Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yaffo, early morning

For my morning exercise I've been taking pre-breakfast bike rides around Yaffo armed with the morning news on the radio (the litany of horrors is the soundtrack of my life) and my camera. I caught this little old fisherman on the sea wall by Yaffo port. I just clicked away as usual but the photo somehow ended up looking like a painting.
The old port, the traditional point of entry to Palestine for centuries, is today in a pretty dialpidated state. There are plans for it to be tarted up and developed, hopefully without spoiling its charm, part of which lies in the rusty old wharehouses like the one below. There used to be a flourishing fish restaurant in this building at street level.

Deep in Yaffo I stumbled across this ungainly sculpture. I guess someone in the municipality thought the local residents would be able to identify with it. Yaffo has a high crime rates and poverty levels.

Next to the traffic island I met a kid who asked me why I was taking pictures. I told him that it was because I liked Yaffo and asked him if he liked living there. "No," he said, "there's too much balagan here."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Night photos

Late night revellers peeking through the chic exterior of the newly opened French Cultural Institute on the corner of Herzl and Rothschild. Click for detail.

On Thursday night we took a rare trip to Jerusalem to hear Itai play at the Jerusalem Jazz festival. It was the night of the Gay Pride Parade and we planned a route that would circumvent both the marchers and their haredi opponents who were demonstrating in another part of the city. Friends who joined us said that had to navigate their way through burning tyres to reach the (magical) concert.

We eventually exited the holy city and raced back to the Bubble to catch the International Music Festival that was spread over the centre of Tel Aviv. This was heavily subsidised by the French government which the same night opened the new French cultural institute situated in a beautiful bauhaus building on the corner of Herzl and Rothschild, thereby symbolically cementing the Republic's ties with Zionism's founding fathers.

By the time we arrived they were packing away the sound equipment all over town leaving thousands of people aimlessly walking up and down (the better dressed ones speaking French) . My attempts at night photography , combined with incompetence and good luck, resulted in these images which I think captured the atmosphere better than a proper photograph ever could.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Two cities, two gay parades

The Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv held at the beginning of June caused about as much interest (outside of the gay community) as the annual Arab-Jewish festival in Yaffo or a concert by the Israel Philharmonic in Park Hayarkon for that matter. Tel Aviv's drivers were annoyed at the traffic arrangments and that was it. Not so in Jerusalem where, by all accounts, all hell is going to break loose tomorrow night. The wilder and younger elements of Jerusalem's haredi (ultra-orthodox) community have vowed to stop the march at all cost and the organisers from the Open House (the organisation that supports the embattled gay community in our intolerant capital) had to resort to the High Court for permission to hold it as planned.

For much, much more on gay issues in Israel see

This is what the gay parade looked like in Jerusalem last year and there is a school of thought inside the gay community that since Tel Aviv holds a successful parade every year, why provoke a punch-up in Jerusalem? Some also note ruefully that the Jerusalem parade has managed to unite all three monotheistic religions into an ad-hoc anti-gay holy bloc. Perhaps this infant alliance of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, based on their common sacred hatred for gays, could develop into more promising areas, like jointly working for peace for example? Naaaaaah.....

In view of what's going on on the other side of our "border" with the Palestinian authorities (one in the west and another one in the south for god's sake) it's almost refreshing that we are able to concern ourselves with the rights of gays to display their wares in the Holy City. On the other hand you'd think that Him up there would have more important abominations on His mind in His land at this time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gaza goes green

Gaza has fallen to Hamas. Abu Mazen has fired PM Haniyeh and, in an attempt to save Fatah in the West Bank, has finally declared a state of emergency.

Instead of seeking a two state solution we'll now have to seek a three state solution: for Israel and what the media are already calling 'Hamastan' and 'Fatahland'.

About an hour and a half's drive from the rooftop, here in the Tel Aviv bubble, guys like our friend on the right from the Hamas military are ruthlessly ruling the roost. We have an Islamic 'statelet' governed by a branch of the Moslem Brotherhood on our doorstep, the first of its kind in the Middle East. All this is sending shudders down moderate backs from Cairo to Washington.

The new situation raises so many questions. How to govern the Gaza-Israel and Gaza-Egypt crossing points (all presently closed)? What is Israel's exit strategy or how to transfer responsibility for the Strip to international hands? How to coordinate humanitarian aid? How to respond to qassam attacks from the Strip (2 landed today)? Will Hamas' military victory in Gaza arouse Islamic passions in Cairo or Beirut?

While Gaza goes green and the PA fights for its life life flows on in our hedonistic bubble. After a frenzied day I took an evening swim. On the beach people were playing matkot and tossing frizbees as the evening joggers zig-zagged between them and the sun dipped into the sea behind a low, grey cloud. Now, outside, the streets are clogged with Thursday night revelers.

Here's a picture I took a few weeks ago of some Arab kids at Yaffo port. Their cousins in Gaza are having less fun right now.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

dai la ki Bush

"40 years of occupation is a stain won't be able to erase, " reads the sign.

At at another productive rehearsal with Mid Life Crisis yesterday two of the guys mentioned that they were going to the peace rally protesting 40 years of occupation. I hadn't been planning on going, knowing that it would be a small, ineffective, ashkenazi affair that wouldn't even register with the media. The power lies with the politicians, not with the street and certainly not with the side-alley that is the active peace camp in Israel today. At best, it would be another social occasion where ageing lefties and keen youth movement members rub-shoulders nostalgicly for an hour. Still it had been a while since I'd gone to a demo and so we showed up at the end of the march from Rabin Square to the plaza in front of Tel Aviv Museum (where even a small demo looks bigger).

My fears were quickly realised. There were maybe 2,000 demonstrators coming from scores of little peace groups augmented by some Palestinian - Israelis waving red flags and some representatives from the homo-lesbian community. Before the speeches began the moderators, one Jewish and one Arab, tried to get the crowd chanting:


Crowd : No !


Crowd : Yes!

Kibush (occupation)!

No !



This added a farcical element to an already sad occasion and we decided to skip the speeches and head back home to watch the second part of the excellent TV (Channel 10) documentary on the story behind the Six Day War - the war that entangled us in the kibush-bush in the first place.

As expected, the course of events that led up to the war were less clear cut than I had imagined. It appears that the trigger was actually mistaken intelligence that the Russians passed on to Nasser, namely that Israel was planning to attack Egypt. On the basis of this information, Nasser told the UN buffer force to leave, thereby raising tensions. He soon found out that the information was incorrect but by then he had become a prisoner of his own rhetoric and the huge expectations placed in him by the Arab world. His next step was to declare that the Straits of Tiran (that lead to Eilat) were closed to Israeli shipping. Israel's PM , Levi Eshkol, was against launching a war but the pressures on him from the army and the public were so great that he eventually relented, appointed Moshe Dayan as defence minister who launched the famous surprise attack. On the eastern front, the decisions to capture East Jerusalem and the the whole of the West Bank came about as the battle unfolded rather than as the result of a proper debate or government decision.

Meeting old peace-camp friends at the demo.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

As in a wild fantasy

The 40th anniversary of the Six Day War has engendered a spate of articles, TV programmes and reminiscences. Apart from the fighter pilots who knocked out most of the Egyptian Migs while they were still on the ground, no-one seems to be relishing the moment too deeply.

Today's Ha'aretz had some thought provoking pieces : Segev on how the common wisdom in Israel before the war was that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza was contrary to the national interest and how the occupation came about in an unplanned way in the war's euphoric aftermath, as in a ‘wild fantasy’.
Amira Hass on how the occupation at initially made it possible , for the first time since 1948, for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel to reconnect but also how it later hemmed them into increasingly small spaces.
Fatah negotiator Saeb Ereqat eloquently begging today's Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A new dawn

A new dawn breaks over a tower under construction on Rothschild Boulevard. A new dawn breaks too for the latest musical offering by Mid Life Crisis, a cheerful little number called War Zone. The lyrics were strongly influenced by Lebanon II but are applicable today and will be for any foreseeable time in the future. If the link doesn't work, the address is

Today, following recently acquired habit of visiting art galleries on shabbat mornings we took a look at an exhibition at the Givon Gallery on Gordon St (gallery alley) It was called "Looking at trees and not seeing only the forest" and was curated by the the recently deceased artist, teacher and music critic Rafi Lavie. Some excellent, thought provoking pieces.

On the way home we stopped off at the legendary Mersand Cafe on Ben Yehuda cnr Frishman. Although the place has changed hands, the new owners have kept the classic 60s chrome and Formica decor. There was a cool young crowd there and lots of human and vehicular traffic outside.

And I spotted Haim Topol getting into a taxi over the road. A new dawn broke today even for Haim Topol.