Tel Aviv Diary Nov 2, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from Nov 2, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

...100000 people in Rabin Square last night.

I wrote this 8 years ago.


On the night Rabin died I dreamt I wandered the streets

homeless and lonely in a crowd of confusion, ricocheting

off relatives and friends barely regarded, while dogs of peace

ran with panthers and tigers all loose and all free.

No one was working everyone

out on the streets or in groups

sleeping in different houses, using

interchangeably each others phones

connecting with wrong numbers

saying a few impotent words,

disconnecting indifferently

Unseasonable cold penetrated my clothes,

and uncoated I sought shelter

in cloaks of the dead,

but found myself in other byways

before I could wrap myself in them

The river was solid and the earth

liquid under our feet the worst

walked on water while the best

fell in the treacherous sands.

Nothing held the dream together

and everything could fall apart

at any random moment

The past weeks have marked the reappearance of some of the silenced fighters for peace. Yossi Beilin began to speak all over the place and in this morning's Haaretz as well as The Boston Globe and perhaps elsewhere, Mitznah explains more about the development of national comprehension. He uses the recent statements of Chief of Staff Yalom as a sign that there is a new awareness of the necessity of disengaging.

November 3, 2003

For Richard, who keeps asking about how the Palestinian children could be put in harm's way:

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here's the movie

It may be exaggerated, but there were over 40 warnings of suicide bombers today alone - and one was caught - 17 years old. no. he blew himself up, slightly injured someone.

What is the Israeli counterpart to this video about the palestinian government effort to encourge suicide? The antithesis. A rock group singing "Am I A Political Text?" on the Pookh label, here.

Whatever you can say about Israel, there isn't much of an effort to spread propaganda about anything. Take the news tonight on tv - there were a number of pieces criticizing the government on national tv. the strongest one yet was about the budget cuts that have resulted in many old people being returned from institutions because they have no money to pay. An 80 year old woman with Alzheimers returned to her much older husband, for example. And then we are informed that with this money the minister of health is remodelling his offices.

A story to encourage us and give us a sense of patriotism.

November 4, 2003

Israel is introducing a UN resolution - first one ever to be introduced by Israel - it calls for protection of Israeli children victimized by terrorism. just like one already introduced to protect palestinian children.

There is no question that the need is there - thousands and thousands of children who have lost limbs, siblings, parents, homes, youth.

And yet I am strangely irritating by the resolution as it was described in Ha'aretz this morning - the attitude not of protecting children but of testing the UN, daring it to show its unfairness by accepting the palestinian resolution and rejecting the israeli one.

as if the children are being used cynically as pawns in a propaganda war.

I am certain the attitude voiced by Meckel in the article - not the resolution - will be roundly criticized. And I think I'll write him myself.

I am not making my opinions clear. The other day, Linda, who has been reading this diary for years and giving me direction, asked me about my opinion of an issue. And even though she was being ironic i realized how wishywashy i am. It is easy to be wishywashy in this situation, to change my opinion with each article in the paper. And I have not been active - especially in the past year - in peace movements - primarily due to health. But I do believe that it is important to keep eyes and hearts open to both sides. And sometimes I think the peace movements romanticize the state of the Arabs.

And I think politics should be concerned with agreements, practical contracts and legal means for people from both sides to find ways to work together, and i believe that friendly relations between individuals on both sides are very important. And I believe these two things should be separate when considering a solution to the situation right now.

That - for example - we should not form opinions about the 'character' of the Palestinian people from the political propaganda of their side or ours.

November 5, 2003

So we're sitting around the dining room table with a guest, a relative from abroad, one with whom I often feel very close, and talking politics, and he says, "don't you think the world might have been better off for the jews without zionism? i mean all this wave of antisemitism is surely sparked by the current policies of the israeli government..."

and he's right about the second part. yet there was antisemitism before the jewish state, right? "Ya," says Kurt Gerron from the painting on the wall, "and our lives were poor solitary nasty brutish and short." (This is the first time he's quoted Hobbes to me. It convinces me that when I am not home he not only comes off the wall to raid my refrigerator, but dips into my library as well. This accounts for my rising food bill and disordered books at the same time). But of course I ignore him in the conversation, and face my cousin's accusation. He (my cousin) has a point. Even though he has never been totally interested in Israel, except for an occasional visit, he now feels it is directly ruining the quality of his life. The bad press Israel gets affects him as a jew, nd he has the choice of defending it or trying to 'pass,' to say 'i'm one of you guys - i'm against them too.'

We're in different situations, my cousin and me. He's got the option of being an intellectual, beyond his jewish identity. it even makes him look - as he points out - more refined, more holy. As an Israeli I can't 'pass' - I can criticize the government, I can sign petitions, I can criticize policies and try to change them as much as I can, I can do as much as I can to make this a good and fruitful place, but I feel i cannot be 'against israel.'

I really think this country has to continue, and that without it Gerron has a point.

And I think this country is in danger - not from terrorism but from lack of a clear agreed upon vision about its basic right to exist.

So I really think thinking people have the responsibility to find out as much as they can about what is going on here, and to be as involved as they possibly can.

Yesterday morning I was walking the dog thinking that I have to stop thinking about politics so much because it is interfering with my creative life, and bumped into a television cameraman. He was lounging outside Anat Savidor's house waiting for her to come out. There were a few others, and it was only morning. The night before it had been announced that she was the lawyer in the DA's office responsible for 'leaking' information about Arik Sharon's connection to the Greek Islands scandal with David Appel and she had been sent out of 'vacation'. Since the whole thing took place last january and she had only confirmed to a reporter what had already been printed, it was strange that now she would have found herself in the limelight. All that attention on her, furthermore, seems to take us away from the issue that we have a criminal for a prime minister. Now why would anyone want to divert attention from that?

In any case, there she was on the news at night, emerging from her house, surprised she was surrounded by cameras, and a bit amused.

November 7, 2003

Do me a favor - check out the Mifkad site. There are over 104,000 Israelis and 60,000 Palestinians who have signed. Those are individuals who wish to make a commitment to peace -

I keep emphasizing the necessity of individual commitment because I believe that the way our governments are functioning nowadays the individual voice gets lost.

It DOES make a difference.

Last night I had a long talk with a right wing friend on the phone - he believes in recovering jewish identity and it can only happen through talmud. without this jewish identity there is no justification for a state. so he says. in some ways i even agree with him - but i have to take apart each thread of his statement first. for instance - i think we have lost a great measure of jewish identity by the great divisions - but that this is changing again. And Talmud and religion has been co-opted by people who interpret it in a very limiting way for me - so limiting that I am physically ill by the thought of joining. I have a very reigious friend, and we go shopping together, and she wears a hat and a long skirt, and i wear jeans and t-shirt and neither of us care. period. but in other jewish communities i have 'entered' i am a nafkanit. a whore. i talk dirty. my framework is all wrong. i remember reading poetry one night in jerusalem and realizing some people had tuned me out because i was reading a dramatic monologue by Potifar's wife who could have been my neighbor.

And i hate the food.

My friend last night also told me that I was an egomaniac and all my political and poetic efforts are for self aggrandizement.

No, he didn't say it that way - he wouldn't be my friend if he didn't butter me up first...

I can't imagine how many ceremonies there were today in memory of Yitzchak Rabin - but all of them must have had at least one speaker who, like Itamar Rabinovich, the president of Tel Aviv University, said: the components of peace that Rabin was putting together are still there. What's needed is a leader to put them together.

I saw Lifkin-Shahak say something similar on the broadcast of the national ceremony too.

Someone like Rabin.

And the disparity between the clarity and honesty of Rabin and Sharon becomes more clear from day to day. Years ago Moldavi once said to me (and I remember the exact place because it was the first time i ever felt my heart stop) that all my laughing at how Sharon was ousted from his Ministry of Defence would backfire would stop when he became prime minister. I remember that both of us sobered at that moment. I was just leaving his apartment, and he was about to open the door for me when he said it, and every step of the four flights down I said to myself - no, it can't be. Molavi didn't want to believe it either, but he was the one who dared to say it.

And while we're on the subject of the past and the present, Eitan Haber was reminiscing on TV about Rabin and recalled how during the Gulf War Rabin used to look out his window at the cars leaving Tel Aviv and wonder how much more can Israeli citizens take - the constant pressure of living on your toes. (That was Haber's expression - maybe Rabin's as well. I would have added: living on your toes and watching your best friends go toes up. I know it's bad - but he started it with the toes)

Anyway that's where the idea of the peace treaty began, said Haber. And my mind went back like a flash to those days - those months - Somewhere I have the tapes of the nightly broadcasts I did for the Canadian radio program, "As it Happens," although I never dared listen to them...

I often thought that my neighborhood was more in danger than others because Rabin and Peres and Gur all lived within meters of me, and me in the middle. But then my next door neighbor felt she was walking around with a target painted on her t-shirt. We all felt we were in the sites of some Iraqi soldier.

I digress. I began with Rabinovich talking about Rabin and the need for a similar leader. And it made me think of the danger the university is in of being taken over academically by the government. This is a real and present danger and is probably the source of the financial squeezing we've been subjected to in the past couple years - the idea of academic freedom is being changed by laws introduced recently. One after the other. Rabinovich showed a lot of restraint (and taste) in not speaking of them on this occasion. But in the past few days it has been clear that he will have to speak out - as will the rest of us - or perish as true intellectuals.

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