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

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

Sorry. i screwed up the arrangements and copied the old file onto this one - it's erased now but i also lost today's entry.

I'll just sum it up then: we spent the early afternoon in Nona where people have taken to ignoring the idea of terrorist attacks with a fatalism i don't remember from the last time.

yes, there is security. yes, there are a few fewer people - but the same party atmosphere and fun conversation. the tel aviv i love.

tonight we will be going to Ezi's grammar school class reunion. another element of tel aviv it is hard to imagine

"Why do you persist in keeping this diary?" Marcia, an old friend asked, who rediscovered this journal yesterday after having assumed i stopped long ago.

It's not for the fame - that's for sure.

it's because it keeps me honest. if i write something in public and don't allow myself to reread to rewrite i have to be able to explain any changes i make in my thinking. and i can't lie. i'd like to lie, to exaggerate my suffering, my knowledge, my involvement. but i am here a simple, erring, lazy, honest citizen.

I know i don't do enough - i'm too sickly to stand and demonstrate, i give up too easily when i argue, and i'm not too terribly sure of the alternatives.

But in case it isnt clear - i am against most of what Sharon does. Like the pushing to exile Arafat. how stupid can you get. if he has this much influence all locked up in ramallah he's not going to have more influence in Tunis? And if Rabin talked with him, who's Sharon not to talk with him. Even if he is a liar and a murderer, he's the guy they want.

i'm also very opposed to his economic policies. ezi and i discuss these policies all the time - which is more than we do with our OWN economic policies. and i find Sharon (and Bibi) republican and i want a democrat like Roosevelt.

But who? why doesn't the left have a leader? why has mifkad been so silent? whatever became of yossi beilin? amnon lifkin-shahak? amnon mitzna? why is peres not in the center?

September 13, 2003

This is what you have to write about? grammar school reunions? but the class of 1958 floored me - 30 kids (all except 2 alive, all except 2 living in Israel, 3 unknown) meet after 45 years, sit in a circle and recall together their intimate experiences of childhood - and adulthood too. The experience of the first generation of children united under a new state - the first Israelis - was probably not on their minds at the moment. But as an outsider i could not help but be struck by the fact that so many were children of immigrants, survivors - their parents busy with the reconstitution of their lives, their selves. The children formed a family of their own, meeting every friday night for group activities - bonfires, parties - and supporting each other against the strange world of adults. They were not protected from the Holocaust - it seemed to come into their lives through their blood - their over-anxious and preoccupied parents, their lack of frame of reference for the previous generation. All their activities seem to be new, made up by them, referenced by them alone and not the past generation.

The great poverty most of them lived with was not significant - almost all of them were poor, and it didn't seem to be a factor because their entertainment was beyond cost and beyond price - the streets, the public world, each other.

Yet I could not but be struck by the fact that many of them could not continue directly with their education because of financial constraints, that others may well have benefitted in the education they had by extra help that was not available in the school system and beyond their means. And yet every single one of them last night 'made good,' formed successful careers and happy lives.

(They were not trying to impress each other about that - they were trying to communicate, to tell about themselves and to listen to others. In fact the idea of competition was almost nonexistent).

This was the life of children in Tel Aviv I had heard about from individuals, but never collectively. I'd also never seen the interaction live. There was no problem airing old grievances and endeavoring to ameliorate them, or dismissing them, or disproving them. Every one was honest - as if they had nothing to hide from each other. Even the girl who had felt left out told the others how she had felt.

What can I say? I wish these people were in politics today - that their sociological structure operated with a larger basis in Israeli society.

A different topic

Do you agree that Suicide Bombers are Terrorists?

I am passing along what I think is a worthwhile on-line petition to sign.

It asks the United Nations to treat suicide bombings as war crimes and that those who inspire them be prosecuted by the International War Crimes Tribunal.

The Call for UN & World Leaders to Prosecute Organizers of Suicide/Homicide Bombings, performing acts of terror against Civilians, as War Criminals, was initiated by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and written by Dr. Edward S.Beck.

One million signatures are being sought for this petition. You can just click on the following and please sign.


It took me a while to come round to it - after all i do understand the desperation that leads an individual to this act. But it is wrong, no matter what the cause.

Last week Adrienne Rich sent me the contents of a debate from Jewish peace News between Ran HaCohen and Jonathon Cook on the reasons why the Israeli public supports (explicitly or by default) the brutal military occupation of Palestinian territories. <"a href="">Peace DebateIt deals with the question of personal responsibility and guilt of Israelis with the actions of the government.

Now, I found the language in this essay irresponsible but the issue is one close to my heart and that is why Adrienne sent it to me: What is MY role in this situation and what can I do. From my experience I know that the people with me on the left are as insulated and blind as the people on the right when it comes to discussion, that we are incapable of debating with any effect except with each other. I know that I have not managed to convince a single person on the right of my point of view - and i DONT KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS. When i tried to help out in the elections i found my efforts trivial if not counterproductive, and while i was taking old (formerly) leftist ladies to the polls my friend next door to the old age in the hospital died without a visit from me. (I will never stop feeling terrible about that)

The money i have sent to 'good causes' and given on the streets for collections has gone down the drain, disappeared without any result, and whenever i state my position in my diary it usually results in a heavy oppositionist email barrage, with no possibility for open discussion and debate.

A friend of mine is in a very deep depression, and hasn't been open to visitors for almost a year. Last night in a conversation about him i found myself saying that depression is something that can hit anyone anytime - As Roethke said "And the abyss?/ The abyss you can't miss/ it's right where you are/a step down the stair."

But I added there is also a function of choice in it. That one can decide whether or not to give in to depression.

I have no doubt that most israelis are on the verge of major depression - that only a partial blindness keeps them from total catatonia. And that's what makes it so hard.

My kids talk about spraying everyone in this area with prozac - i think i've said this before. But haven't heard any more positive suggestions.

So my little solution is doing what you can. Make your own life and those around you as good as you can.

Sounds stupid even as I write it - still, it does yield some results.

The request for contributions to allow for burial in Israel of a sailor killed in Canada I noted a few days ago has been cancelled. First, people from Tel Aviv University contributed the needed money in a matter of hours, and second, the Jewish Agency took over and is funding whatever else needs to be paid for. Thanks to those of you who contributed.


Here it is: 1)Declare Arafat the most appropriate possible partner for peace. This will immediately decrease his popularity in the Palestinian street, and will also have the advantage of lowering his reactions - since he has always functioned well only when threatened by Israel.

2) Invite him to a conference in Tel Aviv. This will bring the press at last to Tel Aviv, giving us a chance to tell our side. It will also have the advantage of increasing tourism. 3)This part is not a joke: make an agreement with him.

Notice how i couldn't keep the humor up, but i thought i'd give it a try, since the alternative is to call for a popular uprising. which we are not all that far away from

September 15, 2003

Alternatives? We've talked about Mifkad. There is also The Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information.

September 16, 2003

I dreampt last night that Peres was back - that he reorganized all the little political parties against the government and then called for measures that I will relate below. The amazing thing is that even as i write now Peres is holding a press conference with the One Nation party. I assume that they are uniting! If this is the beginning it is thrilling.

My measures are based as usual on Roosevelt's new deal, and although ezi says they can't work here and now because Roosevelt's idea of pumpong money into the society and economics worked then only because no one had an overdraft, i think we can't afford not to try it. So the first law is - employ everybody - make them teaching assistants, police aides, artist-documenters, etc. etc. Create cooperative factories - while the equipment of the newly closed factories is still operative, give crop compensation to people who work government land, etc. etc. etc.

I know that Labor is pretty much opposed to joining forces with One Nation again - Peretz, the labor leader who heads the party, does not have refinement and all that. Still, there are wildcat strikes all over the place today - these do no good - except maybe at the airport. Vicky Knaffo is on the 10th day of her hunger strike and nobody's talking to her yet - it seems people should be getting together.

Thanks for asking how i feel and what i've been doing. a few people remarked on the fact that i haven't been discussing my 'typical' israeli activities lately. okay, for the past few days i've been dallying with various branches of 'kupat holim' the health clinic. i'm in maccabi, and one of our favorite pastimes in the waiting room is complaining how the place is going to the dogs. except i don't think so. for an ultrasound (thyroid) i waited maybe 10 minutes. the results got sent home to me (okay they didn't arrive exactly when they were supposed to and my new cleaning woman was frightened out of her wits by the agressive delivery man) and i have an appointment on thursday to discuss the results with my doctor. in the mean time i did the blood tests this morning - which took an hour because a little girl went into total hysteria over the very idea of blood tests and had to be coaxed off the ceiling - but would have taken 20-5 minutes otherwise. the tests will be ready and on the computer screen on my doctor when she sees me. so what's so awful? that if i have to have medication i may have to pay for it? it is awful for the people who can't pay - but for them there should be a sliding scale. that's the problem i can see.

I know the doctors are overworked and way underpaid and the equipment needs updating and that in the hospitals they are working on extremely low budgets. But under the circumstances, i'm still impressed.

let's take another example - from a different economic and health situation - my michal - who helped me for 23 years before she suddenly got sick this summer. She had gall stones that spread all over and stopped her liver function before she got her operation. But her operation was delayed (2 operations actually) because some stupid doctor decided to give her an appointment for 2 months instead of that day, and she was too diffident to argue. Once everyone convinced her to just go to the emergency room (she was yellow by then), she was taken care of right away, medicated immediately and operated on as soon as her tests were straightened out. The second operation was a week later and she was sent home to her daughter's for shabbat. There was no charge. If she complains it's about that stupid doctor who convinced her there was no rush when there was - but i know a few like that in the U.S.

Flu shots cost 12 shekel this year (about $2.50) but not for me because i'm over 50. health care here is still a pretty good deal.

All this is in spite of the fact that the crippling budget guts were approved this morning. crippling to health care, to subsidies - like for the disabled, the impoverished, etc. of course no monies were cut for the territories - building, roads - or for religious institutions.

oh goodness i wrote guts instead of cuts. what would Freud say

in today's 'annual' meeting of the english writers' organization i wanted to give up - i mean the budget cuts of the federation have left us with an amazing issue of arc on tu bishvat and ecology ready for press (it was ready for LAST tu bishvat) and no way to get the $1000 to print it. Can we take donations? I'm checking right now,but it looks like we can.


check out my THIN LIPS my new CD with Roi Yarkoni and Ishai Sommer. It is electronic at its best, and maybe the most interesting combination of poetry and music i've ever heard (and that's my subject - poetry and pop culture, right?). Even if i did bomb the TV interview yesterday and look like I don't know my hand from a hacksaw, the CD is amazing. It should be out in 2 weeks, but you can preorder at Pookh.

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