Friday, December 27, 2002

The Name of the Writer


(first published at the Patchword e-zine)

�You should write only if you cannot sleep at night if you do not write.� So said a Yiddish writer to my friend, the poet Karen Alkalay-Gut when she was still a child.

Reading another writer's's article I feel coming from him some kind of expectancy to be anointed. You go out into the world like King Saul, to search for the lost donkeys, and you find a kingdom. A prophet anoints your head with pure olive oil and then smooth silky writing comes out in a never-ending luxurious flow.

But is it so?

Why did I always, from the very moment I remember myself, know I am a writer? What came first, the writing that was flowing out of my pen as if of its own will or the praise from the teachers, from a father who wrote beautifully and compassionately.

I do not know the answer. But even if we credit (do you have a less monetary word?) only 50% for the empowering agent or only to one person in our lives, yet an important one, then I think we do have part of an answer, if not the major one. Because, you see, there are so many gifted people in this world, so many of them actually gifted writers. What happens to those who toil in utter darkness with no one to smile lovingly at them, or admire, or offer appreciation, in early childhood or in any later stage in life? How many of those unable to sleep at night become prey to illnesses and despair, their life wasted in a world that seems like a desert to them?

We do not know.

The world loves books, offers them dutiful respect, yet it forgets that without the writer there wouldn�t be any books. In this sense the writer is more important than the books, in this very real sense.

Suppose you are a business person or an editor, will you wait for a jury to pronounce you the Business-person, the Editor?

In Hebrew we say: Since the Destruction of the Temple all prophets were deemed to be just �Lying Prophets�. So, you see, No one has the power to anoint, unless you yourself credit them with it.

What will all the juries do if all the writers, God Forbid, turned their back on them?

I do not suggest they/we should. The point I�m raising is that a jury�s existence depends on us while a writer�s existence is sovereign and independent. When you enter the Temple, leave on the threshold the worn shoes of humility. Isn�t humility in our case just internalized oppression?

So, you are a writer even if you�ve never yet written a single word. In this I recall a formidable writer who once said in an interview: Until the age of forty I was a writer who never wrote a single word on a page, only in my head. Which takes us back to the head and the anointment business.

Now, are Prizes the anointment replacement? Are they really what make the difference?

In my experience and understanding prizes serve one function � just the monetary one. The writer is his/her only jury, chaired by Old Good Truth and Honesty. Indeed I do believe that one can fulfill the gift of writing and the vocation only with honesty, only when guided by truth. You do your best, the best you can, notwithstanding the spouse or neighbor�s opinion/dictum. You are a writer even if you�ve never got a single prize (albeit poorer) and in this you are in the good company of some of the most honestly important writers. Aren�t so many of the Nobel prize winners forgotten while the likes of Kafka, Yehuda Amihai, you name them, have never reached that podium? No, Prizes don�t make you a writer, no more than a Nobel Peace Prize turns you into the Eternal Peace Guardian � judging from our laureates at home here in the Middle East. As in their case, being a writer is not like becoming an adult, it�s not like reaching a stage in life but rather a life long commitment to testify truthfully and honestly on the nature of your times and human experience.

As long as you cannot sleep at nights if you do not write, and write honestly, Brother/Sister: rest assured: you are a writer!

And I�m not a Lying Prophet, no� I�m a writer.

Where Was I?


I cannot remember the exact minute.

Oh. Yes.

I was in a lawyers' office, in a local tower actually, in Tel-Aviv. Not far from it are our own Twin Towers. Exactly so they're named, represented here along with every chain store you may find in USA.

I was in this lawyer's office. A publishing house has taken a book of mine, a children's book, and reprinted it, without my consent, with no name on it. Erased is my name.

I was about to leave when another lawyer in that office came in saying, "Have you heard the news? An airplane entered into the Twin Towers."

We looked out of the window and could see nothing.

Someone switched on the TV.


It was easier to cling to the beautiful
memories, reminiscences of times spent in NYC, visits to the Twin Towers. The people, the multitude of singularly precious lives lost, to this recollection no one dared get close, afraid of collapsing immediately.. We sensed there will be plenty of time and no place to escape the harrowing sights, so we tried to postpone, even if only for a couple of minutes. Gravely, most intelligently, we moved on to the second phase of denial, that of dissecting history: "Someone wanted to boost Arafat's chance to meet Bush next week," said I. "Pearl Harbor!" cried the lawyer.

Oh, it's been such a long time since not only the buses and cars we are boarding in hope to reach home alive, but also buildings, the whole region is spinning wildly as if we were riding a dinosaur awaken to shake us off. But now the whole globe is shifting. Now what we chose to see as a local problem, those local problems around the world are now shown as one and the same, no place to go and find shelter if worse comes to worst. Evil has boarded our Noah's Ark, heading fast into the Arrarat mountain.


On one of these days which since the mass murder
seem like compressed in one minute and enlarged to the infinite, I got an e-mail from a beloved friend, the Dutch writer Marion Bloem, with a message she got from a friend, carrying at its tail so many indignant signatures.

They all related to a CNN video showing Palestinians celebrating the mass murder, claiming it was actually a replay of the one filmed during the1990 War when there was spontaneous dancing on the roofs of Gaza whenever an Iraqi scud missile hit Tel-Aviv.

I went to the quoted posting, put on quite a respected alternative news site, and found out that since September 12 when this piece of news was posted, waves after waves of armed words were hitting there in all directions.

The target, the most important issue of those days, turned to be the very real and most pressing issue of CNN, or/and The Media.


Dear Marion,
I would have been the first to be happy if the allegations in the e-mails you forwarded were true. I do not know much about CNN, actually I've been living with no TV for the last nineteen years, and rarely watch it somewhere else. I have not seen neither the 1990 nor the recent CNN films so I cannot compare. I went to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz English edition, and Haaretz is very much respected for its courage and honesty, it also has a few reporters that write on behalf of the ordinary Palestinian people's plight, has the only reporter (a courageous honest Jewish Israeli woman - Amira Hass) who actually went to live in Gaza for a few years and now is living in Ramallah.

And I found from yesterday's edition (today is New Year, so no new edition, only updates) this article in which you can read that Ahmed Tibi himself, an Israeli MP militant supporter of Arafat who used to work as his advisor, a honorable person, clearly expressing his displeasure with the Palestinian who celebrated jubiliantly the horrible terrorist murderous attack on USA citizens.

So maybe he has not read the e-mail you've forwarded...


Arab MKs refuse to condemn Palestinian joy over U.S. attacks By Gideon Alon, Haaretz (excerpt)

All Knesset factions except the Arab parties yesterday denounced manifestations of Palestinian joy following last week's deadly terror attacks in the United States, in a summary statement adopted at a special session to express solidarity with the American people in the wake of the attacks.

Those Palestinians who support terror, the resolution said, "could not restrain themselves. While across the sea, people were counting the bodies of innocent civilians, they [Palestinian supporters of terror] chose to dance on the blood of the dead."

.The resolution was supported by all Knesset factions except the Arab parties.

. MK Ahmed Tibi (Arab Movement for Renewal) said that he also denounces the manifestations of joy in the Arab street. "I feel shame and anger toward those who expressed joy at this human tragedy," he said. However, he added, "We are talking about a handful of rash, stupid and ugly people, and the attempt to stigmatize the entire Arab and Islamic nation with their exceptional acts is cheap, harmful and perverted."


Dear Editor:

I know so many Palestinian mothers and fathers and children who yearn no less than my Israeli people for an end to all atrocities. I cannot even name them as I know it might endanger their lives in their own community and they
have enough to suffer in the given conditions. Yet, leafing through the numerous responses on your site I was struck by the realization that the huge majority of them, no matter what stand they took, were intensely violent in language, full of hatred of whoever does not share their insightful contradictions..

Can we have or even seek a world of peace and equality when led by hatred? Is hatred imbued in so many people from birth or by education alone? How come in the same environment one is a peace seeker and benevolent, the other blindly hateful? Apart from the very sick, like the one who posted a site where a banner was claiming pathetically: KILL THE JEWS, and I pity them indeed, I fully understand that People, so shattered, need someone to point to as the predator. If indeed, as so many were saying, all this was caused by USA's faults, than how come the killing goes on, of Muslims against Muslims? Maybe at the root of all evil is Evil itself, per sei, the gluttony of Evil, the sick drive to kill, destroy, hate, stamp out? Were the Inquisition, the Nazis, the killers throughout history incited by USA imperialism?

Or maybe the human being, humanity as a whole is scared to look into the deep recesses of our individual soul? Can we survive ourselves without such an all encompassing search and research and understanding?


Tuesday, September 18, 2001 10:12 PM

Dear Corinna:

Hello, I am Chris Kaihatsu, a volunteer journalist with the Chicago Independent Media Center.

We now have confirmation that the CNN old-footage rumor was spread without corroboration by an individual who used his teacher's conjecturing as a starting-point. I have reproduced the message below.


A couple of days ago a story written by a Brazilian student was posted at IMC Israel saying that his teacher at UNICAMP university
had evidence that images CNN broadcast showing Palestinians celebrating the World Trade Center attack were actually old images from 1991 of Palestinians celebrating Kuwait's invasion. This story has since then circulated in the form of e-mails and hundreds of people commented on it. We finally managed to contact him and he was very worried about the repercussions of what he wrote. He said that his teacher later said that she didn't had a tape of the old CNN footage and she wasn't sure about it. Well, he's writing himself a statement clarifying what happened. Meanwhile, we would ask that people not spread this rumor further.

Sincerely, Pablo Ortellado, Ind. Media Center Brasil Volunteer9.

Dear Marion:

If only all problems
could be solved that easily, all lies and rumors that simply unmasked.

In the country of my childhood, in Romania, there goes a saying: "The house is on fire and grandmother is combing her hair."

Here it's splitting hairs over everything that will take us away from the one and only pressing issue: If indeed the cause to this attack was Imperialism, then the brave messengers of destruction should have conducted their attack at night when no one was in those buildings, (With no one in the planes? That would be too much to ask) and spare lives. Again and again I know: Algeria, where Muslims kill Muslims, is drowning in blood with no imperialism involved there anymore.

Our Age of Wisdom has done research on every malady, except the drive to violence: how come it's dwelling in people's hearts, how and if there is a healing way out. A medicine.

Right now the violence of Imperialism, the money and power cult, oh, that's been searched and researched, to no avail. And what about fundamentalist and extremist violence? Bin laden is not such a poor guy, he's not a Third World oppressed and starving slave of USA Imperialism, neither are those like him.

Our reality is imbued with violence, it's only a question of degree. Yet there is one big difference upon which awareness cannot close its eyes anymore. Our very existence depends upon this ferocious illumination: The much disliked imperialism is not the immediate danger at this moment. As much as it has inflicted suffering and brought death and sorrow with its abuse of power, unlike the terrorist fanatics, murdering is not Imperialism's raison d'etre. In our Age we can, as much as we must, converse with the Imperialist system in a common language based on the universal values which places human life and freedom above all.

This of course calls for a lot of upgrading. It is and will always be an ongoing process and struggle. If we look at such countries as Sweden or Netherland, they've managed to turn from brutal Imperialism to socially oriented, much more benign systems. I would rather see bin laden and his likes as imperialist moguls, but they won't be satisfied with such trifles. As with the proverbial stork and fox, we have no language to share with the fundamentalism's holy values; theirs is a fixated dogma set on total anihillating of The Other, The Heretic. Those messengers of Evil are acting now and so must they be counteracted right away and fast, not as revenge but as an inevitable safety measure.


first published on the Masthead e-zine, September 2001

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

In The Beginning

Sunday, December 08, 2002

I have the three first chapters of Once fully edited.

One chapter a day and the book will be ready to go to the printer before December leaves us.

Yesterday I worked a bit in the garden. Half an hour a day and the garden will look so beautiful before the rains overcome us.

Today I managed to do some ironing. One hour a week and the ironing will be done with, and the wardrobe will be so tidy.

Tonight I had a full load in the washing machine. Two loads a week and...

Such a waste of time.

One of my friends' grandmother used to say, "I we didn't have to eat, we could all be rich."

Without all this chores I can be so time-rich.

Like it was at Yaddo. There even eating felt like a waste of time. And the challenge is: Live as if you are at Yaddo. As if. As if it's possible.


December 2002

Yesterday I wrote a furiously funny piece on the easy target of the cellular phone craze. Immediately a huge invisible hand came down the chimney and turned my words into a diminishing smoke until nothing was left of them. I'm going to upgrade to the Plus option which hopefully will hand me an iron broom to scare away all those invisible witches.

Oh, what have I done, how dare I when I'm still unarmed...

You are my witnesses.


Back to Weba'le.

Let it be known that today, Wednesday, November 27 2002 a historical event occured which should go unnoticed:

My web site went online.

Not an easy feat.

Done. Well and alive. Online.

I should relay the history and the histerics.

Saturday, December 7, 2002

Longing Revisited

Saturday. I have the three first chapters of Once fully edited. One chapter a day and the book will be ready to go to the printer before December leaves us.

Yesterday I worked a bit in the garden. Half an hour a day and the garden will look so beautiful before the rains overcome us.

Today I managed to do some ironing. One hour a week and the ironing will be done with, and the wardrobe will be so tidy.

Tonight I had a full load in the washing machine. Two loads a week and...

Such a waste of time. One of my friends' grandmother used to say, "I we didn't have to eat, we could all be rich."

Without all this chores I can be so time-rich.

Like it was at Yaddo. There even eating felt like a waste of time. And the challenge is: Live as if you are at Yaddo. As if. As if it's possible.

Friday, December 6, 2002

My Home In Tel- Aviv

My home is in Tel-Aviv.
Tel-Aviv is a sunny city, clouded by violence.
So where is my home?

At my home on a certain street (and so noisy that I have to close the windows,
except in the late night hours when the traffic quitenes a bit).
Or better still, in the room where I can sit at the table, mostly at my computer, and write.
Or still more accurate: In my last resort and refuge: my heart.

This heart has two chambers.
They tremble and suffer.
When I'm happy the chambers grow larger.

This complete state of well being when you smile for no reason just because your face and heart
are the natural home of your wide smile, this state has escaped with no warning.

You try to bring it to people's eyes and faces with some humorous response.
And 99.9% of the time they respond arguing. It's amazing.
People here have lost their sense of humour, this stance when you take a step back and look at the reality from the outside.
I say, "It's a joke."
They laugh, and to save face say, "I know, I know, you see I'm laughing."
I'm finding it hard to concentrate on the final editing for the Hebrew Once She Was A Child.
I want to have it published in the Spring if not earlier.
So many distractions.
Too much time taken by all those activities that are not the writing itself.

A day with no real writing leaves me empty and immensely miserable. I am addicted to life and I am addicted to the literary writing.
Sometimes they go together and sometimes they're just pulling in opposite directions.
If only one could have one life as a writer and another separate one as an non-writer, just live in simplicity fulfilled with the knowledge that all the writing has been done, like a mission completed, like an activity that has a beginning and an ending.