Tel Aviv Diary Oct 7, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from Oct 7, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

the day after yom kippur and everything seems to still be quiet and slow - we're still into the marathon of analyzing information from the '73 war and many people aren't back at work. maybe they're building their sukkot. i actually do hear hammers. me, i'm busy building courses for the semester. but they could be some of the enormous houses that are going up in the neighborhood opposite me - single family houses that look like tuscan villas.

Two headlines: 1)Reserve callup - that always means we're on the brink of war. 2)(and this is a quote from haaretz) Immigration police arrest 21 Chinese laborers working on new wing of Knesset without proper work permits

I'd rather die laughing than die in a bombing.

October 8, 2003

The publicity on Elhanan Tennenbaum about the situation of his capture should be emerging now - at the same time the information about the possibility of Ron Arad being alive - we seem to be weighing one against the other. should we give up 300 terrorists for one Elhanan or should we hold out for Ron Arad, endangering the life of Tennenboim? It's Sophie's Choice and i hate the fact that we are in this position. too much information and disinformation has clouded us terribly.

Yes, yes, i know this is the situation with the world, but what a world it is. All our choices are more or less like this one - no absolutes. no easy decisions.

And i am still comforting myself after/before medical tests with shopping. shopping is a particularly pleasant way to cushion the emotional blow of blood tests, etc. because it demands a completely different orientation and IT HAS BECOME VERY CHEAP. Yesterday, in Dan Design Center in Ramat Gan (conveniently located near Ramat Marpeh), we went through the whole place - half the stores are closed, some of which I remember from the last time I was there (last year) - and the others are having amazing sales (hanging on by the skin of their teeth. You buy a sheet from Freed, you get a sheet free. And $32 is about half the usual price for a sheet. So $16 is a true bargain.

I shouldn't have translated the prices to dollars. In dollars it sounds expensive. In shekels 128 for 2 good quality sheets is lovely. You can sleep well on them, knowing you've bought on sale and you might have helped keep a very old and trusted company in business for another day.

How can I compare for you foreigners - ah yes - they were selling aerosole shoes on dizengoff last week for 75 shekel a pair. like $17. they would normally have gone for 300 shekel around here.

And may I put in a good word here for the poetry festival in jerusalem next week. the schedule it out and it looks good. There are some Arab poets I've never heard - such as Moataz Abu Salah - And I'm lookg forward to hearing Mark Rudman and Dermot Healy- I've actually heard all the other israelis and they are all good whether they are well known or not.

And I'm sure the others will be at the very least interesting. I've heard Ishmael Reed and Elaine Feinstein and some others - and they are unforgettable.

so go

forget that you're not going to hear me read.

a new literary journal in hebrew. i know some of you read it and love it - i discovered it because they're featuring me - and then found it was actually really good. Okapi. Check it out.

There are actually a few journals for poetry on the net. One is Helicon and there are few more that i have been wrongly ignoring, but i will look them up and post the addresses. shortly.

In the meantime Rena and Robert and a few other people wrote in to remind me of what a shmuck Edward Said was. I didn't mean to ignore that aspect of him, and thought everyone else would know i knew that famous photo of his throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers here. I remember him well - walking a few steps in front of his wife on the Columbia University campus. riding up the elevator while she walked the six flights (or was it only five) to his office in Dodge. ah yes.

still he influenced a whole way of thought that has in a sense brought on some of the mistakes of multiculturalism. the fact that if you dare judge a different society you are an imperialist. and that was brilliant.

October 9, 2003

Where have i been all day? Im been reading other israeli blogs. Blogalization is a site that lists other blogs from Israel. It made me realize how strange i am.

Tomorrow is erev sukkot and there are all these recipes online for food in the sukkah. i never knew there was a sukkot menu. in my parents' home the menu was the same for all of the holidays - gefilte fish, chopped liver if i was lucky, kreplach for new years related meals and kneidlach for passover related meals, soup, a chicken roasted after it served to make soup, tsimmes, potatoes roasted next to the chicken, compote, lekach. on new years teiglach. what more could you need?

i myself would like to see a picnic on sukkoth, but haven't gotten it together yet.

anything you try to get together won't work until after the holidays - no one is making any plans until 'after the holidays.' come back after the holidays. people with no families here are particularly screwed because families is all you got here until after the hagim. that is, unless you live in tel aviv. where the bars and cafes are crowded.

yes, there are warnings all the time of attacks - and in fact there was a terrorist today who seriously injured one soldiers and some others mildly at a checkpoint when he detonated. and maybe two years ago people stayed home, and maybe last year they started going out in defiance, but now they have accepted their fear as part of the game. me, or example. i imagine blowing up all the time. what if i go into this shop here and that's the place the terrorist decides to enter? what if i go in and he turns to the left and blows up the shop next door? My stupid dog started barking at this man on the street before and although i always shush her i suddenly thought - what if she knows something i dont know about him? for me to suspect SHUSHA of being wiser than me! that's sick! (not imagining myself blowing up - that's realistic)

October 10, 2003

Today's Haaretz has a great piece by Shiri Lev Ari (one of the more thoughtful and insightful journalists writing today on the arts) on the revivial of poetry here Diverse Voices. Only part of it is on the web, and the rest is equally good. But it is a fine window into Israeli society, and very heartening.

October 11, 2003

So we did the sukkah thing last night - a wonderful evening discussing the wandering of the Jews, the significance of the lulav, etc. etc. - all while expecting the roof to fall in on our heads because the cat was trying to get at our dinner and had already collapsed one 'scach' one roof of branches in the past. It didn't happen and i guess that was the miracle of standing sukkah and should be the basis for legend for many years to come.

Today we continued the holiday appropriately by having shabbat lunch at Ahmed et Salim, my favorite local restaurant.

Our eagle eyes for the sociology of Israel told us that this was not a normal day. Only last week 20 people were killed in a place just like this, and the crowds were definitely thinner than usual. But it is a very homey and happy atmosphere, and we soon forgot the dangers and dug into the Sennia (Question - the manager asked us how you say Sennia is english - it means casserole literally - but usually indicates a baked meat loaf in techina sauce. unless its tomato sauce. We also couldn't figure out the English for Denise. where are all my linguists?)

Anyway, we had our usual wonderful time at Ahmed et Salim and I am sure people will have forgotten the blast at Maxims' very soon and will be filling up the restaurants again very soon. until the next terrorist attack.

October 12, 2003

The suicide bombing in Baghdad today - i turned on the news and saw for a second the American being blamed... Colin Powell had been talking about how the positive aspects were not being noted.. and i kept thinking that most of the damage done to the iraqi people was done by Saddam himself in this war - the electricity, the telephones, the unrest, the bombings. It is like they would rather die that alleviate the situation.

It seems like that way here too - i remember talking to a fine businessman in Nablus many many years ago - in a gorgeous restaurant in the middle of the city - and he was wearing a sharkskin suit in the summer. and he was admitting that his situation had improved since the israelis came in - that he was poor and is now well off. but he would give anything to get rid of the israelis. this was in 74 i think. and i think i said - anything? and he answered - anything. and i was thinking that there were surely ways of compromising - it didn't have to be a question of 'giving up' of sacrifice - but of peace. but i know i didn't dare say that then.

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