Sunday, December 30, 2012

Optimists in Habima Square

I It was a bright and sunny Shabbat and we decided to ride our bikes up to Beit HaOmanim -the Artists House in north Tel Aviv. In Kikar Habima (Habima Square) at the end of Rothschild Boulevard we came across this scene.

Sitting around a table, placed in the sandpit of the sunken garden, were a group of Israelis (on the left) and Palestinians (on the right). Armed with a microphone some bottled water and notepaper they seemed to be debating the finer points of final Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Around them, children ran between the flower beds, owners played ball with their dogs. A few interested spectators listened from the deck terraces.As usual, the Israels were casually dressed while the Palestinians were dressed formally. There were no signs of informational material.  

It was interesting that the Israeli side was not entirely composed of classic left wingers as is normally the case in peace encounters. One of them, in the centre of the picture, was wearing a big white kippa and a shanti-settler style shirt. He  also seemed to be representing settler concerns on the panel. From the context, I assumed that they had reached  the point where they were discussing the land rights of settlers who chose to remain in Palestine under Palestinian sovereignty.
"And what if I want to sell my house?" asked the bearded man in the kippa.
"Why not," answered one of the Palestinians. "You can buy and sell to whoever you please."
"And what if I get together 30 young families and we want to do a building project in Beit Lehem ?
"I don't see any reason...." mumbled the Palestinian.
"But first give us '67," interjected another Palestinian.
"What do you mean by 'first'?" added one of the Israelis, "Is this a two stage process?"
And so it went.

Two thoughts ran through my mind. The first was the heartwarming thought that here were a group of committed activists from both sides trying to thrash out mutual problems through debate: and in public no less. They were willing to listen, if not always to agree. The municipality had (presumably) sanctioned the event and as such, it was the sort of commendable democratic practice that could only happen in Tel Aviv (or maybe Haifa). The second was, 'These people are living in La La Land'. (Without going into all the details) the future looks bleak for a negotiated settlement and most Israelis and Palestinians, for different reasons, have lost  faith  in the idea. These might be people of good will but they were rehearsing for a play that was unlikely to be staged,      

Kikar Habima taken from a different angle and in a different season. A picture postcard of a place.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 5 of Gaza campaign. Some notes from the Rooftop

Wake up, check the news. On Day 5 it seems as though ceasefire talks are underway. French foreign minister flying in. Hamas reps talking to the Egyptians in Cairo. Quiet night in the south and no  missiles shot down over Tel Aviv since yesterday morning. On the other hand, tens of thousands of reservists called up with the army preparing itself for a possible ground incursion. Tanks and artillery lined up to go in. Israel, like Hamas with its missiles aimed at symbolic Tel Aviv, upping the ante to deter the other side and/ improve its own starting point for setting cease-fire terms. General impression : Israel doesn't want to send in ground troops but will do if Hamas halts its fire. Hamas wouldn't mind a cease-fire but needs this round to end in a victory so demanding its own terms (opening of Rafah crossing, halt to targeted assassinations). Thankfully drink coffee. Make fruit salad, feeling uncomfortable positioned between a ceasefire and a serious escalation, 

Go for a walk. Glorious weather. Decide not to take any form of communication with me so as to be liberated from the news for 45 minutes. Through the quaint alleyways of Neve Tzedek to the beach. Sea as flat as a plate. Sand sparkles in the morning sunlight. A few swimmers, joggers and cyclists. Back home, switch on radio. Earnest conversation with expert on the amazing success rate of Iron Dome rocket interception system suddenly interrupted by a calm but insistent voice: "Colour Red siren in the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council"; the signal for everyone in that area to scramble for the shelters. An actress selling accident insurance to the over 50s  punctuated by "Colour Red alert in Ashdod, Colour Red alert in Ashdod." Appears that the talks aren't going so well, or perhaps that these are their final salvos aimed at justifying a declaration of victory before the cease fire kicks in? Take a shower. Start worrying about a ground incursion. Tying up my shoes before going out,  I hear the siren go off outside. Chain reaction:
Uncertainty: Is that really a siren?
Fear: A missile could land on my head and kill me!!
Rationalization. After all what are the statistical chances of my specific building being hit?
Irrational Confusion: 'Where the hell did I put the phone? Can't go downstairs without the phone..
Out of the door and to the landing one floor down which, according to the Home Front Command, is the safest place to be if you live on the third floor of a three floor building and can't otherwise get to the shelter in a minute and a half. Hear the families on the bottom floors entering the shelter which we recently cleared of excess bikes to make room for its original purpose. Think to myself, this is stupid, after all what are the statistical chances of my specific building being hit? Hear very audible BOOM!. Think thank goodness I wisely chose this relatively protected space. See neighbour 'L' slowly opening her door clutching two month old baby girl, both of them bleary eyed ,and slowly descend the steps, . "They seem to time them with her naps," L tells me unhappily, clearly feeling the pressure. "Is it over?" she asks? I tell her it is and we both go back up.  I tell her to tell me if she needs anything. Back in the flat I remember that you're supposed to stay in protected space for 10 minutes after siren. What the hell. 'A' calls. Tells me that someone saw the rocket being intercepted over the sea opposite Yaffo. Radio presenter reminds me and other spoiled residents of central Israel that what we just experienced has been the daily experience of residents of the south for 12 years. I also wonder what it feels like  in Gaza with over a thousand airstrikes in 4 days.

Walk to the post office, shops, forgetting to follow Home Front  instructions to constantly spy out protected spaces should I  be caught short by an incoming missile.  Neighbourhood as usual. People in cafes, girls on bikes, except that an ever higher percentage  are  glued to their phones. Serious cash register problems at Bagir menswear outlet unconnected to Operation Pillar of Defense. Lady at post office especially friendly: perhaps something to do with wartime camaraderie? At the local mini market I ask 'N' the cashier where they run to when the sirens go off. To the ground floor of a building under construction over the road, she says.                                        

Back home, see this:
"The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted two rockets fired at Tel Aviv Sunday morning. A siren sounded in the central city shortly before the interception and an explosion was heard. Hamas's Izzadin Kassam Brigades took responsibility for the launches.Shrapnel from the interception struck a car in the greater Tel Aviv area, setting the vehicle on fire. There were no immediate reports of injury."

The  car hot by shrapnel in Holon from the rocket interception over Tel Aviv. The driver jumped out in time and was saved.  

Start  fretting that these "strategic" attacks on Tel Aviv might push Bibi/Barak into ordering a ground incursion.  See that, according to US officials, "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu assured US President Barack Obama on Friday that he does not plan to launch a ground operation in the Gaza Strip - unless Hamas escalates its rocket war. Wonder if  those two rockets constitute an escalation? 

Check out the news sites: Rocket seriously wounds man in Sha'ar Hanegev region. Rocket strikes building in Ashkelon : no injuries. Netanyahu: IDF prepared to broaden Gaza operations. IAF strikes launching area of Tel Aviv bound missiles.25 missiles hit Israel throughout the morning. MDA treats 4 injured throughout the morning. 12 for shock.

On TV, another expert is in the middle of a long winded Koranic analogy demonstrating Hamas's  duplicity vis -a- vis the Islamist splinter groups in Gaza when we cut to Ashdod where the sirens a  have been blaring. See pictures of a bombed out living room. Nobody hurt because they were in the stairwell. Turns out that Naftali Bennet, new head of the religious-rightist Jewish Home is also in Ashdod. He wants to stop messing about, send in the army,  topple the Hamas government, reoccupy Gaza and set up an Israeli controlled buffer between Gaza and Egypt to halt the flow of missiles.  A siren goes off behind him. TV announcer says we're halting the interview. Naftali runs for shelter.We see a picture of a deserted square in the middle of Ashdod, sirens wailing. Later local residents emerge, one of them competing with reporter for camera's attention and telling us that she's prepared to stay in the shelters for as long as it takes as long as they let the army do the job and stop the missiles "once and for all. Amen!"  

Radio expert says that the next 24 hours will be "crucial".Tune into Galei Tzahal for news but the army station is broadcasting from the Sapir Regional College near Sderot, a town noted for the disproportionate number of talented musicians as well as the disproportionate number of Qassam rockets it has absorbed.We're hearing an interview with a promising local singer-songwriter about to release his first alum but are interrupted by "Colour Red siren in the Eshkol Regional Council". Sorry, Noam, when did you say the album was coming out?

17.15. By now 70 rockets fired at Israel today, 40 of which intercepted. But no firing for the past 90 minutes. Reports coming in of an entire Gazan family killed. Gazan death toll now 60.  Expert says that following the massive airstrikes of the first few days, Gazans don't know when the next one is coming.  They've stocked up on food and water and are staying indoors. IDF has taken over Hamas radio and TV broadcasting messages to stay away from Hamas firing positions and warning of an impending ground incursion.Not far away, tens of thousands of young soldiers and older reservists are waiting for an order that may or not come. Each of them with a family and friends. Expert 1 says problem is that neither side yet has the "winning picture" that can allow it to halt without losing face. Expert 2 says that a tahadiye/ cease fire agreement has almost been reached but predicted it wouldn't last more than a month or two before unraveling like all the others. Ma shehaya ze ma sheyihyeh. 

What happened in the past, we'll have in the future. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Everything's Gold

The writer and poet Haim Heffer  a bastion of secular Israeli culture from  the “Palmach generation”, passed away yesterday and today they are playing his songs on the radio. When I first arrived in Israel and began to distinguish a few Hebrew words in the songs I was hearing on the radio, many of them were his. I also cut my teeth on the maqamas  that he wrote in Yedioth Aharonoth, in which he’d comment in rhyme on current affairs – a form that seems hopelessly outdated now but was taken seriously then. Even someone taking his first steps in the language could recognize that Heffer was a master wordsmith with a prolific output. But, for me, the sentiments expressed in many of his lyrics belonged too closely to the 1948 generation, to times and places before my time, that were foreign to me.   .

Not so with one song that I loved from the start : Hakol Zahav  (Everything’s Gold). Heffer wrote the lyrics for the singing troupe Ha-Tarnegolim  (The Roosters) under the direction of Naomi Polani. Since the  Tarnegolim, who became wildly successful, started appearing only in 1960, I prefer to think that the song's upbeat message was not intended to lift the nation’s morale but rather to simply lift the human spirit in general  in the wide-eyed style that the Tarnegolim were perfecting.  

You can hear the original version here 

Hakol Zahav’s music is the work of another master, the much loved composer Sacha (Alexander) Argov. Argov’s intricate but unforgettably jaunty melody and Heffer’s childish, irreverent wordplay meshed to create an Israeli classic. The message is simple : everything around you is beautiful if you have the eyes to see it. This pre-dates the Beatles  “There’s nothing you can see that can’t be seen” by almost a decade.

Heffer niftily plants the word ‘gold’ throughout the song, almost creating the illusion in the mind of the listener that his/her own world is composed entirely of sunbeams. It also helps that the Hebrew word for orange ‘tapuz’ is an abbreviation of tapuah-zahav (golden apple). And then comes the C part where Heffer writes (in rough unrhymed translation)

"Not everyone  who goes out into the street
Sees what his eyes meet
Mostly, a person goes out into the street
Distracted by his own concerns 
I feel like getting up close to him
And telling him with a a big wide grin
What a night! What a sea!   
What shade! How hot it is!
Go crazy you idiot!
Do nothing with everyone else! 
Ring bells for no good reason!
Look around you man - everything is gold!"

(It sounds better in Hebrew)

Hearing these yelps of wonderment at the everyday ordinary, with lyrics that could almost be taken from from "Hair",  Ha-Kol Zahav, which had been recorded a decade before I heard in, say 1973, stood head and shoulders above the sentimental, patriotic fodder of the time. And while I was conscious that someone who had heard Hendrix  play live should not be enjoying a song with an 'umpa umpa' rhythm accompanied by an accordion, it was too late, I was hooked.... Looking back, it might not be too much of an exaggeration that Ha-Kol Zahav was an important part of my integration process, an Israeli song that seemed, somehow, to resonate with the "counter culture" that I was familiar with..  

And maybe, in the  rebellious universality of the message,  also lies the secret of the endurance of Ha- Kol Zahav as new generations of musicians cover it in different  styles.  

Here’s a clip from an Israeli film called 'Danny Hollywood' where the singers start off by parodying the original and then launch into a rock version (You may have to copy it. Blogger doesn't want to insert videos)

Avi Adaki did this “indie version” a few years ago, changing the jolly umpa umpa rhythm to an Arabic beat and turning the “C” part into reggae.

Photographers too are always on the lookout for the sort of golden light that lifts the spirit and think themselves lucky if is they stumble across it..    

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Changing places

We've recently returned from two weeks in the USA visiting family and had the good luck  to exchange the Rooftop for a fortnight with Paula Derrow and her husband whom we met through a house exchange site. So while Paula and R were discovering the charms of Neve Tzedek, A & I were wandering around the  Upper West Side. And while they  were enjoying the beach here at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, we were riding bikes down the Hudson River Greenway, all the way to Battery Park.

Central Park

Apart from the financial savings, people who exchange homes do so in order to simulate  the experience of living as an "ordinary" person in a foreign place. Living in an apartment block and not in a hotel, means that you get to meet the neighbours in the stairwell or the lift; you visit the local grocery store, buy in local shops and eat in local restaurants.     
Everywhere we went in New York, people were kind, courteous and patient. What happened  to the brusque and gritty New York of old we wondered? Where did all the fast-talking hard-bitten New Yorkers  with no time for tourists go? But time and again people went out of their way to direct us or help us in some way. We also noticed that neighbours greeted each other more generously than in Tel Aviv. That people acknowledged each other and seemed more open to some sort of social contact than in Israel.     

Times Square?

When we got home and started exchanging notes with Paula, she shared her blog 'The 49th Year'  where she'd written some posts about her stay. After praising the virtues of New Yorkers, it was somewhat startling to read her impressions of Israelis (mainy Tel Avivians). Fo For example people she was introduced to , took the time to show her around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, something that a New Yorker would never do. And there was more...  

"One thing that's so nice about being a tourist in this town is that all these people take you right into their world--they are not jaded about tourists the way New Yorkers are but are genuinely interested about where we're from, why we're here, what we've done. (Imagine listening to a Times Square tourist with such interest and enthusiasm.)"   

How is that Paula was able to strike up numerous conversations in which complete strangers  expressed genuine interest in her  when in my experience that  is a fairly rare occurrence in Tel Aviv.     

Amish (?) cheese seller and attractive clients, Farmers Market, Union Square    

"And about the Israeli character, so often described as pushy, money grubbing, arrogant:" wrote Paula  "Yes, we've seen some arrogance, but mostly we've seen warmth, eagerness to help and happiness that we've come to their country, despite trouble brewing with Iran. Kind of like misapprehensions about New Yorkers."

This cynical Tel Avivian might suggest that, "happiness that we've come to their country, despite trouble brewing with Iran," could be also construed as amazement  that anyone would be so foolhardy as to visit a city that could soon find itself under a barrage of missiles.  In the two weeks that I was in new York, Iran was hardly mentioned in the news while in Israel the threat of war had been headlining for weeks, driving us all  to the verge of hysteria. So Paula, (I'm admittedly speculating now) was probably vaguely aware of tension with Iran while the  people she spoke to were all too keenly aware of it, not to say truly afraid and naturally assumed that she would would be too. We might live in global village but, unless you really look for it, the news is still doled out in local flavours, sometimes leaving the tourist in a state of blissful ignorance.        

Crossing the street in Manhattan. Aristocratic locals? Visiting Austrians? 

Meshane makom meshane mazal (Change your place and you'll change your luck) goes the Hebrew saying. In New York, exuding the relaxed, vibrations of  befuddled tourists, we may have prompted some of the kind and polite reactions we got there. Paula and her husband, both undoubtedly charming people, may have elicited a similar response here. A response   reserved, to an extent, for outsiders? 

Street musician and Omaba supporter, playing for change

See Paula Derrow's blog here (scroll down for her Israel trip)
More photos of New York City and Connecticut  here 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Evidence of normality on the Rooftop

The endless hot-muggy weather has kept me more indoors than out. It's only in the early morning or evenings that I escape the AC for some fresh air. Venturing out at sunrise a few days ago I discovered that a fully grown sunflower had appeared on the Rooftop.      

Over the road, signs of work on the Tel Aviv metro.

A humid haze hangs over the sea to the west.

To the north on nearby Yitzhak Elkhanan, a big  residential tower is going up.

The sun rising through the office buildings to the east.

To be welcomed by the sunflower...

At this time, with the threat (no one for sure knows how real) of an imminent war with Iran and its satellites feeling more credible by the day, and just before we head off for NYC for a family visit, I wanted to post these signs of normality. In a superstitious attempt to ward off the coming disaster? As a way of documenting the Rooftop and its immediate surroundings before the ....      

Here's a small sampling from today's news:

"A foul wind is blowing over Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with weekend gusts toward Caesarea. A wind of pugnacity. Before the eyes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in the spirit of the chants of which he is so fond ("They are frightened"; "There's no free lunch" ) - it's as if a new sign has been raised high, bearing the words: "Strike now!" " (Haaretz)

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak  advocate an attack of Iran's  nuclear facilities in the upcoming fall, Yedioth Ahronoth's senior commentators Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer reported Friday. According to Barnea and Shiffer, "Not a single state official or military official or even the president – supports an Israeli attack in Iran." (Ynet)

Paris has reportedly drawn up emergency plans to evacuate French citizens from Israel in case of war.
The plan, reported by French news outlet La Tribune, would see 200,000 French nationals ferried in small boats to large warships stationed in the Mediterranean.Diplomatic sources told the news outlet the plan was drawn up amid fears that Israel may come under attack from Iran or Hezbollah in the wake of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites. (Times of Israel)

Wishing us all a safe fall.... 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

(Keep on) Rockin' in the Free World

July 12, Neve Yosef Community Center, Haifa. MidLife Crisis performs Neil Young's  socially relevant 'Rockin' in the Free World' at a the Neve Yosef community theater festival. Filmed by ML.

It took over three hours navigating  traffic jams to get to Haifa in Danny B's 'band van' and when we arrived at the prestigious "back balcony" stage, the audience consisted of roughly 3 little girls and a savta . But MLC will never pass up a gig, no matter how small (as long as we're all free that day and preferably if there's a drum set). After a few numbers, more people dropped in. A few started dancing. For once we had monitors and could hear ourselves. Threatened with only a short 45 minutes, our set extended to over an hour and a good rockin time was had by all. We've been promised the "front balcony" next year. At last, the big time!    

Saturday, July 21, 2012


It's been a roller-coaster week. The sort of week that, in most countries, would be spread over a year.

It started with the shocking self-immolation of Moshe Sliman at a social justice demonstration  in Tel Aviv, continued  with the departure of Kadima from the cabinet, the decision to grant university status to the Ariel University Center  and the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ended with the Damascus explosion and the  terror attack at Burgas airport in Bulgaria .

The frequency with which I (and everyone else) am bombarded with dramatic news of potentially cataclysmic proportions has an emotionally numbing effect. Soon after the shock and despair comes the desire - for the selfish sake of remaining in my comfort zone - to downplay, to rationalize. 

If Moshe Sliman was driven to pour "flammable material over his clothes and body" and set himself on fire, maybe Bibi was right when he said that this was a "personal" tragedy and not an indication of the total breakdown of the social services.

 If Kadima found it necessary to quit the government it joined only 70 days earlier over disagreements with Likud on a law that would legislate national service for haredim, then perhaps we had  not missed an historic opportunity to share the national burden and  Netanyahu will eventually come up with a law that satisfies both army reservists and his ultra-orthodox political allies.   

If the "Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria" voted on Tuesday to grant full university status to the Ariel University Center, then perhaps this was not a final, symbolic nail driven into the coffin of flagging hopes for a two state solution. After all, Arabs study there too... 

If Hillary Clinton, at the end of a day of intensive talks with the Israeli leadership said, "I think it is fair to say we are on the same page at this moment, trying to figure our way forward to have the maximum impact on affecting the decisions that Iran makes," perhaps I was misinterpreting her. Perhaps "at this moment" is of longer duration than it sounds. Maybe, "trying to figure our way forward"  was just a modestly understated version of, "we have an agreed plan."  

If the Damascus explosion that killed the Syrian defense minister signals the end of the Assad regime, perhaps he won't use his large stores of chemical weapons against Israel/ won't try to transfer them to his Hizbullah allies? And perhaps the Syrians who replace him will turn out to be a decent lot after all...

If 7  Israelis were murdered in a terror attack at Burgas airport in Bulgaria, then  perhaps their terrible loss will be seen as part of the shadowy war of terror that Iran and Israel are waging against each other and not be used as a pretext for Israel to launch an attack against Iran.  And we can still take our vacations in Europe... right?

This morning, we cycled down to the beach, swam in the clear, warm water and then sipped freshly squeezed orange juice at Castina at the entrance to the port in Yaffo. 

Why let the news get you down?     

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Heading for a fall?

You don't see a lot of musicians on the streets of Madrid, but there are plenty of human statues who strike creative poses for hours on end in return for a few euros. Maybe a sign of the grim economic times? On the posh Calle de Alcala , lined with magnificent banks and fancy cafes, it's hard to notice many other signs of Spain's economic woes.

Lack of money was certainly not in evidence at the Santiago Benrabeu stadium where over 50,000 fans paid a minimum of 70 euros to hear the Boss and the E Street Band on their Wrecking Ball tour. Springsteen gave them their money's worth in a 3 hour show that lifted Madridian spirits to the rooftops. Yet a local friend told us that while the shops and restaurants look full, people are spending less and those who still have jobs have stopped complaining about them. The question was how much worse it would get before it gets better?

On an attempt to visit the Royal Palace we found ourselves in the middle of a military ceremony. Hundreds of soldiers were lined up in rows while ornately uniformed special guards were preparing for something tricky that involved flags. The soldiers were  pledging allegiance to the flag, if we understood correctly.    

Downtown, life appears less splendid and some lose the energy to keep going. Still, a handy stone step can come in useful as a pillow ....

Another cool moment/religious vision as the sprinklers caught the morning sunlight in the Park del Buen Retiro.

The Euro Cup was everywhere but I preferred the retro look of this old album found at the massive Sunday morning flea market in El Rastro.

The return to the Rooftop started with the front page of Yedioth on the plane back home. Each snatch of news continues to erode that precious holiday feeling as the local reality sinks in : rocket fire in the south again, Daphne Leef and social change supporters arrested for trying to set up tents on Rothschild Boulevard again. More killed in Syria with no end in sight. No clear decision on the outcome of the Egyptian elections. And in an immediate, potentially life-changing  way: with the collapse of the Moscow talks, what to do about Iran?    

The cafes and shops in Tel Aviv are also full but maybe that's because no-one's noticing the bull in the room...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

From Within 3

Continuing this series on a few of the hundreds of sites open to the public at Tel Aviv's Houses from Within weekend, we lined up for a guided tour of a newly renovated industrial building on Simtat Chelouche. Although close to trendy Neve Tzedek, this is a pretty desolate spot in an unkempt side road situated in the seam line between the old army museum and Derekh Yaffo. In this setting, the clean lines of the spanking white exterior are especially striking.

This International Style building was not on the preservation list but was nevertheless lovingly restored and renovated. The building was purchased by a group of five friends  who commissioned an architect to create airy, light filled apartments with plenty of shared, communal spaces, like a rooftop garden. 

A shower cubicle open to the roof. Behind it you can see a movable skylight. 

A living room.

On Day 2 we switched from bicycles to 'Vespa' to visit some sites a bit further afield.  These are pools that once watered the the citrus orchards that flourished around Yaffo at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries until they were overtaken by development as Tel-Aviv grew. Their local Arab owners sometimes built "well houses" nearby, some of them in luxurious style.These pools will soon be renovated as part of gan ha-hursha (Grove Garden), a 250 dunam area near the zoological gardens, the Russian Church and the Abu Kabir forensic institute in south Tel Aviv.  In one area, the old irrigation channels will be reconstructed to show how the system worked. The park new park will also be linked to Florentin, creating a much needed green outlet for the south.     

Finally, some of the planting solutions created by an ecological designer called Yael who lives in the outlying suburb of Hadar Yosef in a house surrounded by walls of vertically growing plants. She and her husband imagine Tel-Aviv covered in green walls, some of them edible. Her company designs and markets these vertical growing pouches. The lower photo shows two crates lined from the inside,  filled with compost and sprouting vegetables. It serves as both a planting area and a fence. 

Not shown is a crate of decomposable / disposable diapers, no earth added, also sprouting um....veg...

Thank you batim mibifnim.

From Within 2

Behind the sleek design studio (see previous blog ) lay a courtyard which, perhaps because of its seclusion had been given especially devoted treatment by street artists.

A few blocks away, on the 11th floor of a commercial building on the corner of Shocken and Kibbutz Galuot, pianist Hagai Yuden is ensconced in loft that features a 150 year old Steinway Grand that used to belong to the mayor of New York.

Yuden, who gives piano recitals set against the background of the constantly sprouting Tel-Aviv skyline that can be seen from his panoramic window, also has a view one of his neighbours. 

This looks like the inside of a beit knesset (synagogue) and it is: a scale model of the interior of a beit knesset in Aden. It can be found in the museum devoted to the Jewish  community of Aden that recently opened in Lilienblum 5. The museum occupies the ground floor ( until recently, used for storing textiles) of the simple but elegant beit knesset that the architect Yehuda Megidovich designed  for the Jews of Aden who settled in Tel Aviv. 

 Young Jewish Adenites in the good old days.

The interior of the Kol Yehuda synagogue taken from the ezrat nashim (women's gallery). The stained glass windows which normally depict the twelve tribes of Israel,  seem to be based on motifs from the country and city in Eretz Israel and have a modernistic feel to them. Since we look at these windows every night from the Rooftop and has never seen them from the inside, it was great to get up close.

From Within 1

A section of an original wall painting

This isn't the first time that I've done a post on the annual batim mibifnim event ( Houses From Within). But it's such a rare opportunity to see the inside of some of the most interesting buildings and spaces in the city that it's just too good to pass up. So here are a few images from this weekend's harvest, with more coming separately. By the way, just skimming the programme online will give you an idea of the scope of Tel Aviv's architectural and urban treasures.


We started close to home, in a building on Rehov Mohliver built in 1926. The couple renting this apartment have done a lovely job of preserving many features of the old Eclectic Style with minimum expense and maximum care and taste. To reveal the lovely old tiles in the photo below they had to scrape away the linoleum that had covered it.     

On the top tier of this antique magazine rack sits an original copy of a book of photographs taken by the Avraham Sosskin (1881-1963)  who documented Tel Aviv (founded 1909) in its earliest years. The proud owner showed us that it was signed by Thomas Mann (!). Her husband said that since the building wasn't listed for preservation, he was afraid that it would be knocked down to make way for a new building and all this would disappear.    

We pedaled southwards, deep into the industrial  area between Salame and Kibbutz Galuot, where all sorts of interesting spaces have been opening up between the factories, workshops and garages.This is the entrance to the Amir Gallery that makes custom made steel designs. 

Inside was this photo by Uri Machlev was printed on steel. 

Over the road, this industrial space has been turned into a work space that can be rented by young designers. 

Three Philippines Scenes

A trip downtown We are staying with our gracious Filipino hosts in Santa Rita, a suburb of Olongapo, a city of about 240,000 si...