Tel Aviv Diary September 22, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from September 22, 2003 Karen Alkalay-Gut

It was worth dragging myself out to the museum in Givataim to see the amazing sculptures and paintings of Amos Kenan last night. The evening in his honor was almost as good. Alona Kimchi, Yisrael Gurion, Hana Roth, Liora Rivlin, and others read from his works and the incomparable Rona Kenan sang with her band, habiluim.

The bright colored paintings of moustached turks and bare-breasted musicians on the beach alternating with the stone canaanite sculptures all brought us back to a world of wonderful and conscious fantasy about the middle east, and i kept repeating that if i had the money i would delight in having one of his works in my home. And I kept running into celebrities who acknowledged their joy at being at Kenan's evening rather than Shimon's.

Not that they didn't respect Shimon. But joy and cynicism is so much more fun.

And it didn't cost so much. There was also not a litle snideness at the narcissism of it = a party arranged by Peres in praise of Peres.

Meanwhile, back at Shimon's, Vicky Knaffo and Kathleen Turner side by side with Bill Clinton and Amnon Lifkin-Shahak (talking romantically to his wife, Tali, instead of working the room), all registering in their presernce or their interviews, extreme reverence for Shimon.

Rena wrote cryptically that i am not technically a narcissist and i joyfully explained to myself, no! that's right! I'm an exhibitionist!

But Shimon, I'm afraid, IS a narcissist.

Vicky Knaffo: On the 17th day of her hunger strike, the 23rd of september, there is a demonstration in which the building of the finance minister will be circled seven times, in an effort to bring down the walls of indifference. this will take place at 5 p.m. in jerusalem - parliament building.

Veronica Khokhlova has written a fine story about Israel called "Ali's Pictures". I was pretty amazed by it!

September 23, 2003

Could have sworn i wrote more about Kenan and Peres. Must have erased it by mistake. Anyway you can see Kenan's site here It shows you something about what i thought i'd said about him.

As for the ongoing Peres birthday, there were some women in green demonstrating the other night and a reporter asked then if they didn't wish him a happy new year - the woman replied "a short one." Now I hope for her sake that if there is a God he wasn't listening to that. The very thought of wishing evil on someone is so foreign to everything I know about Judaism. But apparently I don't know everything. The women were all in agreement.

Remember Mifkad? I kept thinking it hasn't taken off, but there they were on the streets yesterday, two nice men in their little Mifkad booth in front of the supermarket of ramat hasharon, signing a handful of people up Slow but steady. No website listed but here it is: Mifkad. Join. The English site is here


Let's see, a terrorist was killed today on his way to an attack, the corruption ıscandals are bursting out but still contained, more evidence is piling up about Arafat's ısecret fortunes he's amassed. Ho hum.

ı Here's a typical little story of my life in Israel, but it’s a little different from the ıstandard plot:

After 2 years of the smell of dampness in our bathroom, we called ıthe plumber who'd laid the pipes originally.

He arrived exactly on time, and ıexamined not only the bathroom, but the walls, the floors, the underside of the ıbuilding, and came to the conclusion that there was no work for him.

"I'll open it up ıfor you if you insist," he said, "but there's nothing wrong there."

Over a cup of ıcoffee he convinced me that the smell was coming from dampness in the walls that ıhas nothing to do with the pipes, and took a minimal fee for his visit. As I was ıwriting out the check I sighed that if I could only win the lotto I'd call him in to redo ımy whole kitchen. "Yeah, my truck got stolen with all the equipment - months ago - and ıI can't get out of debt from all the expenses i had to replace it all. Worst of all I keep winning only 3 out of 6 in the ılotto." "Me too. So we both have half luck." At that moment we decided we had to ıfill one out together – so we wrote out a contract and I gave him 15 shekel, signed the ıticket as a half winner, and we said goodbye.

I still had time for a shower before ımy meeting, and I have a very good feeling about this lotto.

and what of the dampness you ask? after he left we moved the dishwasher and it seems the tube to the faucet has a leaky connection.ı so Ezi changed the washer.

September 23, 2003

A good friend sits with me in my office and we are talking intimately. She is very devout and our conversation is about our different preparations for the holidays. Mine seem to be social and philosophical, while hers are more technical - it's a very long weekend to be without cooking, for example. And in the middle of all this she gets a call from her son - he left the yeshiva almost two years ago to join the army and he is far away and not in a very safe place. Her face lights up as she talks with him, but when she hangs up i suddenly see how old she is. "He won't be able to come home for Rosh Hashana," she says. And I think, how lucky for her at this moment that she is so sure in her right wing politics. It helps her to bear this disappointment. Me I would have gone up North, dragged my son out of his unit, and left the country, without thinking twice.

And this made me think of something Richard keeps repeating - how terrible the Palestinian mothers must be that they put their children in harm's way. BUT WE DO IT TOO.

I know there is a major difference - the difference between defensive and agressive behavior, and Judaism emphasizes a distinction between the two. My friend and her son are clearly in the 'defensive' definition. But living in Hebron, say, is not necessarily defensive.

An article in the NYTimes points out that the common denominator of terrorism in the world is the desire for political independence (and not religious fundamentalism). It makes sense.

Still, my instinctive reaction to terrorism is self-defence, no matter how noble and right the cause. I suppose this means i have to evolve, but i find it exceedingly difficult.

For those of you who have written to warn me that my plumber may have wormed 15 shekel out of me with the lotto scam, i wish to note that we (my plumber and me) have as much chance of winning the lotto this week as we (israel and palestine) have of making peace this year. have some faith

September 25, 2003

No lotto for me and Amos the plumber.

I don't know what happened to yesterday's entry. if anyone saved it, please send it to me!

Omi just told me that Edward Said died - what was he, 67? Poor guy, he'd been living with Leukemia for so many years At least he's at peace. -

When I was a child, my parents had a friend who would come for kiddush every week - Moshe Yizchak ben Shimon Yona Fogel. He was very religious, and enjoyed the prayers and the conversation at our table. He had a radio program every Sunday morning in Yiddish, and read all the ads himself in Yiddish. Helka Zelzer, Goronkin's Delicatessen, Fox's restaurant, and El Al. I thought that he knew all the sources of the ads personally, ate at the restaurant, used the products, but he never flew El Al. Once I asked him whether he had any plans of going to Israel. "When the Messiah comes," he said, "he'll bring me on a flying carpet, and then i'll travel there for free." My rebbe too, although he supported Israel, didn't think it was a good idea to get too attached. He thought the bible and a moral life much more central.

I thought of my rebbe and Moshe Fogel when I read the letter that came out from 27 pilots who refused to fly target missions. As much as they love their country, and feel they have been steeped in Zionism and Israel, they cannot in good conscience do this.

Whether I agree with them or not about the ultimate value of these assasinations, I agree with the idea that conscience is primary. Not only that one has a right to follow conscience, but that it is imperative to constantly consider and reconsider what one does and why one does it.

So I was totally shocked by the amount of criticism they received for this act. As if acting from conscience could weaken a society.

The vitriol was pretty astounding, but then Y, a new friend who lives on rothschild blvd (haven't asked him for permission for this -hope it's okay) told me today that he heard the speeches of the Women in Green (on Sunday - demonstrating against Peres, remember) and he said they were stopping just short of calling out for the murder of Peres and all the left. They couldn't say it, they said, because they were not allowed to SAY it, but everyone understood what they meant.

He said a lot more, but i can't believe it.

What can be more important than saving lives? I know they think that the left endangers lives, is responsible for the death of the terrorist victims in the past 3 years. Of course I think the opposite is true - but even if they were right...

September 26, 2003

Erev Rosh Hashana - you would expect we would have some things settled by then. But even the letter of the 27 pilots means totally different things here to different people. There are many who are outraged that ranks in the army could be broken, even in such a personal way. No army would allow this behavior, they say. And they are right.

But these people who believe the occupation is wrong have been silent long enough. And although it may endanger the security of israel by demoralizing the army, it can't be ignored. Perhaps as far as security is concerned we need to be united, but as human beings, as a people, we must have free thought, and free conscience.


(Some people say - shana tova lekall bnei yisrael - a good year to all the sons of Israel - but it has always bothered me - anyway i got at least 15% of my new years cards from Muslims and Christians)

Let us all pray for the wisdom to make peace this year.

"Haven't you gone a bit far?" Kurt Gerron smirks at me from the wall. "Haven't you forgotten how I was forced to become identified as a Jew even though I spent my life escaping it - and ended up singing my "Mack the Knife" before I got gassed in Auschwitz?"

"What's this prayer shtik?" Some other voice I'm going to have to find an identity for whispers from inside my heart. "You cop out with prayer and your conscience gets cleaned up and NOTHING GETS DONE! Do something."

So I go downstairs to visit the garden and the neighbors are talking about the mayorlty election. Huldai is going to win again as mayor of tel aviv even though everyone is dissatisfied. Why? Because there is no potential candidate opposing him. And why not? Because all the people on the left have never learned to accept authority - it is against their nature - that's why they're on the left. that's why I"M on the left. But the right is right about one thing for absolute sure - someone HAS to take responsibility and make decisions.



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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