In Keeping On Keeping On, Alan Bennett relates the following in his diary for the year 2014:
15 April. Watch five minutes of “Have I Got News for You” with Nigel Farage the guest and Ian Hislop and Paul Merton their usual genial selves. I never quite understand why they are happy to sit on a panel with Farage, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Clarkson et al. Their reasoning would, I imagine, be that this gives them the opportunity to have fun at the expense of Farage and Co. And so they do. But the impression an audience comes away with is that actually nothing much matters and that these seemingly jokey demagogues are human and harmless and that their opinions are not really as pernicious as their opponents pretend. And even if they are what does it matter as politics is just a con anyway. Whereas Johnson, the bike apart, doesn’t seem to have a moral bone in his body and the batrachoidal (frog- or toad-like) Farage likewise. ‘So where’s your sense of humour? It’s only a joke.’
Well, well. What’s new?
Add to Alan Bennett’s view of the British Prime Minister the words of Johnson’s former top aide, Dominic Cummings, who was finally interviewed by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg — while, of course, remembering that Mr. Cummings is a person who has very much his own agenda to manage, his own axes to grind, and his own grudges to bear — it makes for worrying reading, especially as I am planning to spend some time in the UK from the middle of next month. According to Cummings, Mr. Johnson denied last autumn that the National Health Service would be overwhelmed and said that he was not prepared to lock the country down in order to save people in their ’80s. Johnson held out on reimposing Covid restrictions because he was slightly rocked by data on Covid fatalities, with a median age of 82, which, he said, was above life expectancy—and could be expected to die shortly, although he didn’t actually say that. So, according to Cummings, BoJo was of the opinion that one should get Covid and live longer and texted him so. He really didn’t believe that the National Health Service being overwhelmed (even though he, himself, had been seriously ill with the disease earlier in the year. I presume that once his antibodies had kicked in, he lost interest in the NHS — although it saved his own life. The interview cast further doubt over the Prime Minister’s actions in the run-up to the November lockdown (when I was in London myself on a visit planned to last just a few weeks but which turned out to be three months). And, according to Cummings, Johnson repeatedly ignored the advice of his chief scientific and medical advisers — which we have seen once again in the past fortnight.
Meanwhile, here we are mid-July 2021, and England launched yesterday (Monday) what has come to be known as “Freedom Day” whereby many of the government-imposed restrictions on movement, gatherings and mask-wearing transmogrify from being law to becoming recommendations as to how people should behave. The government in England (if not in the rest of the United Kingdom) seems more determined than ever to trust in people to act in their own best interests and in the interests of those around them. Is that naïve of what? I suppose the question is whether England is making the stupidest decision ever or whether it’s leading the way for the rest of the world to follow.
The United Kingdom with a population of around 66 million is turning out c. 50,000 new Covid cases a day whereas here in Israel, with a population of around 9 million, there are just under 1,000 new cases a day and they’re worried. If you do the sums — and it’s not that difficult — then there is a world of difference between the two situations. The Israeli government is being cautious — perhaps even overcautious — with the Prime Minister and other ministers seriously advising citizens not to travel abroad at all and making it difficult for them to do so and awkward for them when they eventually return. It must all be something to do with coiffure and clearheadedness. Nevertheless, 50,000 people a day are travelling out of Ben-Gurion Airport to destinations everywhere even though they will have to quarantine when they return.
And this brings me to conclude that Alan Bennett’s assessment—that Mr. Johnson doesn’t seem to have a moral bone in his body—is, if not entirely correct, close to the truth.
And when I observe the unlawful goings on (i.e., base thuggery) a week ago at Wembley Stadium, and afterwards in London and online, when the England soccer team lost to Italy in the final of the UEFA 2020 competition in a penalty shoot-out— a sporting event marred by more jingoism than I can remember, then it seems like unleashing the masses to infect and reinfect one another is madness indeed. And I’m supposed to be there in three weeks? Well, I’m only 76 and therefore I’m not a cause of worry for Mr. Johnson! Anyway, I’ve got family and friends to see and the last eight months haven’t exactly been easy.
Self-isolation. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.
But enough of all this. This rant is terminated for this week. Some pictures are due.
Summer has come to Tel Aviv in earnest …
… but some thrive in this weather!
The fact that summer has arrived in Tel Aviv in earnest means that I am getting out into the park earlier than ever before. I try to get out and about by 06.30 but by the time 07.00 rolls around, hidrosis — sweat, perspiration, wetness — is the operative word and my tee-shirt feels considerably heavier than when I started out. Still, even at that hour, there are things worth photographing — like this man and his dogs . I’ve photographed them before but never from this particular angle.
Man and doggies. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv
The hot weather is conducive to people enjoying themselves during the balmy nights when the temperatures plummets to all of 25ºC but the humidity rises to 70%. The results of these balmy but damp nights are clearly visible early the following morning …
… as if it might have been all that difficult to clear up afterwards.
But then there’s always someone else to clear up the mess …
… but not before he’s made some mess of his own by feeding the winged vermin that infest the park.
Walking through the park, one comes across all sorts and this young lady makes me think that there really is hope for us all.
Mind you, she’s not always as hyperactive as all that!
I noticed a few weeks that the upheaval along some of the main streets in Tel Aviv, part of the preparations for a light railway, is being undertaken partly by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd.(Israel) …
… so it’s only appropriate that notices, such as the direction of evacuation routes, be posted also in Chinese characters, too.
Pinkas Street, Tel Aviv
And then, of course, the are the birds …
So I won’t swim — I’ll skim!
… even the tiny ones that I often miss …
… and the larger ones that just float by as I walk through the park.
… and I lie and wait in a rather forlorn hope!
And we’re constantly reminded of the presence of Corona …
… and of Corona garbage!
And then there are the boats on the river …
Last week, I cam came across a pair mending a puncture to an inner tube on the bike of one of them and thought to myself that when that sort of thing happened to me when I was young that I was incapable of doing anything about it other than bring it to a repair shop and have the work done there. Cack-handed, maladroit, gauche — words that all pretty much mean the same thing.
Task accomplished successfully!
And then there are pictures that are just pictures and don’t really fit into any story.
Early morning. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv
Street Installation. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv
The sprinkler system was working overtime! Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv.
Cooling off. Yarqon Stream, Tel Aviv
Penultimately, it strikes me, notwithstanding all the talk about Covid in the news that things are beginning to return to some sort of normality in Israel if only because the main item in today’s news is that Unilever, the owner of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has decided that Ben & Jerry’s cannot be sold in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, which means that some company with large freezer vans might be transporting tons of the stuff from Tel Aviv to the Israeli heartland of Judea and Samaria. So what’s new? And what’s news?
And finally, last week I picked up a book I had bought a decade ago, one of those books that looked interesting and in which you read a couple of chapters and promise yourself to read it when you have some spare time and then put it back on the shelf and forget about it. Anyway, as I said, I. picked it out last week — David Bellos’s Is that a Fish in Your Ear?, a book about translation and translating. I used to do translating a long time ago when I needed to supplement my university salary so some of the issues raised by Professor Bellos were familiar, some less so and others completely new to me. Towards the end of the book, there’s a chapter on the issues involved in translating humour and one of the examples he gives had me laughing aloud when I read it. It goes as follows:
A Brooklyn baker becomes increasingly irritated by an old lady who queues up to buy bagels in his shop every Tuesday, despite the sign clearly visible in the window saying bagels are not available on Tuesdays.
One morning, after she has queued up for the fifth time, he decides to he has to get the message through to her.
‘Lady’, he says, ‘tell me, do you know how to spell ‘cat’, as in ‘catechism’?’ ‘Sure I do’, the old lady says, ‘that’s C-A-T’.
‘Sure is’, the baker replies, ‘now tell me, how do you spell ‘dog’ – as in ‘dogmatic’?’
‘Why, that’s D-O-G.’
‘Right! So how do you spell ‘fuck’ — as in ‘bagels’?’
‘But there ain’t no ‘fuck’ in ‘bagels’!’ the little old lady exclaims.
‘And that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!’ cries the baker.
This hasn’t been a normal week. Personally, it’s been not easy. For once, I paid little attention to what’s been going on in politics.
On Wednesday, we (the kids and I) marked, according to the Hebrew calendar, the first anniversary of Vivien’s death. I can’t believe that a year has already flown by and I’ve been on my own for that long. People used to say that as one gets older, time seems to race ahead at a pace unknown when you were younger. And so it seems. To me, she was here just a couple of months ago although the kids say that it seems already like two or three years. We all lit a memorial candle on Tuesday evening. I was dreading it for days in advance. I know, it was just striking a match and placing the lit match against the wick but it was who I was lighting the candle for and why that made me so upset.
Shuli posted a piece on her Facebook page (in Hebrew) which reads in translation something like:
“A year without Ima! Ima, how we miss you so much.
The gentle smile, the small encouragements [you gave] in all areas of life, the togetherness, the endless love. What an rocky year we’ve had since you left us … Corona, war, lockdowns.
In the meantime the grandchildren are growing up and we are left with the memories and the nostalgia and the endless yearning.
Yesterday we lit a memorial candle for you and sat down with the girls and Saba and together we watched and listened to the lovely stories that you wrote, in your soft and gentle voice and funny cute Irish accent. What an asset you left for us and for the children.”
Listening to these stories, it was the first time I’d heard her voice since she passed away and it brought back so many memories, memories that date back over six decades. She was truly an amazing person. She suffered so much pain and discomfort over the years but never complained, except towards the end when she said on several occasions that she’d had enough. She was an incredible individual and I was proud to have been her husband for 54 years. I only hope that I was able to give her some comfort during all that time. I miss her more than I ever thought I’d miss her.
Some photos to remind us all. Tennis, the love of her life until lupus (SLE) struck when she was 16, marriage at 21, mother of three fantastic children, and then it was back to music, which took a back seat while tennis took over. And towards the end, she enjoyed giving piano lessons to Arneath Cruzat, her amazing carer during her last 14 months.
Foreboding notwithstanding, I’ve tried to get out every morning for an hour or more. The trouble is that by 07.00, it’s already warmer than warm. Still, there’re no harm in trying to arrive in the park earlier in time for a 15-minute “warm-up” before setting out.
As usual most of the time, I head towards the sea but before I do, I’m likely to pass any number of people in any sort of calisthenic position.
One, two, three — bend!
One, two, three, four … Group Bend!
Very graceful — but taking no chances.
Early morning is also breakfast time for some.
… like lottery sellers …
On Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv
… or hungry egrets …
Hungry egret @ breakfast. Yarqon Park
There, as usual, are birds galore — best of friends and all that.
And some birds are bird-brained, indeed.
Stupido — it i’s for the dogs alone!
And talking about canines —
It’s a dog’s life!
But back to the birds.
Egret. Yarqon Park. Early morning
Then, coming towards me, it seemed like she was coughing and in these days of Corona, one takes cover. It was only as she got closer that I saw and heard that all she was doing was having a conversation on her Apple Watch.
Others were just out for a walk with their family.
And, then, of course there are the sweaty women …
… followed by a sweaty man … (and these are at 7.30 in the morning, which explains why I try not to go out during the daytime!)
On the Yarqon river/stream, there are those who seem to have settled in for the day …
… while others just start very young.
And in the words of Cole Porter, “Anything Goes”!
And one never quite knows what one is going to bump into early on a summer’s morn! The heat hits everyone differently, it seems.
While walking on HaYarqon Street, I noticed an element of confusion. Can you see it (and you don’t need to be Hebrew-literate, either).
In Tel Aviv Port, caught between a selfie and a pose.
Almost there. Last week, on Ibn Gvirol Street
Honestly, Guv, it had nothing to do with me. I’m just waiting for her to come out again!
And finally, a short story (Picture caption to be read aloud)
Fido and Rover were strolling down the street one day. Midway along the block, Fido nudged Rover with a friendly flick of his tail and in pure doggerel said: “Just wait here for a couple of minutes. There’s something I need to do on the other side of the street.”
So off he trotted across the road and made straight for a hydrant around which he must have spent at least three or four minutes circling, all the time sniffing earnestly. Finally, he cocked up his left hind leg and spent almost as long again leaving his mark on and all around the hydrant.
When he was done and had all four paws on the ground again, he trotted back over to Rover who was waiting patiently for his buddy, hyperventilating heavily.
“What was that all about?”, Rover inquired.
“Oh, nothing much”, answered Fido. “I was just checking the messages on my pee-mail and remembered that I could use Reply All. So that’s what I was doing and that’s why it took so long.”
It’s been a relatively quiet fortnight in Israeli politics. The new “Bennett/Lapid” coalition seems to be functioning reasonably well and the various ministers seem to be settling into their jobs and are being given credit for doing what they’re paid to do, i.e., serve the people. So far, it seems to be in contrast to the way in which the previous coalition operated, whereby when things went well, U-NO-HOO took all the credit and when things proved difficult the ministers would be invited to appear and explain to the public why things were difficult and why they hadn’t quite worked out as expected, meaning that when times were less than good, ministers were expected to accept ministerial responsibility, something that appeared not to be the case with U-NO-HOO.
The new Opposition still hasn’t got used to the fact that it’s not the government. It’s been reported that there is a move afoot among those who feel that power “was stolen” from them to continue to refer to the former Prime Minister as “the Prime Minister” and according to Anshel Pfeffer, the well-informed correspondent for HaAretz daily newspaper and The Economist, “He [Bibi] smiles benevolently upon those who do so”. However, Pfeffer does warn us that he shouldn’t be written off. Keen to rebound yet again, he and his satraps have taken to delegitimizing Bennett by making it look as if Bibi is still the real prime minister and that’s the reason he’s keeping up a stream of images of him greeting local and foreign dignitaries in appropriate settings on his social media outlets. Quite why he has been allowed to stay on in the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem until July 10 is beyond me; I mean, it’s not exactly as if he and his wife would have become homeless if the moving van had arrived the day after the new government had been formed. After all, there is a large villa in Caesarea that is waiting to be re-occupied.
Eventually, I imagine the message will eventually sink in, in particular if the current coalition survives longer than some imagine it might. Ironically, the way I see things is that Mr. Bennett painted himself into a corner a few weeks ago as a result of which, because of his zigzagging and wavering between a broad and potentially unwieldy coalition like the one he’s now leading and facing yet another election in which he might not have done so well, he chose to become Prime Minister. And again, there’s irony in the fact that all of his cabinet colleagues, having been given jobs to perform, feel as if they must do them well — because if they don’t, their parties’ share of the vote will likely drop at the next election, whenever that might be.
How does it stay there?
However, one great mystery about the Bennett government remains. How does the new Prime Minister’s knitted kippah (skull cap) stay on his head. These days, he has less hair than appears in the photograph above and what little remains appears to be shaven and then the head polished. Does he use double-sided cellotape? Or perhaps it’s Velcro? Or Blu Tack? Or Bostik? Or maybe it’s a suction pad? Or for all I know he uses some hi-tech invention based on silicon developed in the Start-Up Nation for which he is now responsible. I asked a friendly intelligence agent to investigate, and I now have it on good authority that the mystery is no longer. In other words, I know. However, as the subject in question is the Israeli Prime Minister, it’s a security issue that just can’t be divulged to the general public.
Given the rumblings within the Likud party, with several individuals seeing themselves as successors to U-NO-HOO, the situation appears to me to be beginning to resemble 1990/91 in the United Kingdom, when the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, after three terms in office, managed to alienate several members of her own party because of her poll-tax policies and opposition to further British integration into the European Community, so much so that she came to be regarded as an electoral liability rather than an electoral asset and in November 1990, she failed to receive a majority in the Conservative Party’s annual vote for selection of a leader. As a result, she withdrew her nomination, and was replaced by a paragon of blandness called John Major and she resigned six days later. Her 11 years in office was the longest continuous tenure of a British prime minister in almost two centuries and the outcome was that she was elevated to the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher (of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire). Just imagine if we were able to carry on like that in Israel — Baron Bibi of Caesearea (on the Carmel Coast)! In the words of Eliza Doolittle, “… wouldn’t it be loverly”?!
Meanwhile, although Israeli politics has been relatively quiet following the display of bestial animosity in the Knesset a fortnight ago when the Prime Minister was attempting to address the members, British politics took us on an interesting side-trip last week with the story that broke regarding the Secretary of State for Health, WU-HAN-COCK, who was photographed by various media outlets in a close embrace with one, Gina Coladangelo, who he had taken on as an adviser to his Ministry. The accusations pointed at him, however, related less to the fact that he was having an affair with a married woman who was not his wife, but that he had breached social distancing rules that he himself had authorized. Notwithstanding all the Woo-Ha, I thought it was rather touching to have read that he woke his children up to tell that he was leaving home.
I just love those socks!
But perhaps he was only following the example of his former boss, who didn’t think the whole affair sufficient reason to fire him. But when Hancock resigned, poor BoJo, in trying to tear his hair out just made a mess of it all again!
But I’m really very tired of politics and politicians so time for some images.
Summer’s come early to Tel Aviv this year. Temperatures have soared and the humidity levels with them so as a consequence, I’ve had to wake up earlier than has been my wont (not that sleeping in the heat is that easy anyway) and get out before it gets too hot. However, I’m discovering that even at 06.30, things have already hotted up.
Morning stroll in the Yarqon Park
One of the upshots of getting out early in the morning is that there’s a dearth of people so the subjects that I see are mainly birds and oarspersons (that’s a strange word but it’s what I see). Occasionally, one comes across someone who is doing something other than riding a bike or walking or jogging or stretching, such as this skipper who I stopped to watch for several minutes while he did his thing without missing a beat.
And in the park, one sees all sorts exercising. All I can say to this young woman is: “Well done”. She obviously has a bit of work to do yet but if she keeps it up, she’ll be OK.
Sleeping rough is common enough but I thought that this guy was a little overdressed for 08.00 hrs. but I suppose that at least he wasn’t cold.
At least he was in the park. Others are obviously less fussy about where they want to sleep.
Airbnb. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.
Occasionally, one comes across things that are quite different. Last week, I observed a Tai-Chi [very slow and elaborately choreographed] sword dance being “performed” for all to see. I took some tai-chi lessons with the same instructor a couple of years ago and found it all too slow and deliberate for what I thought I needed.
The Slow Sword Dance
There are many ways of taking exercise in the park and port. In this case, this rather mature lady is killing two birds with one stone by jogging and exercising her dog simultaneously, both of which activities are essential for the maintenance of physical and mental health.
And on the same day, I stopped to watch this man figure out the correct angle for taking a drink of water. I knew he’d find a comfortable position after he’d squirted water up his nostrils more than once as he moved from one side to the other. However, it did take him quite a while!
That same morning, I came across a guy working near the entrance to Tel Aviv Port. From the distance, I couldn’t quite figure out what he was doing with the stick, to which was attached what appeared to be a scraper. As I approached, I was able to ask him what he was doing and thus was able to ascertain what his job was, but he wasn’t too happy that I photograph him. Fortunately, I had a telephoto lens on the camera that day so after I had walked past, I turned around and was able to take the photograph. It turns out that the man in question has the mind-numbing job of scraping chewing gum from off the footpath. I’ve heard of thankless jobs before and this is definitely one of the more abysmal.
Exercising in the park at 06.30 in this season can be messy, the reason being that I have to clear away the mess from what is falling off the trees…
… and then when one wishes to sit down, it’s not such as easy matter either.
This morning, I took the bus to a physiotherapy session. It was, how can I say, rather hot — but at least the bus had air-conditioning. The thing about buses is that you never quite know who you are going to be sitting opposite or near, so you never really know if you’ll get a photograph. But today I was in luck and one of the things about using the camera on your phone is that it never really looks as if you are taking a picture. So I switched from reading a WhatsApp message to the camera by moving one finger and that was that. Did I ask his permission to take the photo? No, I didn’t — because public transport is public space and one is permitted to take photos in public spaces. Anyway, what I was photographing was a work of art not the man; it was just that the man was attached to the work of art. And like all works of visual art, it’s created in order to be looked at. Not so? Nevertheless, I’ve never succeeded in understanding the whys and wherefores of tattoos because when I was young, the only people with tattoos were people who you might prefer not to know.
Finally, here are a few of and for the birds.
The sprinklers went haywire but the crows have a bath
The crows’ nest
Leftovers are always very yummy!
Nice and easy does it every time!
Night heron in the early morning
Finally, one from the archive
One of my first. 12 years old and still going strong
It’s Sunday, June 13 2021. 16.00 hrs IST and I have a dilemma. At 4 p.m. Israel time, should I turn the TV on and watch Channel 11 or Channel 61? There are two programmes that I feel I should see and they are being broadcast simultaneously, so I decide that I will record what’s on on Channel 61 and if needs be, watch it in full later in the evening. So I switched to Channel 11 and after 10 minutes decided that I would ping-pong between the two channels and still watch Channel 61 later on if I felt like it.
And what were these important events that were bringing about my dilemma? Well, on Channel 11, there was a live broadcast from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, at which the members would either vote confidence in the loosely crocheted “national unity coalition” of eight parties, headed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid or not, as the case may be, and also elect a new Speaker. At the same time, Channel 61 was showing a live broadcast of the Men’s Singles Final of the French Open Tennis Championship from Roland Garros between the 34-year-old Serb, Novak Djokovic and the 22-year-old Greek who revels under the wonderful name of Stefanos Tsitsipas.
My heart said Channel 61 whereas my head said that as a not uninterested citizen, I should watch the entertainment about to be provided on Channel 11. Channel 11 had the usual blah-blah-blah before the show got under way. Various commentators and reporters, all but a couple of whom seemed to be aged about 25-30 speculating about what we could expect over the next few hours — so I switched back to see how Novak and Stef were getting on and it seemed initially as if the former was being tormented by the latter. But after some of that, I headed back to Channel 11 and the plenum was filling up with our elected members.
Then proceedings eventually got under way. The Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett had been allocated 30 minutes to outline the incoming government’s plans. He had hardly opened his mouth to address the notables at the gathering (which included the State President, Reuven Rivlin, himself a former Speaker of the august body and the President of Supreme Court, Esther Hayuth) that all hell broke loose from the soon-to-be Opposition members of the Knesset. The Speaker, Yariv Levin, a current stalwart and intimate confidant (these have never lasted too long in the past) of Prime Minister Netanyahu (in fact, the man put in that position to do his master’s bidding and who had managed to postpone this day of reckoning for a week in the forlorn hope that Netanyahu’s Likud could manage to entice any number of “misguided” right-wing members to return to Netanyahu’s fold, thereby preventing the new coalition attaining a majority) attempted to keep order but his erstwhile colleagues from his own party and those to the right of it were having none of that.
What ensued was something that I’d never seen in years of observing politicians behaving and misbehaving. One correspondent, following the event from the comfort of her Florida home, wrote to me this morning to say “What a disgrace. I have never witnessed anything like the behavior of the Savages in the Knesset today.” As soon as I read it, I wrote back to her saying: “You’re too kind to them. I would have described them as wild animals, and far too wild to have been in the zoo in which they were seated yesterday. But there you are—Likudniks—salt of the earth.” These representatives of the “common people”—amkha, in Hebrew—continued their performance throughout Mr. Bennett’s 30 minutes and beyond with the females of the species seemingly making the most noise but maybe that’s because higher frequencies are more piercing. And it wasn’t just members of Likud and members of the fascist parties who were participating in this debacle but I also observed among the roaring animals several who were wearing large black yarmulkes and had long white beards, too! Men of God! OMG! What has the world come to? Time to Reform!
Heckling is one thing but the ill-mannered and discourteous behaviour and the noise generated by these salts of the earth made the cheering and roaring of the several thousand people on the Philip Chatrier court at Roland Garros seem like a whisper in comparison. It was literally incredible, demeaning, an acute shame and embarrassment to the State of Israel. How do you explain that kind of behaviour to children who might have been watching in order to learn our our civilized lawmakers behave in parliament. Mr. Levin was even forced to expel several members of the Knesset from the plenum after each had been given three warnings to shut up, and coming from him, it only illustrated how much hot air and interference has been generated. Moreover, the attempts of several of the expellees to re-enter the chamber were met with a chilling warning from the Speaker that it was forbidden.
Eventually, Mr. Bennett, a politician who I don’t particularly admire and his politics even less, somehow reached the conclusion of his prepared speech. He was followed by the “Alternate Prime Minister”, Mr. Lapid, the architect responsible for the construction of this seemingly fragile coalition, who rather than give his prepared piece on the need for national unity, which was to have lasted 15 minutes, simply said the following: “My mother is 86 years old and we don’t ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly, but we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment, and she would see a smooth transition of government, … When she was born, there was no State of Israel, Tel Aviv was a small town of 30,000 people, and we didn’t have a parliament. I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead, she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it is time to replace you,” and with that he left the podium.
He was followed in turn by the outgoing Prime Minister who spent 30 minutes or so lauding himself after which had the downright arrogance to say that there was nobody else in the country with sufficient experience to lead it (as if he had nothing to do with that situation). Looking at and listening to the Likud rump, it was easy to see that anyone in the party with sufficient intelligence to have been groomed to have had that experience had either left or had been forced out of the party. And it was also easy to understand how the thuggery that had erupted in some of Israel’s cities a few weeks ago was able to happen. Oh, and Mr. Netanyahu failed to mention a simple fact while decrying the emergence of what he continues to call “a dangerous left-wing government” even though about a third of the coalition’s members are further to the right than him, namely, that, yes, the voters in March 2021 indicated that they preferred a right-wing government — but one not led by him — and this is what they got, thanks to him and no-one else.
In the end, a vote was taken and the coalition given a vote of confidence by the narrowest of margins — 60-59 and one abstention. This was followed by a vote for a new Speaker who then took over proceedings. After another few minutes, the ministers were asked to leave their seats at the Cabinet table for seats on the back benches. One of the things that amused me was seeing Mr. Levin, the now ex-Speaker, explaining to Mr. Netanyahu, the now ex-Prime Minister, that, as he was no longer Prime Minister, he, too, would have to vacate the chair he had occupied for the previous 12 years and sit elsewhere while he, Mr. Levin, shepherded him directly to that place. Poor Bibi’s body language indicated that he seems to have been totally gutted by this strange situation in which he found himself.
Israel’s new government. President Rivlin seated center; Bennett to his right, Lapid to his left
TAnd then it was back to the court to see the end. For me, this meant the tennis on Channel 61 but in Bibi’s case, it might well be a different kind of court!
And now for some photographs.
Among the many nuisances these days are electric scooters and rental bikes. And why are they nuisances, in particular, to pedestrians like myself? For a start the authorities are busily constructing bicycle lanes everywhere. More often than not, these lanes run parallel and in the same direction as the automobile lanes but sometimes, as I found out this morning, they run up one-way streets in the opposing direction, which, to say the least can be confusing and dangerous. Even more dangerous is that the majority of cyclists and scooter maniacs seem to be unaware of these lanes, and especially of the directional arrows painted on them. In addition, both the rental bicycle and scooter companies seem to offer a pick-them-up-anywhere and drop-them-off-anywhere policy, which seems to be interpreted very literally by the users …
… especially when it always seems that there’s someone else to return them for you.
Parking has always been a problem in Tel Aviv but some people seem as if they have found a solution.
And as summer settles in for the next four months or so and we wallow in 35 degree temperatures and 90% humidity, one begins to see more and more bodies in the park at 7 in the morning (which is actually about an hour too late to be going out).
The Yarqon Park, where I go most mornings is currently undergoing renovations along the river banks,
One of the consequences of all this is that the environment of the park’s mouse population has changed and they’ve emerged from wherever they’d been hiding underground and are showing themselves to the wide, wide world.
However, that doesn’t seem to bother the most active exercisers in the early morning park.
It seems was if new neighbours have moved in down the street and it also seems that when new neighbours move in, they need to make their presence felt by installing new numbers, too, lest someone make a mistake about the address.
28 x 3 = 84
Every now and then, your eye comes across something that appeals not because of what it is but because of what you think you can make of it later, so this …
… becomes this.
And occasionally, I have the privilege of hearing a rehearsal for a concert to be played some time in the future, like last week when the Carmel Quartet worked with the renowned oud player, Tayseer Elias, on a composition by the Israeli composer, Oded Zehavi for a concert in Jerusalem later this week as part of the Festival of Israeli Music. Makes a nice change when it happens.
L to R: Shuli Waterman (viola), Rachel Ringelstein (violin I), Tayseer Elias (oud), Tali Goldberg (violin II), Tami Waterman (cello), Oded Zehavi (composer)
Instead of a regular rant about the state of Israeli politics and my views on Israeli politicians and while several of them attempt to form a stable government, let me regale you with a true story that occurred about seven years ago and an account of which I wrote up for the ESRA (English Speaking Residents’ Association) magazine here in Israel and which was published in its May 2015 edition (https://magazine.esra.org.il). (I had forgotten all about it until the other day, when I decided to google myself and discover what other people can find out about me without any input on my part and it turned up among other things.) It concerned a frustrating week I’d experienced some while previously and the vexation was due entirely to my own recklessness. As the saying might have it, old dogs really shouldn’t try to learn new tricks; indeed, old dogs can be very stupid as I was about to find out. The adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is very true and the issue in case arose when I nevertheless decided to fix it.
A charming, (well, she sounded charming over the phone), young (well, she sounded young over the phone), woman introduced herself as a representative of HOT, Israel’s cable TV company and she was about to make me an offer that she said I couldn’t refuse. HOT had been around for several years, following the amalgamation of the three cable companies that had dug up Israel’s roads and footpaths in order to be able to compete with Israel’s satellite broadcaster, YES. And as we’d had cable TV for over a decade and there hadn’t been too many problems, I was prepared to listen to the sales pitch, which was, of course, mistake #1.
And what was this hawker (Sorry, sales representative) offering me? HOT Triple. For the princely sum I was paying them to receive a daily dose of depression (Israeli TV has an inordinate amount of current affairs programming alongside quiz shows, wrestling, B and C movies and other rubbish), they would provide me with Internet access and telephone calls to any landline or cellphone in Israel free of charge. And—this was the part of her sales pitch that really appealed to me—we could keep our existing telephone number. (It’s bad enough trying to remember 4-digit passwords at my age but an 8 or 9-digit phone number is more than my aging brain can handle. Even though our landlines and smartphones remember these things for us, ego and pride demand that we prove to ourselves that we CAN remember these things!) So after she’d concluded her part in this drama, I told her that I don’t make instant decisions based on cold calls and asked her to call back.
I looked at my monthly bills from Bezeq (Israel’s leading phone company) and Netvision (the Internet provider) and reckoned that I could save some money. And as we already had the infrastructure in the apartment there would be no need for any drilling. This was a no-brainer! (Little did I know then that “no-brainer” is really a sobriquet for me.) So when the HOT lady called back, I was ready to go with her wherever she wished to lead me.
Having done the deed, another and equally attractive female voice called me to fix a time for installation. Two days later, a young man unloaded his bag of tricks, and got down to the job of connecting our equipment to this super-fast and super-cheap HOTline.
Now, there should have been alarm bells ringing loudly in my ears. Perhaps there were and I just mistook them for my tedious tinnitus, something that I have sort of grown used to. The previous summer, I had made a similar decision in the flat in London about a comparable deal with Virgin, a retail conglomerate which sells everything from flowers to space tourism, who were selling me — you guessed it — TV, telephone and Internet. But more about that later.
Shlomi, the technician, got down to work immediately. Within minutes, I had a new converter box—replete with video recorder capable of recording hours and hours of TV programs that would probably never be watched—sitting under the television. That completed, the easier part of his attack, he set about dismantling the existing telephone and Internet connections, casually casting unwanted routers, plugs and wires aside as he continued on his merry march through my apartment. Within minutes, we had been effectively detached (albeit temporarily, I was assured) from civilization. I breathed easily knowing that the means to re-stimulate our daily dose of depression would be revived shortly.
However, in the course of connecting the telephone, Shlomi noted that there was a button to an emergency call center connected to one of the phone sockets. He informed me that it was forbidden to touch this and that he would have to issue me a new telephone number for the house, leaving the old number connected solely to the emergency buzzer. I misunderstood him, thinking he had told me the opposite, but before I could say Jack Robinson, or its Hebrew equivalent (which is, “Jack Robinson”), Shlomi had done his dastardly deed, informing me en passant that what he had done was irreversible. It goes without saying that I wasn’t too happy, as, amongst other things, it would entail my having to remember a new sequence of digits and not only that, but I would have to inform everyone of the new number, which by now was being posted up in strategic points throughout the flat and recited like a mantra over the table.
Effectively reconnected with the world, (albeit with a new phone number and a new name for the WiFi network), the time had arrived to test the television. Lo and behold, what had been almost perfect reception prior to the installation of the new converter now turned out to be flawed. In fact, it was so defective on the HD channels that there was no picture of anything recognizable to the human eye. Perhaps an insect with multiple eyes or an arthropod with multiple lenses might have been able to make sense of it so I asked Shlomi why this was and received the plausible response that because two functions (phone and Internet) had been added to a connection that had previously only delivered a TV signal, there had to be an amplifier somewhere around. I had no idea what he was talking about so I countered with “And where might that be?” “It must be on the roof,” replied Shlomi. “Ah”, said I — “just a minor problem. The roof belongs to my neighbor and the sole access is through his flat. Why don’t you go down to his office and ask him if you can get up there?” Shlomi returned a few minutes later to tell me that my neighbor was not terribly cooperative and that he’d have to try something else instead. He did, but failed to redress the problem — and then he departed, claiming that he was late for his next appointment. What I learned the following day from my neighbor was that he had accompanied Shlomi on to the roof and showed him that the signal amplifier was located on a pole two ladders’ height above the roof—and Shlomi didn’t have a ladder.
This resulted in another call to HOT and two days later, a different technician arrived. He turned up late afternoon—almost night would be more apt—and announced that without access to the roof there was nothing he could do. On the basis of his tight-fitting white full skullcap and long ringlets, this young man seemed to be a strictly Orthodox Jew and my good lady asked him prior to his swift exit whether or not he had a TV at home. Though my tinnitus must have been working overtime, I still didn’t hear the alarm bells that were obviously ringing at full volume. He responded in the affirmative, but added that he doesn’t have anything to do with HOT, his own employer.
So the next day I spoke to yet another HOT lady to whom I explained the sad situation. She announced with some authority that we needed the ‘B-team’, i.e. the lads who look after HOT’s access to a whole house rather than just an individual flat, and I was told to be on standby from 09.00 until 11.30 two days later. That day came and my watch began. 11.30 came but the B-team didn’t. So I allowed them half an hour’s grace and called HOT again—just to enquire, you understand. The HOT lady was sympathy personified and undertook to uncover the reason for the B-team’s non-appearance. And indeed she called me back to tell me that they had been delayed but that they had attempted several times to contact me. Upon enquiring after the number the B-team had been trying to reach and on hearing the number of my cellphone being uttered across the airwaves, I checked said cellphone, which had been in my pocket all morning and I had neither heard it ring nor felt a vibration. (Vibrations in the pocket are important for an older man with tinnitus!) Accordingly, I arrived at the only conclusion a long-suffering HOT client (by now just tepid) could arrive at: somebody in that torrid region which is HOT must be telling an untruth or fabricating a story.
My own reaction surprised me for I called HOT to cancel my contract. After all, had not the vendor a week earlier told me—as part of her sales pitch—that there was now a law in the State of Israel preventing companies like hers from tying their clients into a long-term contract from which there was redemption only by paying an exorbitant ransom? At this juncture, I discovered that signing out is distinctly more difficult than signing up. The company may no longer have a hold over you but that doesn’t stop them from pestering you into desperation to find out whether there is anything they can do “to help you”—a euphemism for encouraging you to change your already fragmented mind. Six different HOT employees phoned over 48 hours to ask the same question. Finally, I encountered another young-sounding female who admitted defeat by informing me that the HOT equipment would be picked up within a week.
During this hectic week I discovered several other things. I now had an active phone connection to the HOT exchange with a new number as well as the two Bezeq lines (one for phone, one for Internet — but that’s another other story). I called Bezeq to cancel the Internet line (the other one was still needed until I worked out a solution for the emergency button on the former (and soon to be reinstated) home line. A nice young Bezeqnik, obviously used to dealing with sullen overheated ex-Hotniks, suggested that instead of cancelling the line I should “freeze” it for three months at no cost—just in case things don’t work out. I followed this advice, which was my first sane decision in a week. At the same time, I discovered that without my Bezeq phone line I couldn’t open the gate from the street from within the flat! I also called the organization that supplied the emergency button on how to proceed. Their answer floored me—”There isn’t a problem”, they said. “We have lots of customers throughout the country who are connected to a HOT phone line!”
So … Shlomi, where are you, I thought? Please come back so I can wring your neck! But I have to find a solution to the gate — oh yes, and call Netvision, the Internet provider, because when I signed up with HOT, they informed me that they had an arrangement with Netvision to provide Internet services at a reduced rate through the monthly HOT bill. So … I called someone to come and see if there was a solution to the gate—there wasn’t unless I could locate a Bezeq junction box in the flat. But we couldn’t find it. (A year later, I discovered that it was in a cabinet in my neighbor’s office!)
And—at Netvision, while trying to reinstate the arrangement I had had with them prior to my HOT trip into outer space, I uncovered yet another gaffe. The pleasant lady with the soothing voice on the other end of the phone (she, too, was obviously used to talking with soon-to-be-ex-Hotniks) mentioned that I really should be using not the line through which I had always connected with Netvision but another number that flagged up on her screen. She then read out a number that meant nothing to me until I eventually remembered that about a year previously, responding to a Netvision sales pitch, I had agreed to switch from Bezeq to a Netvision line—but on learning that this required a physical installation (holes in walls, a new set of wires), I cancelled before anybody arrived. Nonetheless, someone had allocated me a number for which I had been billed with the itemized bills being sent to an email address that I had also been allocated but about the existence of which I had not had an inkling. A full refund was eventually paid.
Having reinstated my home phone lines (in other words, rescued my phones from HOT) and reverted to the old Wi-Fi router, I still needed to see to the TV. In this land of make-believe, the had just two options at that time, one of which I had just banished. So I called YES, the satellite TV company. Having signed me up, the YESman told me that another YESman with technical skills would connect me to outer space by 10.00 the following morning. This young man arrived on cue and I then discovered a basic difference between HOT and YES. HOT technicians come without ladders; YES technicians come without digital converter boxes! YES, this saxophone-playing technician, whose sole job is to connect people’s TV sets to digital converter boxes had actually arrived without one, causing my level of disbelief to rise in tandem with my blood pressure. But, nil desperandum, a man of infinite resourcefulness, the technician stole away in his car to a warehouse and returned an hour later, this time with box in tow. Within a short time we were reconnected and could receive the daily doses of depression without which we cannot survive.
Now, not only have you been reminded that old dogs do not learn new tricks but you’ve perhaps also heard the one about “once bitten, twice shy”. I mentioned that I had been in contact before all this nonsense with Virgin in London. In retrospect, I should have been able to learn a lesson from that but failed miserably when Virgin supplied us with their version of HOT’s Triple pack. Although the Virgin TV and the phone worked wonderfully, their internet connection gave problems. Put simply, the Virgin technician who wired us up (in my absence, after I’d returned to Israel, my son who had graciously become my proxy and wasted a day to be around) had simply used an outlet that some previous occupant of the flat had had installed. He didn’t ask questions; as far as he was concerned he simply chose an option easier than installing a connection de novo. Consequently, by the time the Wi-Fi signal reached the corner where my computer was located, it was breathing its last breath, moving in and out of cyber-consciousness and in need of some computer equivalent of a defibrillator. (The London flat is not a mansion but a small 2-bedroom apartment with a maximum internal distance of 12 meters.)
So I called the Virgin client helpline and the empire struck back. As all good Brits know, what materializes when you phone a helpline to what is ostensibly a UK number is that most phone calls for help are directed in the first instance through the Subcontinent. Bookings for “engineers”, as the local British technicians are called, are made via Bangalore, Hyderabad or Mumbai. To cut a long story very short, I made a booking to have them move the digital converter and left my long-suffering and loving son to deal with the physical side of things. In the event, the Virgin man came. The upshot was a series of SMSs in which my dear son told me, asked me, pleaded with me (while I was trying to comprehend yet another sales pitch, this time for a collective health insurance policy through the university—yet another Israeli story):
“He can only run a cable INSIDE the house. Can’t do it from the outside. … would have to drill holes in walls and attach the cable through the living room. … ugly … what do you think? … There would be a white cable going across the top or bottom of the corridor and then drilled into your room … My personal opinion — it’s a very messy job… is it REALLY necessary to go through ALL this?”.
At this point, I raised my hands and surrendered. But I had not learned my lesson—hence my foolhardiness and imprudence over 10 days in Tel Aviv some time later and this story. My misery eventually came to an end and I returned to the really important issues of the day, like pondering which corrupt and potentially corrupt politicians should run the country as part of a stable government.
Since this incident that I have just recounted, I have ceased to listen to sales pitches over the phone and make a request for them to send it to me in writing, something the cold callers usually seem reluctant to do. So there is a moral to this whole sad story:
When a HOT Virgin calls you out of the blue and attempts to sell you her wares, making you an offer you can’t refuse, keep your cool, old man, and think long before you respond with a YES.
And yes, there are some photographs as well.
People sometimes ask me what I see on my [almost] daily early morning walks through the Yarqon Park and streets of North Tel Aviv. What can be so interesting? And I always respond that there’s always something new or something I hadn’t actually noticed before.
It’s not just the birds …
… or the flowers …
… that attract the eye.
It’s also people and their activities.
And then there are the still lifes you come across, like this set of cutlery all ready to provide breakfast for someone …
… and which can be turned into something even more dynamic in black and white!
And then, of course, there are the really dynamic scenes, as captured in the sequence of four images below …
… and then yet again, from a different angle …
And there was still time to go there Alexander Calder exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Arts, an artist whose mobile and wire moving sculptures that so fascinated me at the Tate Modern in London over five years ago.
I know, I know. I used this photograph in a different context in the last piece I posted a couple of weeks ago but as we’ve just lived through such an absolute bollocks of a fortnight, I thought it might be appropriate to use it again.
I don’t claim to have any particular insights into the goings on as, like almost everyone else, all my information comes from what I read, hear and see (and I really tried to read, hear and see as little as possible but unless one unplugs the radio and TV and refuses to read what turns up on the computer or in the mailbox, it’s impossible to avoid it. Nevertheless, at the same time one needs to know what is happening, especially when one is forced to sit in a stairwell or an interior corridor in the flat (I live in an older building with no custom-made bomb shelter). In other words, put plainly, I’m as ignorant as almost everybody else except those who are privileged to access real data and intelligence and my ignorance is, of course, like almost everyone else’s based on what radio stations, TV channels and newspapers one chooses to listen to, view and read.
The way I see things however is that each side in this round of the conflict ended up as both winners and losers. Hamas stage-managed the show by succeeding in its effort to link contentious events in Jerusalem to the Palestinian situation in Gaza, thereby outflanking the PLO and making gains at their expense in Jerusalem and the West Bank. So in that sense, the conflict we lived through was part of an intra-Palestinian contest. Dictatorial Hamas .v. less dictatorial and more corrupt PLO. In response to Hamas’ stage management, the Israeli security agencies just about mismanaged everything they could possibly mismanage and things got botched completely out of hand. Politicians on both sides more or less vanished during the 11 days. The Palestinian ones were understandably concerned about their own safety and emerged when the bombing stopped to issue further threats about this only being a preliminary and that they are willing to sacrifice 10,000 martyrs to the cause (typically Hamas). The Israeli pols —— well, the less said, the better but they are now back on track trying to decide whether they can cobble together some sort of government or send us to the polls once more for the fifth time in two and a half years.
Over 4,000 rockets of various sizes and ranges were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, almost all of them in the direction of civilian targets, some them landing in Gaza itself——but that’s not really a concern for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, their colleagues in tis form of violent religious-nationalism. Given the extent of physical destruction in Gaza, it seems to me that the number of casualties (and I hate to say this because I won’t be forgiven by some) was relatively low. In a way, as a sovereign state, Israel did what it had to do and that is to defend its citizens by whatever means necessary and if that meant by using the Air Force to carry out “precision bombing”, then so be it, although that, it would appear, has been branded as a war crime by those who wish to see it that way whereas sending rockets towards civilian targets apparently is not. (All the arguments about a non-proportional response ring false, as they always have with me, and I’m still waiting for an explanation of what exactly a proportional response should consist of.
The “events” also led to the worst outbreak of thuggery I’ve observed in the friable and fragile society that is Israel, something that is even more worrying than the rockets. What I found almost impossible to comprehend is the feeble response from Israeli government ministers. In fact, the Minister for Internal Security, an appointee of the Prime Minister, publicly reprimanded the Police Commissioner just for referring to “Jewish terrorists”, when, in fact that was what they are. Some of us, at least, were reminded that an Israeli Prime Minister was assassinated by one of them two and a half decades ago. (The thugs on the Arab side are a perfect match for their Jewish counterparts, by the way). What bothers me more than anything and where there really is a disproportion, is that insufficient Israeli hoodlums have been arrested and charged for their thuggery. Politics again, I suppose. And as usual, in a time when there’s an escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, there is a very slippery and bumpy sliding slope from criticism of Israel’s actions to virulent antisemitism as has happened in places like New York, London, Berlin and elsewhere throughout the world. This time around, it seems to be more acute and a higher level than previously. Another cause of worry.
From what I saw and read, I understand that the misery of the population of Gaza is a joint effort on the parts of Hamas, Israel and Egypt. Some people [conveniently] tend to forget that there are two points of ingress and egress to the Gaza Strip, the one leading to Israel and the other to Egypt. In between, there are approximately 2,000,000 people crammed into 365 square kms, held hostage by an organization that brooks no dissent. (And just in case you think that that number of people on that area of land constitutes overcrowding, it’s proportional to Hong Kong or Singapore, places which have found different solutions to living and prospering at high densities.). As to Hamas, it’s worth reading the Hamas Manifesto (entitled the “Charter of Allah”) which one has to take a face value because it’s never been disowned, repealed or rescinded and which I attach for bedtime reading (and it really is worth reading, especially if you’re keen to wake up to nightmares). In addition, if you do bother to read it, the slide from anti-Israelism to antisemitism is very smooth indeed. In the words of Professor Colin Shindler, writing in this week’s issue of Plus61J, an Australian Jewish online publication, “The global far Left, in the glory of its superficiality and its passion for selective outrage, stage rallies which colour reactionary clerics as well-intentioned progressives. What matters to them is resistance — and not that Hamas is dictatorial, homophobic, occasionally antisemitic, often anti-Christian and prone to throwing their Fatah opponents off the rooftops of Gaza.” Moreover, Hamas says that it’s not really in favour of “peaceful” attempts to solve the conflict. “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.”, and you can read more of that if you wish on page 6 of the link directly below.
Last week, among the many things to appear about the last round of fighting was a particularly obscene piece by John Oliver, who is described on Wikipedia as “a British-American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host”. (His official website says not an iota about things like that.) At any rate, his one-sided diatribe showed nothing that could be interpreted as coming from a comedian or even a political commentator.) I felt sickened by his display and probably would have written about it somehow but one of the people who did respond to it was an Israeli “comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host”, Lior Schleien. Mr. Schleien just happens to be the life-partner of Merav Michaeli, who is the current leader of the Israel Labour Party, but that is purely coincidental. His enlightening and somewhat cynical commentaries are usually presented in Hebrew but as a favour to those who are perhaps not fluent in that language, he presented riposte to Oliver in a language many more can understand. Again, in my humble opinion, it’s worth watching for its full nine and a half minutes.
And then at the end of last week, I received a video sent out from the institution I used to work in, the University of Haifa. Three decades ago, I was the Director of the University’s Jewish-Arab Center so I’m familiar with the way the institution works—Arabs and Jews work together without thinking too much about it, as they also do in hospitals, clinics, government offices and other such places throughout the country, such things as cooperation generally going unreported abroad, where the emphasis is on conflict rather than collaboration, conflict being more TV-friendly.
The video clip below was sent out to faculty members at the end of last week, initially with Hebrew and Arabic subtitles where appropriate. I wrote to the President’s office and complained that there were no subtitles in English and to my surprise, that complaint was taken care of two days later (and I like to think that it probably would have been anyway rather than being a response to my remonstration).
I still found the time and the will to get out in the mornings to photograph.
The other day, I went out to the park and as is my wont, I turned left towards the sea. I usually walk along the south bank of the Yarqon, the stream that passes for a river in Tel Aviv but that particular day, I decided that I’d cross over and walk along the north bank, so towards the steps to bridge I went. However, when I got there, I found that coming down the steps at a healthy pace in the opposite direction was a serious jogger. Not only was she coming down, but she motioned to me not to come up until she had retraced her steps and it was then, as I followed her ups the steps that I noticed the tattoos, which from my observation angle looked likes works of art.
But why produce art on the body? I’ve never been able to understand tattoos for I suppose that when I was was growing up (if I have ever indeed done so, something some might deny), the people with such “body art”, the only people with semi-artistically punctured skin, were merchant sailors and criminals—— at any rate, people regarded in some way as being unsavory. Purely coincidentally, the previous evening I had been reading Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On, selections from his diaries between 2005 and 2015, escapist reading is ever there was such. And there I read: “I find tattoos hard to understand, even to forgive. Afflicted quite early in life with varicose veins I’ve always been self-conscious of the greyish blue of the veins and found it a disfigurement and a stigma even, the blue of the veins the same blue as that of a tattoo. That anyone would voluntarily do to themselves what nature had done to me I find incomprehensible. Beckham, for instance, had a nice body until he had it so extensively engraved.” I came home and re-read it and smiled as I looked again at the picture I’d taken.
Alan Bennett lives in Primrose Hill, one of my favourite places in the part of London I like and sort of know, and after the tattoo statement I read on a couple of pages and came across: “And then, I pass the house in Fitzroy Road with the blue plaque saying that Yeats lived there but with no plaque saying that Sylvia Plath also died there. I look down into the basement where Plath put her head in the gas oven. And there is a gas oven still, only it’s not the Belling or the Cannon it would have been in 1963 but now part of a free-standing unit in limed oak. It was this house where Eric Korn heard someone reading out the plaque as being to ‘William Butler Yeast’. ‘Presumably,’ Eric wanted to say, ‘him responsible for the Easter Rising.’ ”
And then I remembered that I’d photographed that , too!
And a couple of pages further on in Alan Bennett’s diary, I came across the seemingly insightful “Meanwhile every politician who speaks begins by making a ritual affirmation that their party’s first priority is firm and stable government and the sooner that is achieved the better. Whereas it’s all too plain that so far as stable government is concerned the politicians are largely superfluous and that the civil service can carry on with the firm and stable government just as they usually do – temporarily relieved of the interference from their ministers.” Listening to Dominic Cumming’s (of Boris Johnson and “comings-and-goings-in-lockdown notoriety), and a man with several large chips on each shoulder as well as some large axes to grind marathon testimony yesterday, were it all so simple! (Mr. Cummings, I reckon, is slightly more credible than Alexander Lukashenko, on whose orders a Ryanair plane was hijacked last week so that he could torture and imprison someone who had the impertinence to call him a cheat and a liar, but that’s not saying very much!)
Surprise, surprise, surprise!
Walking the streets of Tel Aviv last week, it seemed as if they were lined with mauve as was everything underneath the trees …
… though how it got as far as Tel Aviv Port is a bit beyond my understanding.
And then as I exited the fishmonger’s last Friday, I came across this [apparently] homeless individual calmly sleeping on the pavement at 9.30 in the morning. I thought that if the rather sophisticated electric bicycle beside him, on the right of the photo, belonged this sedate slumberer there was something strange about him. So I enquired of the fishmonger if he was to be found there every day and got a positive response. And then there was an addendum. Every day, it seems, they move him further down the footpath as he was impedes the comings and goings of the clientele, but he always seems to come back. This was followed by a comment that he probably has sufficient funds at his disposal to purchase a Boeing jet, which suggested that the fishmonger had some prior knowledge of state of the sleeper’s mind!
A couple of years ago, when new street signs went up in Tel Aviv, I noticed that the name of the British author of the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, Israel Zangwill, had been misspelled and moreover, poor Zangwill had been demoted from a “street” to just a “lane”.
However, last week, I was pleased to observe that he’d been restored to his true and former glories, so that I can now end this post on a positive note.
It appears that I haven’t posted anything for four weeks, mainly because I didn’t think there was anything worthwhile to write about on this blog and, anyway, I wasn’t I the mood. That’s the longest period of inactivity on this blog since I started writing in December 2015. And then yesterday, I had an email from a friend who has been reading this stuff for five years and usually turns up with an apt comment—or several apt comments—four or five days after I post. He wrote: “[Neither] pics nor rants reached me lately. Are you ok?” I am OK, more or less, except when I have the bad luck to listen to the news and I really try hard not to listen, watch or read not because I want to remain ignorant of what is happening (the opposite is true as it happens). I listen to five minutes of news on the radio at 6 in the morning and sometimes just the headlines at on TV around 8 p.m. and that’s it for the rest is so soul-destroying. For some peculiar reason, probably the result of a tendency to self-harm, I glance through the pages of The Guardian and Haaretz, two newspapers that appear compete with one another with great delight in reporting the ills of the world, including criticism of the Israeli government (the latter being a competition won hands down by Haaretz, if only because most of its news deals with Israel).
However, there have been sufficient “stories”, magnified by what always sounds like a panic-stricken broadcast media determined to turn listeners and viewers into a panic-stricken public, to make me want to rant again. The fact is that when I found myself shouting at the TV and radio at the mention of certain individuals and their untruths, I began to worry myself and I took myself off for a session with a therapist I know to talk things over.
So where to start? Well, sitting in a taxi a couple of weeks ago en route to an appointment with a physiotherapist in town, the driver’s radio (one of the things one has to get used to in Israel is that on a bus or in a taxi, as often as not a radio is relaying either a news broadcast or a chat show on which all sorts of disturbed people express their views on a variety of topics, usually egged on by the interviewer to produce weirder and weirder views) reported the attempted suicide of one, Yehuda Meshi Zahav, the co-founder and chairman of the ZAKA emergency service. Meshi Zahav had been taken to hospital in Jerusalem in critical condition following his attempted suicide, apparently by hanging, leaving a note in which he asked that his good deeds be remembered. He had resigned from the ZAKA organization in March of this year immediately after several allegations of sexual assault had been levelled against him and as a result he announced that he would not accept the prestigious Israel Prize for his charitable works, an award which he was to have received on Israel’s Independence Day.
It was reported that he had left a suicide note in which he wrote: “I am sorry. I have already received my punishment, and please make an effort to remember me for the good things I have done. I have always loved and I feel very much ashamed.” I presume that Mr. Meshi Zahav is still alive as it hasn’t been reported otherwise and although one shouldn’t prejudge, the very facts that he resigned from the organization he had founded, declined a prestigious award and then tried suicide, says as much as I want to know. Members of ZAKA, most of them strictly Orthodox Jews, assist ambulance crews, aid in the identification of terrorism victims, and other disasters and, where necessary, gather body parts for proper Jewish burial. They also provide help with the search for missing persons and participate in international rescue and recovery operations. What was particularly galling in this episode, beyond the alleged misdeeds themselves, is that it appears that many people knew what was going on, including the police, but nothing happened.
At one stage, I was reminded of the misdeeds of one Jimmy Savile, an English television and radio personality who raised an estimated £40 million for charities and, during his lifetime, was widely praised for his personal qualities and as a fund-raiser. However, after his death, hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse were made against him, leading police to conclude that he had been a predatory sex offender and although there had been allegations during his lifetime, they were dismissed and his accusers ignored or disbelieved, Savile taking legal action against some of them. Almost a year after his death, an ITV documentary examined claims of sexual abuse by Savile, leading to media coverage and a rapidly growing body of witness statements and sexual abuse claims. Scotland Yard investigated allegations of child sex abuse by Savile spanning over 60 years and the investigation concluded that he had sexually assaulted men, women and children aged between 5 and 75 over several decades. Again, people knew and nothing happened, an interesting parallel to what occurred here in Israel.
Israel’s politicians seemed to have disappeared from the scene for a few days but then a fortnight ago, they returned to the to the front line again with the [apparently illegal] appointment of a Minister for Justice. The [seemingly permanently interim] Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, was having some difficulty forming a coalition but nevertheless, having been warned by the Attorney-General and by the President of the Supreme Court, not to involve himself in judicial appointments, that is exactly what he did, by appointing one of his acolytes/sidekicks/attack dogs, Mr. Ofir Akunis, (a man I see occasionally walking in the park and prone to taking selfies while doing so) to the job after the mandate of the Acting Minister of Justice, Mr. Gantz, (the co-called “Alternate Prime Minister”) came to an end. (It should be remembered that Mr. Netanyahu is not a Prime Minister under investigation nor is he one who has been indicted for a criminal offence but one who is currently on trial in the first of three scheduled trials in which it has been determined that criminal acts have been committed. In a normal country, he might have taken leave of absence while under investigation and possibly would have when indicted. But Israel, it seems, is not a normal country and there he is, three days a week on trial and eight days a week trying to form a government with a parliamentary majority so that he can legislate the termination of this current trial and prevent the others from starting. If that isn’t, in gross and crass understatement, an embarassment to the State of Israel, I don’t know what is. At the same time, in just an ordinary gross euphemism, it’s scandalous. But nothing seemed to worry Bibi — until the following day — when Mr. Akunis’ appointment was withdrawn.
However, the crème de la crème of scandals and tragedies occurred last Friday on Mount Meiron in the Galilee. Mount Meiron houses the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and in the words of a former colleague from Haifa, Professor Noga Collins-Kreiner, “is one of the most important graves in Israel…located on the slopes of Mt. Meron. The Ministry of Religions estimates that 2,000,000 visits are paid to the site every year. Shimon Bar Yochai was a rabbi who lived in an era of the Tannaim (Mishnah scholars during the Roman period), after the destruction of the Second Temple… he is traditionally attributed with the authorship of the Zohar the main work of the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.”——something that hardly appeals to me very much.
Last Friday was the holiday of Lag b’Omer, a “free day” during the Omer, the period between Passover and Pentecost (Pesach and Shavuoth) and is the day of the year on which pilgrims, mostly religious and Haredi (strictly Orthodox), congregate to celebrate a hillula, a sort of ecstatic revelry at the shrine of the esteemed Rabbi Shimon. Watching the TV news on Thursday night (something I rarely do but I wanted to find out what was happening in the coalition negotiations), I was treated to interviews with two participants who had arrived early for the merrymaking, both stating that they had come to celebrate and that nobody could stop them from doing so, especially as last year’s outing was severely restricted because of Corona. As I listened, and as it had been reported that the police had said they could control a crowd of up to 10,000 but reports were coming in of an expected 100-150,000, I started to think that this was a disaster just waiting to happen. And when I turned on the radio at 6 the following morning, the disaster had happened with 45 people dead from the crush and another 150 injured and hospitalized.
It happened but will we ever know who is responsible? The Prime Minister turned up 12 hours after the event to declare a national day of mourning on Sunday and that flags would be lowered to half-mast, not exactly what I might have expected from a leader. So, reluctantly, I had to conclude that he’s not really a leader because I might have thought he would announce the establishment of National Commission of Inquiry. But then, I am naïve. A National Commission of Inquiry is unlikely to come into being because it would have to be headed by a Supreme Court judge and Bibi is not very keen on that species. And anyway, heaven has apparently decided that he can only be associated with success stories such as vaccinations and not with disasters (Mount Meron). The Minister for Internal Security had announced publicly before the tragedy that anyone who wanted to turn up at Meron on Lag b’Omer was welcome and obviously, lots of people listened to the young minister and diligently obeyed his words of wisdom. After the event, he stated that the responsibility—but not the guilt—was his, whatever that is supposed to mean. The Minister for Religious Services, himself a convicted criminal, seems to have vanished entirely from the scene. And meanwhile, 45 people are dead for no reason other than irresponsibility or negligence and perhaps even worse and it will likely be swept under the carpet, not to be mentioned again.
How far Israel has come from November 1976, when a journalist gave the police information on various matters raising suspicions of offences committed by Avraham Ofer, then the Minister of Housing, including allegations of embezzlement in favour of the party of which he was a member. On examining the charges, the police concluded that they were unsubstantiated. Ofer expected an official statement clearing him but the then Attorney General, Aharon Barak, later to become President of the Supreme Court, decided to continue with the investigation based on a new testimony and by January the Prime Minister and Justice Minister assured Ofer that everything possible would be done to expedite the inquiry. However, on January 3, his body was found in his car on a Tel Aviv beach with a suicide note, stating that he was innocent, but did not have the strength “to bear any more.”
Aah, those were the days! And it’s so much easier to wonder who financed the refurbishment of the flat in 10 Downing Street!
Meanwhile, President Rivlin chose not to extend Netanyahu’s mandate to form a coalition, tasking Yair Lapid with the job. In partnership with Naftali Bennett, Mr.Lapid will try to come to some arrangement to form a stable government, rather like trying to build a house on quicksand, but their task will be no easier than Bibi’s. Whatever is going on in the Knesset is going on solely among the politicians; Israel’s voters have been truly and absolutely forgotten, if they were ever remembered at all as soon as the last election took place. The only thing that a majority seems to be keen on is that we don’t need a fifth election in this series, although Netanyahu might like one, but it’s 50-50 that that’s what we’ll get—not that it would solve anything. Meanwhile the politicians are continuing to pull the rugs from under one another and competing to see who can spit a more poisonous venom further than anyone else. And if Bibi ever returns to the picture by one method or another, I shouldn’t think that any of his sidekicks will be feeling any job security as he has always treated his ministers as some mothers treat disposable diapers — use them to clear up the mess and then get rid of them a.s.a.p.
That said, any more relating to politics is definitely out in this post so I think I’ll let some photos speak for themselves. I’m still going through the first round of my photo collection and have managed to reduce over 44,000 photos by almost a third, and that is hardly sufficient. Working through them chronologically, I have now arrived at June 2020, so when I eventually get around to reviewing May 2021, within the next couple of days, I start over again before matching up images that I’ve taken many times from different angles and in different light conditions and choosing just two or three of the better ones and either junking the rest or sending them off to a “neutral resting ground” where they won’t interfere with the better pics.
It’s actually an interesting exercise because I come across all sorts of things that I hadn’t really noticed before. For example, on my early morning walks through the local park, Tel Aviv Port and the streets in the north of the city, there were people whose paths I crossed almost on a daily basis, sometimes when an opportunity arose, photographing them. Im am constantly amazed by things I pass daily and which never seemed to have been there before. Going through 14 years of photos, I noticed that in about half a dozen cases, there were people I had photographed often and who suddenly vanish, never to be seen again. Id they were younger people, I might have assumed that they had moved away. However, with the older ones, I fear they may have moved away to a more peaceful place and I find that somewhat disconcerting, to say the least.
I also noticed that I have a propensity to take pictures of certain things. Photographing people while in a bus or a train is something I enjoy doing; I find that looking at people when they are travelling is fascinating. Mostly, it’s a record of boredom but sometimes there are individuals people in conversation or doing something useful like reading a book or even a newspaper. On the London Underground in the morning, it’s not uncommon to find eyes being made up en route to work (that is, in pre-Corona days), a particularly difficult exercise to perform but one which, with much skill and adequate practice, some women appear to seem particularly adept.
I have lots of images of people with mobile phones. In fact, what we did before the invention of these social/antisocial weapons of mass destruction, I do not know. Then there are the street signs which appear all over the place. I don’t mean just the names of streets but things that appear in shop windows or outside on a placard and which convey messages, sometimes overt, other times covert. Looking at these photographs taken over the years cast into memory me a day about five or six years ago when my eldest granddaughter, Gali, who had just started to read, discovered that words are not just symbols hidden away in books but appear everywhere you go. This amazing discovery happened suddenly on a single day and she couldn’t wait to get back into the streets to find more grocery shops, butchers, bookshops, pharmacies and whatever, because most things out there are labelled
So, without further ado, let’s have a look.
Walking around London one day, I came across this sign, so I called Fred and applied for the job but was told that my background rendered me culturally unsuitable for the job, so I just shrugged it off and went back to photographing.
… and London is full of blue plaques telling who lived or slept or visited where, such as …
In Israel, one is often reminded of the dangers of living in a part of the world fraught with danger, as in this sign directing people to a public shelter.
And public morals must be maintained at all costs.
That was clear enough although there are some signs for which guesswork works overtime. The sign says that access to cars and motorbikes is prohibited and the upper part of the graphic seemingly refers to that. However, what on earth does the bottom graphic mean?
Whereas some signs leave one guessing, others leave their readers in no doubt as to what is intended.
This sign in Regents Park in London was there long before Coronavirus lockdowns.
I often think that this sign should appear not only on streets in Israeli cities but at the exit from the arrivals area at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
These two signs, one from Tel Aviv and the other from London complement one another say the same thing but the upper one, taken in the Israeli cultural context being a bit of a joke and the lower one, from London, definitely to be taken seriously.
And then there are the notices that relate to accessibility.
What happens if you’re bursting and don’t have a mobile phone?
And after you’ve climbed the three or four steps to read clearly what is written …
… you discover that you can’t get in anyway because the bell is disabled, too.
Some signs are fascinating. This one informs us that south is straight ahead whereas north is to the right, which is not what I learned in geography a long time ago.
And sometimes you have to look down rather than straight ahead to upwards to see the relative signs. However, although this is designed to lure unsuspecting tourists, somebody might be disappointed because having worked themselves into a frenzy, the six characters in Hebrew say “Without sex”!
And these photos bring me to another bugbear, namely misspellings.
And although the honourable judge might have been an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he might have been a little put out to think that Tel Aviv Municipality might have considered that he had something to do with spirits.
And one is reminded always that Israeli is a multicultural country and the sign on the side of a Tel Aviv bus reminds us not that the Hebrew transliteration is all that accurate!
And there is always the chance that the multilingual sign in the Yarqon Park might save a life——if you could figure out how to operate the machine, that is!
And who says that the British always know how to spell correctly in English?
And I’ve always been fascinated by this reminder of Brexit in shop window in Tel Aviv.
Finally, to return to where I started — Bibi Netanyahu, for in his announcement yesterday, televised in real time, he warned Israelis that should Messrs. Lapid and Bennett succeed in forming a coalition, then Israel will be ruled by a dangerous left-wing government. Really?
And that’s it for now. Just remember to be serious some of the time. (To be continued, perhaps). Have a great weekend.
I’ve been quiet for over a couple of weeks and for all sorts of reasons.
Just before my last post, Israel had just voted itself into a situation that couldn’t really have been imagined a year ago and then, three days after the voters had created the democratic equivalent of hara-kiri, we were struck by that annual stoppage festival called Pesach or Passover when the effects of devouring unleavened bread (matzah) cannot be undone by even a copious consumption of stewed fruit and other foodstuffs designed to soften the blow.
One week of agony and another to recover from the attack. Perhaps an operation to excise the stuff might be appropriate?
However, not all came to a standstill during Passover week, and “informal discussions” took place among politicians and political parties as to which might be able to form a stable governing coalition with which. However, although the commentators on the TV channels, radio stations and newspapers, not to mention “social media”, expended much time and energy on speculating on what might happen, I was reminded me of an article many years ago written by Matthew Parris, a British writer for conservative outlets, who made me fully aware about the need to be skeptical about what appears in daily newspapers when he explained that when a journalist is contracted to write 800 words or so once, twice or thrice a week but has nothing worthwhile to write, s/he must nevertheless fulfil their contractual duties. And so it had been proven time and again over the past three weeks.
Finally, last Monday, Israel’s State President, Reuven Rivlin, spent the day “consulting” with representatives of the 13 political parties elected the Knesset as to whom they would recommend that he select as the first victim in the attempt to cobble together a coalition and, as nobody had received a majority of recommendations, he had little choice but to let the current and continuing interim Prime Minister to have a go. (This, of course, is a joke—you’re all meant to smile silently while reading this).
Politicians rushing to the President’s residence to recommend selection of Prime Minister
The irony of all this was that just as Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud representatives were entering the President’s Residence in Jerusalem to put forward his fitness to serve as Prime Minister once again, the Prime Minister himself was exiting the Jerusalem District Court which he had been obliged to attend in person for half an hour before the first witness for the prosecution began to present his evidence in this, the first of Bibi’s trials for corruption, abuse of power and all the rest.
On emerging, Mr. Netanyahu launched into a tirade in which he accused the state prosecutors of “hypocrisy” and of leading a “witch hunt” against him, averring that the police investigation and the prosecution constituted an effort by the country’s law enforcement officers to “trample democracy” in Israel and subvert the will of the electorate! Up until then, I had thought, naïvely it seems, that in a democracy it was the job of the police to investigate and of the prosecution service to prosecute (but not to persecute, as I had originally written in a typo). Perhaps I’ve been misled over the past seven decades? (This outburst was interesting, as in his first post-election statement a few days earlier, he had said that will of the electorate was clearly shown to have a right-wing government. Although this was a disappointment to me personally (in severe understatement), he neglected to mention that the results of the election did, indeed, show a desire to have a right-wing government but they also showed that a significant number of so-called right-wing voters had expressed a clear preference for someone else to lead that right-wing government!). He accused the prosecution team of acting illegally and senior Justice Ministry and police officials retaliated by saying that Netanyahu’s claims were false, they in turn accusing him of seeking to intimidate the court. Moreover, they also stated that security precautions for protecting the lead prosecutor, who he had specifically targeted in his paroxysm, needed to be reviewed.
Netanyahu, for his part, denies any wrongdoing and claims—without any evidence—that the charges were fabricated simply in order to remove him from power. In other words, the police and prosecution were attempting to stage a coup against the legally elected leader. (He actually said this.) “The entire process against me was marked by the heavy-handed abuse of the powers of… the prosecution,” he said, “the investigations against the prime minister of Israel [were opened] illegally… in breach of a Basic Law.” “It’s a witch hunt. They didn’t investigate a crime, they didn’t look for a crime; they hunted for a man, they hunted me.”
Strong words, indeed, all of which makes a mockery of the words proclaimed at the end of each stage of the ceremony on the eve of Independence Day, which falls this coming week, when chosen individuals light a candle and state, “לתפארת מדינת ישראל” (which translates as “To the glory of the State of Israel”). It has just struck me that should Mr. Netanyahu choose to resign and perhaps retire to the UK (mind you, it can’t be early retirement because he’ll be 72 in October), he could, without much effort, compete with the largest of the UK’s fish and chip chains, given the heavy weight of the many chips he carries on each shoulder!
Later the same day, Mr. Netanyahu delivered yet another speech, at the opening ceremony of Holocaust Memorial Day. In this oration, he referred to the possibility of renewing the international talks about an agreement with Iran on the issue of restricting its nuclear development. In that speech, he said that “history has taught us that agreements such as these, with extremist regimes, are worth about as much as the skin on a piece of garlic.” This particular item was reported on the news the following morning at 6 a.m. (why I listen to five minutes of news at that ungodly hour is beyond me), and I thought that there must also be some Israeli politicians silently smiling or loudly guffawing with me and coming to the same conclusion about any agreement they might have signed in the past or might sign in the future with the same Mr. Netanyahu! Oh how I envy the Brits at times to have a real royal family they can take pride in or grieve over or whatever, rather than the ersatz variety that we have here.
At this stage, with the premiership on my mind, I might just add that I’ve spent several days over the past week “bingeing” in front of the television, something I’ve never done before. The object of my curiosity and enjoyment has been the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister programmes on BBC television from between 35 and over 40 years ago, a series starring the late Paul Eddington as the bumbling minister/Prime Minister, Jim Hacker, (played by the late Paul Eddington) and his senior civil servant, Sir Humphrey Appleby, a master of obfuscation and manipulation (played by the late Nigel Hawthorne). I remember watching the programmes a long time ago and thinking that they very humorous and very clever, but this time around, older and more cynical and more disillusioned, I am enjoying the brilliance of the dialogue — written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn (who is incidentally, a nephew of Israel’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abba Eban, and first cousin of the neurologist and writer, Oliver Sacks).
Reaching Episode 5 of the first series of Yes Prime Minister, there was a conversation between Jim Hacker and his Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley (played by the late Derek Fowlds), and which was recorded (compliments of Jonathan Lynn) in Hacker’s diary:
Annie [Hacker’s wife] thought — still thinks, for all I know — that the Prime Minister is completely in charge. It’s a fallacy. A leader can only lead by consent.
“So who is in charge, if you’re not?” asked Annie, rather perplexed.
I was perplexed by her question. There didn’t seem to be an answer. I thought for a bit. “Nobody really”, I said finally.
“Is that good?” She was even more perplexed.
“It must be”, I replied hopelessly. “Thats what democracy is all about.”
“Annie! I wasn’t in control when I was a Minister, was I?”
“No”, she said, “but I thought that was just you.”
Annie, like the press and the media, keeps harping on about control. But the point about government is that no one has control. Lots of people have the power to stop something happening — but almost nobody has the power to make anything happen. We have a system of government with the engine of a lawn-mower and the brakes of a Rolls-Royce.
Of course I’d never say any of this in public. The electorate would interpret this as defeatism. It’s not, though! Its the truth! And I am going to fight it.
Actually, what I’ve been doing for much of the past 10 days (not all that successfully, I might add) is going through the photographs I’ve taken over the past 14 years and attempting to thin them out before trying to organized them properly once and for all. There were 44,000 of them at the start and I’ve found that if it wasn’t such a difficult task in itself, there are so many memories incorporated within them that it makes the task even more onerous — but it’s a chore that has to be done. And while doing it, I’ve concluded that although I’m not a professional (had I been, I’d probably have spent most of my time at weddings and barmitzvahs and such like), I’ve taken some good (and interesting) photos, many of which I’d forgotten about entirely! So here’s a very short selection (some of which have appeared before), replete with comments and more, undoubtedly, will follow.
I enjoy taking photographs when travelling on the London Underground. People are generally so busy reading or looking at their phones or applying their makeup that they don’t have the time or the interest to notice an old guy on the opposite side of the aisle with a camera. So, a few years ago, one day, I noticed what was happening opposite me. There were two young teenagers busy with their phones — at least one of them was. The other one, to my right, looked at his for about 10 seconds and then his eyes would look rightward before returning to his phone’s screen. And then I looked to my left and and noticed what had attracted his attention — and she had noticed him and she knew exactly what she was doing.
When I take photographs, there’s something about symmetry that always seems to attract me.
It might be the windows in a building, like the Boots store on Oxford Street in London that stares back at you when you look at it and which changes from hour to hour and day to day with changing light conditions.
Things don’t always present themselves as clearly as the windows over a shop on Oxford Street. Yet, if you keep your eyes open you discover interesting things. Lawn Road is a street in Belsize Park in Northwest London that runs from Upper Park Road to Fleet Road. Part of the footpath along this street was laid with red bricks many years ago and walking along one day, I noticed that a single brick out of what must be several thousand, had been laid upside down, although whether accidentally or on purpose, I have no idea. Anyway, as Lunsford Brickyard ceased production as such well over 40 years ago, this gives some very rough estimate as to when the footpath was laid. And this is the sort fo thing that ex-geographers seem to spot.
Every now and then I take photographs of people — not portraits but photographs.
A few years ago, I shot a photograph of this individual, seated along a main street in Catania, in Sicily. It was shot as I was passing by; I don’t think I even stopped to take it.
Exactly half an hour or so later (so the times on the photos tell me), and walking in the opposite direction back to the hotel, he noticed me, beckoned me over, and this time posed for the camera.
And it seems that even over 50 years ago, I was taking photographs that there not quite the snapshots — the one below taken on honeymoon in Connemara in 1966.
And sometimes, I find myself attracted to a specific characteristic of an individual, in this case while walking along Haverstock Hill in Belsize Park, London, a pair of eyebrows beckoned me to record them.
Finally, one of my favourites, taken while coming off Hampstead Heath one morning. The original was shot in colour because the camera was set for colour. But I knew as soon as I looked in the viewfinder that it had to be in black and white; the colour photograph in a nothing whereas this picture asks a thousand unanswered (and unanswerable) questions.
The Dutch, who managed to elect 17 parties to their 150-seat parliament last week were hands down victors this virtual competition; Israel could only manage 13 parties in its 120-seat Knesset this week. Still, that was quite an achievement as several years ago, the quota for gaining representation in Israel’s parliament was raised to 3.25% of the total valid vote supposedly in order to prevent small parties from interfering with the smooth running of government. It seems as if those political machinations by some myopic politicians who thought they were being very farsighted haven’t really succeeded.
And as in a saying often attributed to Albert Einstein, but apparently misattributed because according to Google, someone traced the original back to a mystery novelist, Rita Mae Brown, who credited the quote to a fictional “Jane Fulton” in her 1983 book “Sudden Death“. Ms. Brown wrote: “Unfortunately, Susan didn’t remember what Jane Fulton once said. ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.’”
Whether it was Einstein or a fictional character in a mystery novel published by Bantam Books in 1983, Israeli voters (or about two-thirds of them) went to the polls for the fourth time in under two years with the sole purpose of providing the serving Prime Minister with the gift of a LXI majority, the 61 votes he needs to make it a retroactive law that a sitting Prime Minister cannot be put on trial.
Some went to the polls enthusiastically; others less so.
Israeli voters head to the polls again for the fourth time in under two years.
Prior to the election, the electorate was subjected to all sorts of promises and untruths by the candidates, speaking on behalf of their nebulous parties (Israel’s elected politicians never have to face the voters as responsible individuals) all of which boiled down to whether or not one wished to see the same man ru[i]n the country or give someone else (anyone else, it seems, irrespective of any clear plans they might have had) the opportunity to do something.
We were beckoned by the politicians over the past two months since the election campaign officially began (unofficially, it started immediately after the results of the third election were announced) to come forward and cast our vote for their party.
Vote for us and we’ll promise you the world!
Not every voter was convinced of the promises she or he was hearing and regarded them with different levels of curiosity and skepticism.
You REALLY want me to vote for YOU and your pals? Come on!
Say that again and this time, look me in the eye!
I’m serious! Explain to me in simple words the long spiel you’ve just delivered (or can you?)!
However, notwithstanding the untruths and all the rest of the nonsense, a majority of the voters carried out their civic duty and went to the polls and put a piece of paper with the party symbol into an envelope and thrust it into the ballot box to be counted. (Some others exercised the privilege that a democracy extends to them and elected not to vote. I frown on this reluctance but in retrospect, the breadth of the choices placed in front of us made the decision —— to vote or not to vote — a difficult one.)
The Israeli floating voter takes a bow and makes his presence felt
And I might add that once a decision had been made and one had chosen to vote, things didn’t get any easier.)
Secret votes are part and parcel of the democratic process, so let me get on with it and hump off!
Of course, the whole point of the election as well as aiming to provide stable government, is to produce an fairer society or at least one, the members of which, are able to live with one another.
And so we went to the polls…
Yes, that’s the way we are!
… and performed our civic duty and after the process of opening envelopes and tallying their contents, we were officially informed of the unenviable political impasse that we had cast ourselves into.
Some people were so shocked that it made their hair stand on end.
Others made light of it.
It’s just a bad joke — nothing to get upset about!
Yet others were saddened by the whole thing and had sleepless nights over it
I feel like crying all day and all night long
As for stable government, it’s not going to happen.
Stable government? It would be so boring!
And that’s because immediately the results were announced, the illusion of stable government frittered away and we were left with what has become par for the course in Israeli politics — horse-trading, replete with blinkers.