Tel Aviv Diary Nov 12, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from Nov 12, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

Why haven't I said a word about "Jenin, Jenin," Mohammed Bakhri's 'documentary' about the 'massacre' last year? Here the Israeli Film Board wanted to ban its screening, and the courts ruled that they had no right to do it, people are demonstrating all over the place, Arab Parliament member Ahmed Tibi has said that it should be screened in the Knesset.... etc. etc.

I hang my head and admit i have not seen it. First of all - ever since the terrorism began in full force 3 years ago i avoid any unnecessary violence and disturbance and haven't even seen "The Pianist." (Believe me, it is necessary for my health to do this). Second of all, I was getting so much information about Jenin in real time from people who were there on Army reserve duty. It was straight from the gut and very emotional and the stories corroborated. I talk a little about it at the beginning when I started my diary here for instance. There was a lot I didn't talk about because I was afraid things might be dangerous. Of course I don't know exactly what I did talk about because i don't read this you know, and I have allowed myself to develop a wonderful amnesiac character which makes yesterday disappear as I turn to face the new day.

But there were some moments one can never forget, like the doctor we couldn't reach on his cell phone all day while the fighting was at it's peak. We were pretty terrified, but when he finally answered, he explained in his laconic way that he had taken this woman from Jenin to have her baby in Afula and it was very hard to get out of the district.

There was one guy who'd been there the day before and I was asking him questions and asked him if i could write about it in my diary and he said no. I said - 'why, is this secret or bad propaganda for us? Here you are trying very hard to be humane in a dangerous environment.' and he said, 'don't go romanticizing it - none of us want to be there - we'd all rather be home. but we won't have a home to go to if we don't see to what needs to be done here.'

It reminded me of what a bullshitter I am, trying to make a bitter reality for both sides into a 'story.'

Anyway, I want to see 'Jenin, Jenin.' But I will have to wait for a time when it isn't so painful. Not because the truth is painful, but because the pain in the film, whether accurate or not, is painful.

To return to the story of Gideon Graetz, captured by the Syrians in 1951 and returned with four others for 5 Syrian sailors and a boatload of onions: Here is the story in Ma'ariv. The only problem with the accuracy of the Maariv story is that they switched the photographs and label the pictures of 2003 as 1951 and vice versa.

So you want more "taste of Israel? a welcome relief from politics, i'll wager. Here;s one for onion noodle casserole. It is my own invention. While you boil a package of small flat noodles, you fry up some sliced onion in olive oil. You add them to the drained noodles together with about 1/2 cottage cheese, 3-4 beaten eggs, salt and pepper, and place it in an oiled casserole, topped with about 300 grams ground parmesan. I like to pour more milk over the top - then refrigerate it an hour so that the tastes blend. Then bake at medium heat for an hour.

Another one of my taste of israel perversions is to take 2 packages of fellafel mix, a kilo of ground meat, 2-3 eggs, and make them up into hand shaped hamburgers (somewhat like kubbe). Fry in olive oil. Eat hot.

November 13, 2003

"Recipes? Recipes? You're writing recipes? Arafat is asking for talks and you're writing recipes?" It reminds me of the story of the guy who sees a bunch of clocks in a shop window so he goes in and asks to buy a clock. 'Actually,' the man inside says, 'I don't sell clocks. I'm a mohel.' 'So why do you put clocks in your window?' 'What should i put in the window?'

Arafat calls for peace and i am waiting for this chance too to fall through. the only question is which side will screw it up and in what catastrophe will it end.

maybe i should go lie down.

I was at the diaspora museum before - for years already in serious financial crisis - and i was thinking how i would remodel it - first to foreground the electronic database concept of finding roots, to have people come in and record their stories, to video tape them, to collect video tape archives from old age centers in Israel.... Then I would do shows with some of the video tapes. I would also get a diaspora film archive - the yiddish films, the films about jews in the diaspora, the documentaries about jewish subjects. There has got to be money for these essential things somewhere, right?

This concept of using the strength of the place instead of trying to strengthen a weakness is necessary in many places here - like some of the kibbutzim.

November 14, 2003

Said Kashua writes a column for the very in Tel Aviv survey of weekly events - Achbar Ha'ir. he's the author of the popular book "The Dancing Arab" and manages very smoothly to maintain a very Arab speaker while crossing over into Tel Aviv mentality. This week, for example, his column was about a quarrel with his wife over his house-husbanding. At one point he tells about going to a cafe on King George Street even though he is terrified. After all, ten Palestinians were killed this week so we can expect a major terrorist attack.

Whose 'side' is he on? The side I like best - both sides. He's living in Israel, and if there is an attack he is as much in danger as a jew, but he's also aware of the daily danger to palestinians.

I had lunch at Nona's today after I read his column, and i remembered to be scared.

Not for long. The beer and the atmosphere were too relaxing.

November 15, 2003

Because I heard that Linda Grant was here visiting, I looked her up on the web and discovered she's just started a weekly column about life in Tel Aviv in the Guardian. It's interesting, knowledgeable and with the perspective of the outsider at the same time.

Grant is the author of When I Lived in Modern Times which won the Orange Prize in 2000 and is set in Tel Aviv of 1946.

Last night, with Sefi and Muma and Estie, who have lived in Tel Aviv for well over 60 years, I wished their story - of the continuity and history of the sister - could be told. Just as the story of a city, not as a background.

We were sitting in our favorite cafe feeling very good about the city - about the peace and quiet of Tel Aviv. Noach and Shosh showed up with the news of the explosions in the Istanbul synagogues. Why didn't it make us run home ad hide under the bed? We've become so fatalistic all we did was have our breakfast and then head for the nursery to buy plants of the delicate winter flowers that last a month or so. Why go for the long term? And the cyclamen are so beautiful...

November 16,2003

Israel and Antisemitism -to what extent does the association of all jews in the world with israel help to create antisemitism? Whether the existence of israel or the policies of israel are a cause of the antisemitism that seems to be sweeping the world or the growing antisemitism is creating the anti israeli sentiment is too simple a question. But it's clear that they are related, and neither antisemitism nor anti-israelism are totally connected to the realities of the situations.

Still, I am really squirming about the way Israel is jumping in to the Istanbul tragedy. Sending delegates, sending the sochnut, as if the israeli government is responsible for all jews in the world and the bombing was directed against israel - all this seems to be to be endangering the jews in istanbul, and i wish we were a bit more discreet and a bit more alert.

This is not to belittle the tragedy - so many people were killed who only want to live their lives...

more after the dentist and my meetings today

To return, of course all of us feel a great empathy for all those killed in Istanbul yesterday, but the question is the nature of the manifestation of the empathy. Do we empathize as human beings, as Jews (for the Jews killed and the jewish target), or as Israelis. And if as Israelis then as sympathetic israelis or protective israelis? It seems to me that as human beings our sympathy should extend to all those affected by terror. But to start making public assumptions about the connection of their terrorism with ours, to invite the 'endangered' Jews in the diaspora to find shelter with us, etc. seems to be not good for those very jews and their self image in the diaspora, and presumptuous and opportunistic on our part. (if this is skewed, it's because a few minutes after i found out about the attack, i saw a representative of the jewish agency on tv talking about bringing all the turkish jews to safety.)

The Geneva Accords were distributed to citizens today - i didn't get mine yet - but i'm hoping that the tired population will wake from its lethargy and read it seriously.

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