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

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

I'm just back from Florence. Can't write it all now because there is not only Florence and the Palestinians who didn't come to discuss, but the change of attitude that occurred while i was gone toward targeted killings or assasinations or murders or executions or whatever you want to call it. There is all that and much more, but i am a weary traveller - too guilty to go directly to sleep but too confused to sort everything out now. I promise if you come back tomorrow I'll show you a picture or two.

Only one word - not about Florence or Israel but Rome. We checked our baggage through from Florence to Rome, and were asked to identify it in the airfield. Both Maya and I found this a great adventure and when the security people had me open the case, and I was told - someone may have opened the luggage while it was unattanded, and then i was asked, "Is this the order you packed the suitcase in?" I answered, "Why, don't you approve?"

Then after going through it diligently, we read the papers - Hamas is targetting El Al in particular.

Well, all right, just one picture. This is Maya Bejerano reading in Santa Croce:

All right, I've forgotten how to put up pictures. Come back tomorrow.

"Tell me about this bomb," I asked my friend who knows about bombs. "It was only 2 ton, to get only the people on that floor, and not to injure anyone else. But they left the room and were going down stairs. So it only wounded them." Was Allah with them? Is Allah only with those whose enemies are faint-hearted? Is it possible that Allah had nothing to do with it? Is it possible we should shit or get off the pot? Is it possible that such attacks can never totally win? Is it possible to get rid of Hamas? Is it possible Hamas will get rid of us? Tune in tomorrow for the next chapter of the continuing stooory....

September 8, 2003

Okay. A sane and unsleepy report about Firenze. The days we arrived - actually about an hour before - there was a press conference about the festival. Maya and I were not there. Allon didn't know it was happening. So only Moshe got to be interviewed. Moshe thought it would be about Israeli poetry I'm sure so he felt confident manning the conference alone. But all they were interested in was the fact that the Palestinians weren't coming. Here is the article from the La Nazione (It doesn't have my picture even though it says it does. That was in the hard copy). The point of this and the other articles was that Israel wasn't letting the Palestinians out.

Now as near as i can figure something is strange about this explanation. Upon further inquiry it seems they said that they can't get to the place they need to ask for visas because of the situation. Since the man next to me on the plane to Rome was from Jenin I think there must have been ways to get visas. Furthermore they were supposed to have the visas long ago. furthermore people who inquired about this at the foreign office were informed that they never hear of this festival. So we have a lot of tangled webs here.

My feeling was that 'they couldn't get to the place where they need to ask for visas' was metaphorical. they couldn't emotionally get to the place.

After all, even when things looked better they said they wouldn't participate in an evening with us, so 2 separate evenings were arranged. It shouldn't be that surprising the situation would deteriorate - but it is sad.

But I'm sure that not everyone knew that the palestians cancelled and maybe that's why Santa Croce was packed that night. Maybe people came to see the actor Gianluigi Tosto read to the accompaniment of Claudia Bombardella. But Claudia had a motorcycle the accident a day or so before and broke her clavicle, which makes it hard to play violin, so a substitute, Samuel, came in with accordion and guitar.

None of this augurs well, but the evening turned out smashing. the best, Jerry, the best.

There was no coverage of the evening in the papers as far as I know. Once we were not oppressors of the Palestinians we held no interest to the Florentine public - But people actually stopped me on the street to say "brava" and "thin lips!" (got asked at the last minute to open the evening with a poem of mine - didn't have anything not on the program so i recited the opening song of the CD (Watch for the interview on the CD on Israel satellite - "Prime Time" program - sometime next week). "Thin Lips" was not really appropriate for Santa Croce - under the fresco of the Last Supper - but that's what I had.

Now here is the most important fact for me of that evening. There was one Palestinian in the audience. He sat next to me and he had tried to help arrange the festival. When I read political poems and knew he was in the audience, I saw them differently - I saw slants I had not seen before.

THAT is why we need dialogue - not only because I want to understand the Palestinians through their poetry, but also because only when I read my own poetry to a Palestinian do I understand myself. I was told that Mahmoud Darwish, who didn't want to come to Florence himself to be with us, recommended these poets, and they took their orders to cancel from him as well. I am very very sorry for it.

September 9, 2003

As Abu Alla steps up to the plate, I have questions of my own. I know he is one of the people who worked on Oslo, that he was very much helped in his businesses by being able to have a hand in dividing Area A from Area B (the parts that went to the Palestinian Authorities and the parts that went to Israel's supervisions) and you can see where the border squiggles its where one of his son's gas stations stands. I also know that he's been loyal to Arafat but has a strong sense of reality. It might work.

What we're talking about at this point are practical agreements. Some program that will allow us all to get out of the economic and emotional mess we're in right now, an end to violence.

Now it is crazy to think the Palestinians have total control over Hamas, especially when Israel is targetting them, so we can't expect Abu Alla to stop terrorism, but he can do a bit more than Abu Mazen did to TRY to stop it. We know that in some cases the people themselves tried to stop terrorists from going out, knowing the retributions would strike them.

So this has to be taken into consideration.

Enough. My contention has always been (at least I think it has been) that we have to make the small, daily decisions that will make the world better - that the bigger ones, are or may be beyond our control. And they give me ulcers.

The more I think of it, Ahmed Qureia may be the right man for the job - he's tough, nasty, and funny. And maybe realistic. and he's had 2 major heart attacks so we know he has a heart.

I DONT KNOW ANY MORE THAN YOU DO YET. I know at least 6 people are dead and that most of the people there were soldiers waiting for a bus. If I'm not wrong there will be at least 12 dead by morning.

But who? whose son? whose daughter? i leave the phone open and hope for good news.

What is it that Rantisi just said - Palestinian blood is not to be dismissed. BLOOD is life - for every one. No one's blood should be taken lightly, or paid for with blood.

Life goes on. To prove it we went to Ace tonight - the big one in Shfaim. But Ace was empty as is typical of nights after terrorist attacks. And we had a good laugh over that until suddenly I heard an altercation in Arabic in the next row. It was two clerks arguing over where to put the Sale sign, but for a moment there...

Then someone went up to one of them and asked where the toilet brushes were and everything was normal and strange again.

As we started getting ready for bed we heard the news of the second bombing. To me it was predictable- to others shocking. okay shocking and predictable.

and how surprising that both of our exploding fellows were from Rantis - friends.

The bomb in jerusalem got the head of the emergency clinic in the nearby hospital. he was taking out his daughter on the night before her wedding. she died too.

How do you compare targetting killings of people who have committed or are planning unspecific attacks against citizens with the killing of whoever happens to be around? It takes a very very warped mentality. Sometimes even I fall into the trap of feeling that israel is at fault for not trying enough. but not trying enough is not the same as trying to kill. let's wake up here.

And now a moment for a worthy cause:

Magen David Adom


Magen David Adom!

Supporting Israel's Emergency, Medical, Health, Blood and Disaster Services

Magen David Adom (MDA) is Israel's National Emergency Medical Service (EMS), with over 650 emergency ambulances in operation, providing 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year emergency ambulance and coronary rescue services to all Israel hospitals.

Please feel free to contact us via e-mail, fax, mail, or phone (including a toll-free number 1-866-583-8539 from anywhere in the USA). See the Contact Us section for details!

Did you know...


  • Has provided an estimated $20,000,000.00 to Magen David Adom since the late 1950's. Has sent over 900 ambulances and mobile intensive care units covering every area of ISRAEL.
  • Has sent over 900 ambulances and mobile intensive care units covering every area of ISRAEL.
  • Has purchased 6 armored ambulances and 4 armored transport vehicles for medical personnel at a cost of over 1 million dollars.
  • Has built the following First Aid Stations:

Ashkelon - more than 25 years ago
(Magen David Adom in the
USA renovated the Ashkelon station with a grant of $75,000)
Neve Yaakov
Petach Tikvah - partnered with the

  • Has helped maintain stations in Jerusalemand Haifa.
  • Has donated more than $1,500,000.00 to assist in building the Blood Bank at RamatGan.
  • Has contributed nearly $1,100,000.00 for Blood Bank equipment including a donation of $300,000 for a Olympus PK Blood Machine at the National Blood Center in RamatGan.
  • Has purchased Lifepak 12" Defibrillators costing approx. $150,000.00 for every ambulance driver with Magen David Adom.
  • Had instrumental role in establishing the original paramedic program.
  • Supports the Magen David Adom Volunteer Program by recruiting college age volunteers to work at MDA in Israel for two months at a time. This program is co-sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel and Magen David Adom.

Magen David Adom in the USA responds to the needs of MDA in Israel by keeping in close communication with our friends.



As someone with a rare blood type and who has been in accidents I know how this stuff SAVES LIVES. If you've feeling hopeless at this moment - getting in touch with them may help.

September 11, 2003

I was just trying to bury my self in work and forget the tragedies and errors all around when Debby called me from abroad to tell me that a friend of Smadar's injured 2 days ago in the attack on the bus stop just died. Since Smadar is my beloved goddaughter i have no choice but to be available to her - and this is not a tragedy for a 18 year old girl to go alone. She is practical and informative on the phone and doesn't want to talk - she needs to sleep. So I shut up and let her go to bad - but think of the differences between her life and mine at her age. The first cemetery I saw was at my father's funeral. She is already experienced in the entire procedure.

Is there any child in this whole area who HASN'T been to a funeral?

Then I talk with my own daughter about her experiences abroad - she went to Ireland for a rest from here - but there she was constantly blamed for being part of an oppressive murderous government. even though she is against the government and its policies, she is one of them.

I know that feeling too. Even in the market in Florence I told people i was from Israel with a tone of such apology...

But, as my daughter says, what can we do? I have given endless sums of money to organizations to change the policies, to promote peace, to alleviate hunger and humiliation. And it isn't a drop in the bucket. And it does no good. I tell her - we must continue to support these organizations, the right politicians, the good causes. Someday they will work.

What a helpless, impotent thing to tell your own offspring. That every thing you supported in the past has not worked, that you have done no good in the world at all. But let's keep trying.

In the light of all that needs to be done, the following request may seem trivial, but it is so immediate i include it here. It won't be relevant by Sunday. Victor Talor drowned in a yachting accident off Canada a few days ago. He was supporting his family as a hired sailor and they are pretty shocked about this event. Even worse, the family has been informed that if they can't cough up the $6,500 to bring his body to Israel by Sunday morning he will be buried in Canada. If you can help out, email me and I'll tell you where to call.

Thanks to all who wrote already and called to donate money.

And to those who commented on the "travelling Israeli" problem. Robert Whitehill wrote:"on't let yourself be apologetic about being from Israel; many Europeans have a Jewish problem, especially when Jews defend themselves. When you act apologetically --even if you think that the current "Spiro Agnew" govt. is wrong and despicable-- you fall prey to this underlying anti-Semitism. When someone starts to attach you, simply ask: "What do you think we should do?" A question like that might even start a dialog going."

My experience has been that the attacks are personal - like "you murderers"

but perhaps others may wish to share their experiences here. All we have so far is me and Orit.

"Aren't you going to watch 'September 11' on tv," Ezi asks me. And I am astounded by my revulsion. There is no closure on this tragedy. He's out there and parading. He's even planning another one for this day (I think tomorrow would be the right time for him). It is simply not for television viewing. We would do well to hunker down and shut up.

and now for something completely different: 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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