Sunday, December 30, 2007

Galil again

The bright, dry winter weather we've been having seemed perfect for another trip to the Galil. On the way to our destination (thanks M&J !) we stopped off at Megiddo, known to our Christian Evangelist friends as Armageddon , site of the prophesied big battle between the forces of Good and Evil that is supposed to finish us off for good and lead to the End of Days. A sense of antiquity permeates the site, not surprising in view of its 5,000 year history. We were the only non-tourists there. The prices in the cafeteria were listed in dollars!

Climbing down the impressive shaft that King Ahab (or maybe Solomon but who's quibbling?) dug to allow water from an outside spring to be collected inside the city during a siege.

In nearby Park Ramat Menashe someone had thoughtfully left some public conveniences on display.

Next we stopped off at two villages settled by the German Templer Christian sect in the 19th century - Alonei Abba (Waldheim) and Bethlehem Ha-Glilit. Both still boast some fine remains of Templer architecture.

On Shabbat we decided to pay a nostalgic visit to Safed or (Tsfat or Tzfat etc) where we lived throughout the eighties. Hard to believe now that this was once our home. The photos below don't show the refuse that now litters the Jewish Quarter and (what used to be) the Artists Quarter. Tsfat is now firmly occupied by various stripes of religious people ranging from ultra-orthodox haredim, through New Age- type chozrim ba-tshuva (penitents). At least this beautiful door I always admired is still intact.

The alleyways look romantic from certain angles but many of the old buildings are filled with junk and neglect is evident everywhere. Tsfat, seems to be regressing.

This was once our house! Our kids spent their early years here at a time when not everyone was religious. Now another type of kid is growing up under the vine we trailed up to the roof.

Since the municipality doesn't show much interest in recycling an enterprising local has set up his own recycling station. When we were in our thirties we were very regular visitors to this house. Like many of the old houses here there is an internal courtyard behind this door.

After a somewhat depressing visit to the town where we spent ten years of our lives we needed a positive experience and stopped off for a meal at the Vered HaGalil horse ranch on the road down to Sea of Galilee.

And, eventually, back to the Big Orange. Here are the Azrielli Towers caught through the windscreen.

Monday, December 24, 2007

On Safari

Since A has a deep love of elephants, oohing and aahing at them whenever they appear on National Geographic, we came up with the idea of a trip to the Safari in Ramat Gan which neither of us had ever visited. The Safari is divided into two parts a large open area where the animals graze freely and a zoo where they don't. Since today coincided with both Xmas and Eidal Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), many of the visitors were Israeli Arabs, like this family examining an African elephant.

Hippo and friends at the lake on a sunny winter's day. The approximation of a real African lake is pretty convincing. For a moment there you are overtaken by the illusion that you are in , say, Kenya, and not opposite the main road to Jerusalem.

Proximity to so many exotic creatures tends to clear one's mind of the issues of the day. But here and there the attitudes of the animals conjured up our human concerns. For instance, should Israel talk to Hamas or wait for it to declare a unilteral cease-fire? The giraffes seemed to be in two minds.

But these monkeys seemed to be sharing the same opinion.

The silverbacked gorilla mummy was much too busy teaching baby the essentials of life to care.

Of course the Safari is in Israel so there were still plenty of nudniks pecking at the car windows to get attention and put forth their point of view.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Musical dreams

All set up and ready to rock

Last weekend Mid Life Crisis finally got together at Z & E's place in Tivon (near Haifa) for a long awaited marathon rehearsal session which we ended with a performance for friends (coming to celebrate E's birthday). For a band that manages, with difficulty, to meet every three weeks for 4 hours, this was a dream come true. The songs we had been working on sporadically began to turn into a real set, with some sort of logical order and we were finally beginning to sound tight.
It was also a chance to spend some time together, relax amidst the surrounding greenery and connect to nature, to music and all that..

Danny B does yoga as the rest of the house sleeps after a long night of playing, eating and otherwise imbibing.

Ageing rockers MLC in action (above) apart from Danny B (below) who seems to be playing by himself in the corner.

The good people of Tivon getting on down to the raw-but-exciting sounds of MLC.

Mid Life Crisis is now poised to continue its test run at a small location near you. If you own a small location that is willing to let us play please comment to this blog.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Racism rises

Old arches on Salameh Street with the new police headquarters in the background.

And on the fifth day of Channuka I woke up to the heartening news that racism against Israel's Arab citizens has dramatically increased in the past year. According to a survey taken by the The Association for Civil Rights the number of Jews expressing feelings of hatred toward Arabs has doubled. According to the June 2007 Democracy Index of the Israel Democracy Institute, for example, only half the public believes that Jews and Arabs must have full equal rights.

Later on I happened to be listening (it's my day off) to a phone in programme ("There's who to talk to") on the radio. A caller, young and intelligent, was complaining about the way the results of the survey had been presented in the media , "as though it was something terrible," whereas the really worrying phenomenon was the fact that the so-called "racism" figures were so low. It was extremely disturbing to him that such a large percentage of "Israelis" as opposed to "Jews" were cozying up to the Arabs who were our enemies and from whose ranks terrorists were springing every day. And who could blame them. We've taken their land and they want revenge. This is something the "Israelis" need to learn . There's a cultural war going on between the "Israelis" and the "Jews" (to which camp he belongs ). Are we not, after all, celebrating the the Channuka festival whose story is played out against the background of the cultural inter-Jewish battle between the mityavnim ( assimilationist, pro-foreign Greek influence) and the "true" Jews? The "Israelis" need to follow the natural reaction of the "Jews", recognise that Israeli Arabs are our enemies and "act accordingly."

The sentiments expressed in this chilling monologue, aired freely (in the interests of free speech), and hardly interrupted by the moderator, were essentially that all Israeli Arabs should be transferred out of the country. The caller did not go so far as to call a spade a spade, (there's a limit to free speech) but the sub-text came across loud and clear.

Fifty per cent of the Jewish population of Israel, namely, to generalize, the "Jewish" i.e. religious-hawkish (let's call a spade a spade) population, agrees with this line of thought . The other 50% (at very best) consisting (+/-) of assimilationist, cosmopolitan, mityavnim non -"Jewish" "Israelis" with no sense of Jewish identity and pride , besotted by so-called "human rights", should be deeply disturbed.

I am.

Friday, December 7, 2007


A channukia a la Achbar Ha-Ir (City Mouse) , the what's on and arts guide, synthesizing the festival of lights with the festival of lighting up (click for detail).

The candles on the 8 branched channukiya (or menorah as it's called outside Israel) are lit consecutively throughout the Channuka holiday. Since Channuka more or less coincides with Xmas, this extra illumination offers some compensation for the fun we are missing. Then there's the "channuka bush" - but we won't go there.

That Temple oil that miraculously kept burning for 8 days, continues, every Channuka, to lubricate a small industry in Israel. Gourmet sufganniyot (traditional Channuka doughnuts) have invaded every cafe and condiotoria. Tens of thousands of kids flock to the annual Festigal childrens show , compered by the stars of the kids' TV stations. This year, the high school, students, shut out of school for over 40 days by a teachers' strike will have to spend another holiday week aimlessly prowling the shopping malls before getting back to studies.

Dusk sky from the rooftop.

Illumination has apparently also found its way to the combined intelligence services of the United States whose report on Iran's (non?) nuclear programme begs the question (as Ha'aretz put it ) "Why did George Bush threaten a third world war when, in the corridors of his administration, a reassuring picture with respect to Iran was taking shape?" Didn't anyone want to tell him, or was he just not listening? And if they are right and Iran is not developing nuclear weaponry, where does that leave Israel's argument that we're all on the edge of destruction?

Meanwhile, in a less violent recreation of the glorious Channuka victory, Maccabi (Tel Aviv) beat (Greek) Aris Thessaoniki (85:70) in the first round of the Euroleague last night

chag sameach

Monday, December 3, 2007


Past the old factory building belonging to the Chelouche Bros. Apart from playing a very substantial role in the establishment of Ahuzat Bayit (later Tel Aviv) Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche in particular tried to mediate between Jews and Arabs in the turbulent 1920 s.

Past the Suzanne Dellal Dance Centre , renovated in the 1980s, formerly two abandoned schools (originally built by Chelouche). The activity surounding the centre gave the whole of Neve Tsedek a massive boost, saving it from the bulldozers.

Behind this tastefully conserved old wall lies a very expensive villa.

And suddenly, just around the corner , you're in "Mexico ", an area with an apparently undecided planning future , where residents are not allowed to build. This has left this area looking like a shanty town.

Down to the beach where the afternoon sunlight is having a dramatic effect on this fence put up by the contractors who are relandscaping the whole of the Clore Gardens (formerly the Arab neighbourhood of Manshiyeh, an outgrowth of Yaffo). Another big project. Half the city is being excavated.

A sepia sunset with Old Yaffo in the background.

And a very happy dog.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Foray to Habimah

I've been trigger happy with the D40 and on two short forays have been knocking out an unmanageable number of photos. The photos here were taken on a sleepy shabbat morning walk down Rothschild Boulevard to Habimah (Israel's National Theatre) which is undergoing major renovations. This and other big renovation projects around the city
are part of mayor Ron Huldai's attempt to exhibit an upgraded Tel Aviv in 2009 when it celebrates its centenary

Habimah was never an architectural masterpiece but was recognised by its rounded, columned entrance, obliterated by an ugly glass frontage which is now being removed.

Behind Habimah, and linking it to The Mann Auditorium (heychal ha-tarbut) is a green island known as Gan Ya'akov landscaped around some very old trees.

Apparently, "the early settlers converged to rest on the Sabbath and to water their camels from a nearby well.". On this day the only ones converging were a few homeless people and a large number of cats . This one had just put down her handbag and was preparing to read a book.

Not Ground Zero, just the hole in the ground next to the Mann Auditorium where another controversial project (in Tel Aviv all big projects are controversial) is underway - a massive underground car park.

On the way back we stopped for an hafuch (latte) at the cafe on the boulevard: young parents, babies, dogs, joggers and bikers...more young parents, babies . We couldn't stand it and left...

A beit knesset off Rothschild and looming over it, reflecting the heavens, an office tower

An old man plays chess on the boulevard with his Phillipine care-giver. It's on days such as this that I'm tempted to believe that all is normal.

Coming soon : a foray to "Mexico".