tomorrow, they go out less tonight. Can afford to stay home, don't have to spend their last cent. This is not good for business – Don't worry, said Ezi 2 nights ago, Sharon will afford you many opportunities to get those people out!

But we had noticed, as we passed the red light district on the beach, that the girls were undressing earlier than usual. The last time I was there we didn't see bare asses until almost midnight – and it was barely 9 p.m. So the girls are a bit more desperate. But really gorgeous. The Russian immigration has served that sector well.

May 28, 2003

First thing in the morning i go to the grocery and see the headlines on the newstand outside, "Sharon says: End the Occupation!" I go in and tell the grocer that i must need new glasses. He says why. i tell him sharon said End the Occupation. He says, "You can say it too!" It's a translation from a yiddish joke about an old age home where one of the inmates tells the doctor, "Yankel says does it twice a night." And the doctor answers, "You can say that too!" That's what many people think of the road map and sharon.

Then I went to the flea market in jaffo with Alicia. The Flea market is being overhauled but it is pretty amazing how it grows in proportion with the poverty. The used furniture and housewares part, i mean. In the clothes part the same people are buying bargains - Beduin ladies, religious ladies, young men - and me. There's the belly dancing gear people used to buy in Cairo but now can't get so easily. The jewelry part looks like it is being phased out - no tourists. no money. i did a "siftach" (opening sale of the day) for 2 people. They kissed the money, as they do with siftachim, and i was glad i didn't bargain too much (But of course I don't bargain too much because I'm chicken and dumb.) Anyway, no matter what happens for the rest of the day - you're okay if you opened the sales at a booth at the flea market.

On the other hand there is no security in the market - and security is what we dream of... My daughter sent me this:

In the evening we hit Nona, and although it was full I was reminded of a poem of Naomi Shihab Nye that Linda sent me a while ago:

...In summers this cafe is full.

Today only our table sends laughter into the trees.

What cannot be answered checkers the tablecloth

between the squares of white and red.

Where do the souls of hills hide

when there is shooting in the valleys?

What makes a man with a gun seem bigger

than a man with almonds?....

Unlike Naomi's place, Nona as usual was full, and 'secure' but i still felt the questions.

May 29, 2003

All the news is contradictory today - sometimes in the same paper - sometimes words of the same person. Sharon said he didn't mean "occupation" of land, but control over the Palestinian people. The word itself made Elyakim Rubinstein nervous - because after all in Israel the term term is "disputed" territories not occupied. And in many ways that is true. In recent months only have we been actually sitting in those lands - most of the time it has been 'automomous'

All right, so that's one contradiction - now Haaretz is saying that the Hamas claims there's no way to bargain with Israel and the U.S. isn't an authoritative mediator here. Yidiot says Hamas is weighing a truce with us. Hudna. So where is the truth?

Well if people around here can't agreed on whether Sharon is serious, what can they agree upon. A visitor here told me today the Israelis are getting crazy - just like the Arabs. Great fun this madness, isn't it.

May 29, 2003

This month goes slowly - the draconian economic program got passed - in part i believe because the opposition never presented a clear alternative. the road map seems to be in place but very very shakey, dependent upon so many factors that could change at any moment. And the society in general continues to feel anchorless - sniffing airconditioner freon or anything they can get their hands on just to escape.

Jake says one of the problems is that we believe in social 'evolution'while Islam fundamentally believes in 'revolution' in the sense that it is time to revolve the wheel again, put it back to a time of purity of vision.

I guess we need a little bit of both.

"And now do you think the war in Iraq was a mistake?" the letters ask. Not yet - i wait to see how the new Iraq will emerge - i wait for statistics - evidence.

Statistics - i get them from all sides - i am not sure about the source of these - but they are interesting anyway:

Listed below are the actual voting records of various Arabic/Islamic
States which are recorded in both the US State Department and United
Nations' records:

Kuwait votes against the United States 67% of the time.
Qatar votes against the United States 67% of the time.
Morocco votes against the United States 70% of the time.
United Arab Emirates votes against the U. S. 70% of the time.
Jordan votes against the United States 71% of the time.
Tunisia votes against the United States 71% of the time.
Saudi Arabia votes against the United States 73% of the time.
Yemen votes against the United States 74% of the time.
Algeria votes against the United States 74% of the time.
Oman votes against the United States 74% of the time.
Sudan votes against the United States 75% of the time.
Pakistan votes against the United States 75% of the time.
Libya votes against the United States 76% of the time.
Egypt votes against the United States 79% of the time.
Lebanon votes against the United States 80% of the time.
India votes against the United States 81% of the time.
Syria votes against the United States 84% of the time.
Mauritania votes against the United States 87% of the time.

US Foreign Aid to those that hate us:
Egypt, for example, after voting 79% of the time against the United
States, still receives $2 billion annually in US Foreign Aid.

Jordan votes 71% against the United States and receives $192,814,000
annually in US Foreign Aid.

Pakistan votes 75% against the United States receives $6,721,000
annually in US Foreign Aid.

India votes 81% against the United States receives $143,699,000 annually
in US Foreign Aid.

In the last year The Taliban terrorized the people of Afghanistan and
gave safe haven to Osama Bin Laden, they received $143,000,000 in US
Foreign Aid.

Sudan voted 75% against the United States and received $1,121,000 in US
Foreign Aid. (The US State Department stated that the Sudanese
government is guilty of providing a haven for a variety of terrorist
groups including Osama Bin Laden's organization, The Egyptian Jihad, The
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. The Islamic government has also
conducted a literal reign of terror against the Christians living in the
southern part of the country.)

The Palestinian Authority will receive $500 million dollars in US
Foreign Aid over the next five years(!!!) This happened due to the Oslo
"Agreement" of 1993, a deal which was endorsed and avidly supported by
now New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who was then First Lady. The
Clinton Administration sought to establish good relations
with terrorist groups despite their support of terrorism and
anti-Western stances. The Palestinians were seen on ABC News openly
celebrating and dancing in the streets at the news of both suicide
bombings on Sept.11th.

Israel, it must be noted, receives three billion in US Foreign Aid.
However, for the last five years it has an average record of voting with
the United States 94% of the time.

the point? that statistics tell you what you want to know.

Today - Jerusalem Day

And celebrations go on about the unified city.

and Arik Sharon is meeting with Abu Mazen

And we are celebrating the Queen's birthday with half of Tel Aviv at the Ambassadors. A refreshing contrast.

And as if to remind us of the oxymoron thick rain falls on the garden party - thick rain at the end of May in the middle of an incredibly hot dusty evening. And yet a fantastic party - all my old friends and much people watching.

Note how I am avoiding analyzing Sharon's speech for Jerusalem Day or the Palestinian demands that are beginning to come. Let it happen if it is to happen.

Is it only me or do other people notice the weird clairvoyance of channel 10 - After a week of discussing the "Hannibal" policy of the army - a theoretical policy of killing a soldier who is being kidnapped by terrorists - they show "saving Private Ryan." I can't remember the other strange coincidences, but there are a few. Or maybe I'm like that old friend I've told you about, Harry, who saw secret messages anticipating our courtship in the NY Herald Tribune.

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