Sunday, December 19, 2010

Storm damage

This time last week a storm was raging with 100 km per hour whippings through Tel Aviv and causing havoc on rooftops (including The Rooftop which lost a few plant pots). Had I been braver I would have gone down to the seafront where the wind and high waves were ripping flagstones from the pavements. There was some serious damage at Tel Aviv port and  I was told by an eye witness that an unhinged chasakeh ( a cross between a punt and an oversized surfboard, used by lifeguards), was seen floating on Rehov Hayarkon!

A week later (yesterday) the sea was still high and the sand level seemed to have risen considerably. This photo of the Banana Beach cafe where you normally sit on the beach and not on the raised deck.

The showers on the left were uprooted by the waves. 
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Above it all, migrating birds making their way south

Saturday, December 4, 2010


These photos were taken in 2004 near the Carmel spa resort in the Carmel nature reserve near Haifa. I'm posting them not because they are particularly good but because they record vanished landscape. The fauna you see in these photos has been turned to ashes.

For the past three days, as we watch in horror on TV,  fire-fighters from Israel and countries that have come to its aid, have been battling the massive forest fire on the Carmel, one of Israel's dwindling green lungs.

Click here for some dramatic press photos.

So far, the fire has claimed 41 lives and consumed 40,000 dunams of  forest. Some 17,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and have mostly been adopted by friends, family or volunteers. Meanwhile it's the third evening
of the fire, it's getting dark and soon the planes dropping water on the flames, including a massive Ilyushin transport, sent from Russia, will have to stop work and the fire is still not under control.

One of the reasons that the fire has talen on such monstrous proportions is the lack of a functioning fire -fighting service in Israel. For years reports were written on the sad state of the understaffed and under equipped fire service and hence, in the grand tradition of Israeli bureaucracy, nothing got done. Apparently, the boys from the treasury thought it would be more cost-effective to skimp on fire-fighting and let the country burn. It is truly incredible that a country that presumes to attack Iran - knowing full well that the result will be the launching of thousands of missiles on Israeli population centres - has never bothered to properly protect the lives and property of its citizens from fire.
So, when this fire, apparently started by negligent picnikers near the Druse village of Ussfiya, began to spread, there were no fire engines to extinguish it. Ancient fire engines rushed in from other parts of the country laboured slowly up the hills. When they arrived at the forest there was no ready supply of water to fill them. After 7 hours they ran out of the proper foam. To all the countries that have helped Israel with planes, manpower and equipment in its hour of need - thank you.
After the forest fires in Greece, the heads of politicians rolled. In Israel the heads of politicians tend to remain firmly fixed to their bodies and their backsides to their ministerial chairs. Netanyahu and interior minister Eli Yishai  are already preparing their defences for the public inquiry that is bound to come.
The next generation will be denied the pleasure of enjoying these beautiful, rolling and once green hills. But, if there is one positive outcome from this tragedy, it is that Israel will finally get a functioning fire brigade.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New York, Halloween, 2010

 Manhattan skyline taken from the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn. Legend has it that the shoes represent the victims of crime gangs but New York seemed a peaceful enough city. People seemed to be more worried about the economic climate and (some) about the beating the Democrats took in the mid-term Congressional elections than about crime.

Halloween is a big deal in America. The locals hang skeletons, ghosts etc from their windows or scatter fake gravestones on their lawns. Fierce cut out pumkin heads are the dominant image but in a move obviously orchestrated by Pumpkin Producers of America, the vegetable also features strongly in Thanksgiving later in November.
Caught these people on the steps of a handsome brownstone introducing the delights of touching a large pumpkin to a baby.

This character and his friend were cruising the side streets of the annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

While in the parade itself, a massive event involving thousands of marchers, all hell was breaking loose...

Taking some time off from the craziness: skateboarding in Williamsburg.

Wherever you go in New York, as in the centre of Tel Aviv, there seems to be life on the streets. This is probably because both cities were planned to integrate ground floor commerce and first floor housing. No house is more than a hundred yards or so from a corner store, many of which stay open till late, and this helps create a feeling of safety and community.

This graffiti on the waterfront seemed to meld into the real objects in the foreground (or vice versa).

In the local park, the regular Sunday morning baseball game is in full swing.
Entering Sheep Meadow in Central Park. The great broad expanse of lawn ringed by Manhattan's skyscrapers is breathtaking. And on the lawn itself, frisbee players, kite flyers, yogists and people who simply want to lie on their backs and look at the sky for a while.  

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Yom Kippur 2010

Erev Yom Kippur, Rehov Herzl.  A family walks down the centre of the normally busy street towards the Shalom Tower safe in the knowledge that they will not be mown down by a car.

Yehuda Halevi, a.k.a. 'rehov habankim' because the big three banks have their headquarters here. Bereft of human or vehicular activity - as though on the day after a mystety virus had wiped out the population - the functional office towers suddenly seem functionless and the arrows on the street are pointing to nowhere.

In this tempotrary deserted world the neon lights shine for no-one. All commerce halts. Capitalism takes a day off.  Apart from the clicking of the superfluous traffic lights, silence reigns.

Rehov Shabazi, Neve Tzedek. Three women, one pushing a pram, walk home from the kol nidrei service that brings in Yom Kippur. They might be a grandmother (right) grandaughter (middle) and daughter (left pushing  agrandaughter. Four generations sharing the same fast. The cafes and boutiques are closed, the yuppies have parked their jeeps elsewhere and the streets are given over to the pre-gentrification locals, many of whom are traditional or religious.

The next morning we take to our bikes and my camera spots details normally obscured by the traffic, pollution and noise, like this dance bar on the seedy end of Allenby.

An ingenious painting that conceals and enhances a bricked in window frame on the corner of Allenby and Idelson.

The chaotic contrasts in the facade of a building on Lilienblum. All too soon, the day is over, the prayers and the penitence are forgotten, the cars return to the streets and its back to work and keep your eyes on the road.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


This is a photo of nos 8 and 6  - the twin beauties on the left. It was taken in 1927. There is reportedly an earlier photo of them taken in 1924, the year they were built, that shows them standing in splendid isolation, surrounded by sand. But by the time this photo was taken, pavements had been laid on Rehov Yehuda Halevi (they seem to be in better shape than the ones we have today), and the road, through still unpaved, seems smoother than the existing version; certainly smooth enough for the horse and cart clip-clopping towards Neve Tzedek. There's a spanking new electricity pole outside the Hadassah hospital (hidden on the right behind the imposing stone wall and a general air of gentility about the quiet street with its substantial buildings designed in what was later to be called the Eclectic style :  a wonderful hodge-podge of European romanticism and eastern fantasies a la One Thousand and One Nights.

The "twins" were built by immigrants from Russia who had apparently smuggled out enough rubles to invest in the new Jewish enterprise taking shape next to Yafo. Number 6 started life as a residential building divided into modest apartments and was later leased to the state and served as a court. There were other courts along the street and when we moved into the neighbourhood in 1994 there was still an old man sitting behind a typewriter on the pavement who typed up depositions or whatever for the court clients.

Fast forward 81 years to 2008 and look at this photo taken from the Rooftop.  Number 6 is forlorn. The court, transferred to more modern  premises is long gone and no 6 has become a refuge for the homeless, junkies (I'd find used syringes in the front garden) and young rock bands making their first clip. But, hope, or rather,  gentrification, was at hand. Restoration was chic and happening everywhere, the cheap textile shops had been replaced by sushi bars and boutiques and property prices had skyrocketed. Number 6 had been purchased by a foreign investor and boarded up to prevent entry to undesirables.

And a few months later, work began. We would awake to the roar of pneumatic drills, be driven demented by the harsh drone of a cement mixer, wait for long minutes next to our own parking space when the road was blocked by heavy equipment. I could go on. Yet, through thick and thin, we barely uttered a complaint, thankful that someone else was sinking millions into restoring at least one of the twins to its former glory.

By September 2009 Number 6 was well on its way to a new life as a refuge for a small number of millionaires who had already purchased a few huge apartments for millions. On the roof, a new structure designed for poolside (!) lounging and sunset-watching was taking shape.

This photo was taken yesterday. No 6 is nearly finished. Palms and bushes have already been planted in the front garden The angle of the shot hides the building materials in the front drive but you get the picture. Number 6 has come full circle, from genteel residence to genteel residence. But while its original occupants were new immigrants from Russia taking their first steps in "little Tel Aviv", its new occupants are more likely to be successful high-tech entreptreneurs or tycoons from abroad looking for a "different" holiday home. The junkies and the homeless have moved further south. Recently, the second twin - number 8  - was purchased by an investor. We're preparing mentally for more years of noise and dust.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mid Life Crisis plays twice in one week


One of the reasons I haven't been  posting recently is the debilitating heat. This  turns the brain into mush and rules out too much physical and even mental activity during the hot'n'humid season. Still, from time to time reality forces you to escape the aircon (home, car, office) and sweat. One of the few good reasons to leave the A/C is music. And so,  a few weeks back, Mid Life Crisis, oblivious to the intolerable heatwave and flying in the face of reason, embarked on a week of intensive activity.
First came a Thursday night gig on kibbutz Maagan Michael at a 40th birthday party. The crowd was techie, and the air was ickie. As usual, we could hear ourselves at the end of the sound check but not a soon as we started playing. By the third number my T shirt was soaked. And there were about 12 numbers. The crowd was a bit flaccid and, with a few exceptions remained  seated. 

 On Shabbat we were performing again, this time in the beautiful back garden of a private house in Rishpon, a moshav situated between Tel Aviv and Netanya. It was even hotter but the hipster 50+ crowd belonged to the rock generation and we played up a storm for over three hours. But playing hard in 80% humidity takes it toll. I must have looked a bit unsteady as I rose from the drum stool since someone came up to me and me if I was feeling OK. A memorable evening.

The next day (!), Mid Life Crisis started recording 6 new songs in an effort to 'release' a CD . The photos here are from the last session. Playing live twice during the previous week, made us feel like a real band. It also sharpened skills so by the time we turned up at the studio, we were 'hot'. Stay tuned for news of the album release party.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Smashing into windows

Came home yesterday to hear from A that a large pigeon had smashed into the living room sliding windows with a loud crash, slid to the floor and expired. The poor thing had somehow lost its navigational skills and had not only decided to fly into the apartment under the Rooftop (instead of landing on the Rooftop itself?) but had also failed to notice that the space in front of its beak was composed of hard glass and not thin air.

For some reason it struck me that this somewhat bizarre occurence could serve as metaphor for Israel: blithely following a well known course, inately confident in its own powers (whatever the rest of the world throws up in its path), squawking whenever anyone dares offer a different orientation and then clumsily crashing into a situation seemingly invisible although, with hindsight, easily identifiable.

Like a solo pilot on autopilot our course is pre-charted and any further discussion therefore unnecessary. And since no-one else is interested in listening any more, we are now our only audience (which is what we always wanted anyway) free to twist and turn the arguments around ourselves without noticing that rapidly approaching hard spot.

And so, having lost whatever sense of inner direction we once had, we sing and dance to ourselves, the blind leading the blind.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Life's a Beach

This gaggle of kids organised itself into a little dance on the water's edge

‘Chom yuli –august’, the heat of July-August, is the name of a song by Shlomo Artzi and the condition in which we all live, or , in the case of Tel Aviv with the humidity level over 90% - barely survive. To enter a car left in the sun is to enter a furnace, the pavements stick to the soles of your shoes and shade and cool become luxury items. School's out, the air-conditioned kenyonim (shopping malls) are full but for those of fortunate enough to live nearby, the beach is still the place to be on a sultry evening. So I thought some beach photos would be appropriate.

In the fading light, mysterious figures appear from the sea

'Alma Beach' is situated in the hypen in Tel Aviv-Yaffo and is probably the most heterogenous beach in Tel Aviv. Along a relatively short stretch ,Neve Tzedek yuppies, Arab families from Yaffo, foreign workers from Sudan, hipsters and tourists share the same space, if not always the same dress code. According to the Jewish calendar there are occasional influxes of haredim and on Shabbat, the beach is packed with families including lots of Russian immigrants. In this photo, an Arab family at sunset. The entire area behind Alma Beach was once the Arab neighbourhood of Manshiyeh that was later almost completely demolished.

Frishman beach awaits tomorrow's customers

 frisbee in the night...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Black Days White Night

Happy chassid graffiti Florentin, White Night

There's an astute line in a Hebrew song that could be translated as, "The worse our fate, the more we celebrate." Indeed  as the last vestiges of Israel's international standing crumble before our eyes, as tens of thousands march through the country in solidarity with the Shalit family, as rumours of "a war in the summer" refuse to dissipate in the increasingly humid air ... it must be time for a street party!

White Night 2010, an all night arts festival ,covers the whole lit up city in hundreds of venues. We stayed reasonaly close the Rooftop starting out in the grubby streets of South Tel Aviv, south of Allenby. Here, the art exhibits had been craftily placed  in  unlikely locations leaving you with a question of whether life imitated art or..

Not part of the official programme : a singer performs in a Bucharian restaurant, Florentin

Also not an official art exhibit , a greengrocers featuring Rabbi Nahman from Breslav communing with the Creator amidst the fruit and veg.

No, not an ironic recreation of a hopelessly old fashioned window display. The real thing. Derekh Yaffo.

On dilapidated Hagdud Ha-Ivri (Hebrew Battalion) Street, which seems to be emerging as a hip place for young people, we stopped to catch a cold beer sold out of someone's house and watch a street fashion parade put on by the local residents.  The refreshing thing about the show was that the "models" all lived in the neighbourhood. Here they are lining up.

And here they are lapping up the attention on the catwalk, a strech of red carpet laid out on the pavement. The clothes were donated (I guess) by the Tel Aviv designers mentioned by the enthusiastic mistress of ceremonies. Many of the designers' studios are located in the Gan Hachasmal (Electric Garden) complex a few blocks away. After the show, they paraded through the streets blowing whistles.

On the way we noticed a video art film in the display window of a bathroom fixtures shop. Called Independence Day, it showed a day in the life of the Latrun artillery museum, effectively addressing the fascination of Israeli society with the military.

Music outside a restaurant on Yehuda Halevi and on street corners everywhere, in squares, on the beach. In the course of an hour we covered three exhibitions, one fashion show, one shira be-tzibur (Community singalong) in a synagogue! In our defense we stayed because of the free food - excellent couscous with meatballs. Rothschild Boulevard, its Bauhaus buildings illuminated for the occasion, was jam-packed.

In Bialik Square we were promised a night of eclectic black music but instead found several thousand people too many for comfort and a white band. Feet aching. Time to head back home.

On the way, well after midnight, the party was in full swing: a young band plays jazz/funk on Nahalat Binyamin.

It was a night that reminds you why you love Tel Aviv.  It was a night that made me forget that earlier that afternoon I'd received an automatic voice message telling me that my gas mask was waiting for me and that I should make arrangments to pick it up.

Re-Remembering David Crosby

               We recently saw the film David Crosby: Remember My Name at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and as I write, I’m listenin...