Saturday, March 29, 2008

Purim in Tel Aviv 2

Purim in Tel Aviv 2008

I came across an article in Ha'aretz on Purim in Tel Aviv written by the Hungarian Jewish journalist and author Arthur Koestler (who later became a British subject). Koestler lived in British Mandated Palestine, from 1926-29, first on a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley ("Heftzibah"), and later in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where he almost starved.

Describing the Purim carnival for one of the Berlin liberal dailies of the time, he contrasted the chaotic and hedonistic atmosphere in Tel Aviv to that of the grim sanctity of Jerusalem. Here are a few excerpts (translated from the Hebrew, itself a translation from the original German)

"My Tel Aviv, 'Spring City', on the coast, the kitschiest city in the world, you, who stand facing Venice, how my desecrating heart loves you. When young men, faces blackened like the chocolate boys in the 'Talmi' margarine advert and dressed in Hollywood loinskins pull the Purim Queen on a cart through the cheering streets and she tries her best to smile like Bebe Daniels the movie star, and hard on their heels in the carnival parade comes a funny massive toothbrush which is none other than an advertisement for Ozonol mouthwash, followed by several dark skinned Jews from the Yemen with dancing bears and so forth... Where is it written that style and good taste have anything to do with happiness? Tel Aviv is lack of style set in stone, the despair of the architects, a living and breathing lack of tradition that sprang out of the sand dunes in days of crazy economic propserity when, as is well known, hairdressers served as achitects..."

"There is only one word to describe this state of affairs: the good old Berlin word meschugge. The whole of Tel Aviv enters this state. In the grip of craziness she stands on her head and wiggles her legs in the air. Arabs from Yaffo who have come to take a closer look at the madhouse, stand open mouthed and think :" Allah be praised, Satan has finally entered the bodies of the Tel Avivis." And an English tourist wearing a squashed cork hat, his tie flying over his shoulder sighs: "And I always believed that the People of the Book suffered from stomach upsets and melancholy - oh dear." For three whole days the streets sing and dance, all men are brothers, the world is a paradise and life is a kindergarten. For three whole nights cannibal chiefs lead dragonflies to feasts and the fat king of Afghanistan sits under a table covered with paper confetti in a drinking competition with Yehuda Hamaccabi...."

Got the idea? Not that much seems to have changed since Koestler wrote those lines.

1 comment:

GabysPoppy said...

Memories of Purim past. Will J & M ever forget?