To be or not to Bibi

Reading Power Station, Tel Aviv

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.
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Animal Farm

The Netherlands 17, Israel 13

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.

Peaceful coexistence

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.

In the sort of horse-trading (or dog-trading, it seems) that goes on after an Israeli election, the rule of the game is:

 

And then the search for suitable coalition partners begins in earnest.

It think that we might be able to work well together!

 

The less said, the better!

But keeping control of the beasties that make up Israeli politics and what makes it so exciting is that some of them stick together and are unwilling under any circumstances to attach themselves to other parties.

We have promised to stick together — you can’t separate us!

Others sit on the fence and wait to be approached by one party leader or another.

 

I’m waiting. Someone must want me with them.

Others wait patiently, expecting someone to recognize their usefulness.

Foreign Ministry? Finance? OK, I’ll settle for Natural Resources. Just give me a job.

There are those who walk around in festive dress and just know that nothing can happen without their being there.

My leader says that you can’t do without me!

Others just want to hide away and have nothing to do with what’s going on.

Bottoms up!

 

And while the larger parties need smaller ones in their coalition and while they say without interruption that they will honour all their agreements and promises, what they’re really thinking about is something else entirely.

Do as we say or else this is what you can expect!

 

The long and the sort of it is that we have thrown ourselves into a stockpile of pig shit!

Pig and pigswill

And I hate to say it, but the problem might be soluble

HaYarqon Street, Tel Aviv. Election campaign 2013

And to those of you to whom it concerns, have a happy Pesach and be careful with the matzah.  And in case I don’t manage a post next week, to those of you who celebrate Easter, have a happy holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cellphones, coffee, cockroaches

I know, I know.  I promised that I wouldn’t write anything about the once-again-upcoming Israeli election until the final results are published and so I won’t.  Having said that, I was sent one of these things that circulate on WhatsApp and other such outlets that was so apt that it seemed a pity to miss out.  So without writing about the election, I will just post.  (Readers of Hebrew can plough straight ahead; I provide translation/explanation for others.). Though Mr. Netanyahu has been courting Arab voters of late, I shall reserve comment on that for another time perhaps.

The caption reads:  “Netanyahu arrived at a Bedouin settlement and asked the mukhtar (village chief): “What is the most pressing problem in the settlement?”.  The mukhtar replied: “We have two problems”, to which the Prime Minister responded “What’s the first one?” and the answer was: “We have a clinic but we don’t have a doctor.”  At this point, the PM borrowed the mukhtar’s cellphone and spoke aside for about 20 seconds, returned it to the mukhtar and said “It’s all sorted”.  “And what’s your second problem?” asked Netanyahu, to which the mukhtar replied: “We don’t have cellphone reception in this settlement.”  And that more or less sums up the situation!

Anyway, to move on from there.  Yesterday (Thursday, or at least I think it was), I sat in a café with a friend for the first time in what seemed like a very long time.

So when I got home, I decided that I would perform a reality check and yes, the last time I was in a restaurant or café was on Sunday March 8 2020.  Over a year ago.  I find it quite incredible but it did happen.

And looking back on the calendar from last March, what I read seemed somewhat familiar.  It read as follows:

March 2: Election Day (and that was only the third one, the previous two having been on April 9 2019 and September 17 2019)

March 3: Fly El Al to London at 09.05; then receive grocery delivery in London at 17.00 (grocery delivery was yesterday afternoon in Tel Aviv)

March 5: Meeting

March 7: Concert, Israeli Chamber Project (missed because I was in London); their next concert in tomorrow evening down the street.  I’m going!

March 8:  Lunch with friends and Dinner with a friend (the last visit to restaurant)

March 10:  Purim.  David Hockney exhibition. Afternoon tea with friends.  Dinner with more friends.

March 12: Fly back to Tel Aviv

March 13: Start a fortnight’s self-isolation

March 27: End quarantine

March 29: Start lockdown

Sound familiar?  And that was a year ago!

 

L. O. C. K D. O. W. N.

Meanwhile I’ve sort of settled into a routine.  Awake at 05.30.  Listen to the news at 06.00, which is thankfully a short bulletin that lasts at most 7 minutes but which provides me with much of the information I need to get through the day ahead and a lot more that I don’t need to hear at all.  This usually include the results of the latest election forecasts based on polls of small samples and which, in Israel, are usually inaccurate anyway, because I suspect that many of the people polled are not forthright with the answers they give.  I am also updated as to how many murders have been committed in Israel’s Arab sector (seems like two or three every night) which is just the kind of news one likes to hear on awakening), which public figure is suspected of sexual harassment or worse, and most importantly, whether to not I need to take a sweater or just a teeshirt when I go out for my morning walk.

As I’ve said, Israel is opening up again.  Shops and malls, cafés and restaurants are open again and full…

The clients haven’t arrived yet but they’ll come for sure. Tel Aviv Port, mid-March 2021.

… which makes a big change from just a couple of weeks ago.

There won’t be any clients today but they’ll come for sure some day soon. Tel Aviv Port, early March 2021

Yarqon Park provides its usual complement of early morning exercisers and their instructors.

I’ve been spotted — but there’s little she can do about from that position. Yarqon Park.

The park also provides us with any number of free riders that pass by the photographer and his camera.  All that is needed is awareness and alertness.

There’s also barefoot in the park but unfortunately, there’s no Jane Fonda or Robert Redford to go with the pair of feet that obviously will need a thorough scrubbing and cleaning when he gets home.

 

In addition to riders and runners, one also comes across others—  surfers in full battle dress, for instance, on their way back home from some fun in the sea.

I also keep an eye of this hydrant guy, who I photograph from time to time and whose giant Afro seems to have got out of hand recently.  Perhaps the stylist who attends to his coiffure hasn’t yet heard that lockdown is coming to an end and that he can go back to work!

But it’s not all fun and games.  Occasionally, a walk through the park makes you aware of history and historical geography and that things change over time!

And this blog wouldn’t be this blog without a couple of bird pictures.  This time round, I’ve chosen two images of Israel’s national bird, the hoopoe — or to use its Hebrew name — du-khi-phat.  It’s not a easy bird to photograph as it has a tendency to stay still only for a very short time before it prods around with its beak looking for goodness only  knows what.

However, having said that, occasionally one will choose to open up its distinctive “crown” of feathers and it’s always something worth seeing and catching an image of, if you can.

And back on the street after coffee yesterday, this WOLT delivery man isn’t wasting any time while waiting for the traffic lights to change en route to bringing his goodies to a hungry client possibly from some popular eatery or maybe a top-class restaurant.  Pandemic or no pandemic, somebody has done well out of the situation.

WOLT deliveryman (and others) in traffic at Dizengoff Circus, Tel Aviv

And as the weather was fine yesterday, some people took advantage of it, like this young man amidst the traffic and throng at Milano Square, just about 400m from the house …

    

And walking the streets, if you keep your eyes open, you come across all sorts of interesting things such as this neighborhood notice board of which there are hundreds around the city …

… or what seemed at first glance to be some large stick insect untilI looked a little closer and saw that it was something else entirely.

The more observant of you might have noticed that not all the pictures that I’ve posted today have been taken in the past 10 days.   However, as I mentioned in my last post, I will include some more older photos that appealed to me as I trawled through my collection, and add some comments as to how and why I bothered.

One morning a few years ago, while walking north along Ibn Gvirol Street, one of Tel Aviv’s busy north-south arteries, the traffic was stopped at the traffic lights at Arlozoroff Street.  Out of nowhere, from a little behind me, this guy came running out into the middle of the street and chose a car, one with a woman driver, to perform his precious act of bible reading.  The cars must have been stuck there for a good 90 seconds and I have no idea of what the driver thought of the scene that was being acted out on the hood of her car as she waited to pull away.  I can’t remember but I assume that the scene ended when the traffic started to move again but a picture is a picture!

And while one waits to cross a street at a junction, one never has any idea of what is about to appear.  I was waiting for the light to change to allow me to cross Pinkas Street in Tel Aviv at the junction with Ibn Gvirol.  Just before the light changed to allow me to cross, this is what I saw ride up.  As the camera was primed, I didn’t waste any time; there wasn’t even any to look in the monitor or the viewfinder; I just clicked and hoped for the best.  And as I crossed, the ride with helmet, mask, jacket and riding pants asked me “Did you just take my picture?” to which, as I moved on, I responded in the positive— and I’m glad I  did [take the picture]!

 

A few years ago, we drove down to Regent’s Park in London.  On the east side of the park, there is (or was) a sculpture garden and as my eye is always attracted to symmetry, I took several photos of this one.  What I liked about it was that the metal on the periphery of the side on which I stood is in sharp focus whereas what is on the other side of the tubing is—naturally—out of focus.

Inner Rings? Outer Rings? Regent’s Park, London

 

I took this photograph while she was sitting on a bench just off Yehuda HaMaccabi Street in Tel Aviv.  What attracted my attention at first was the sound of very loud wheezing and a rasping cough. When I eventually located where the noise was coming from, I pointed the camera and focussed.  Not what I would call a pretty picture but certainly an interesting one, one that cries out about the dangers of smoking to one’s health.  The cigarette has just been lit and the necessary equipment to light the next one is at hand, too.

A propos this picture, a fascinating read is the following:

Published in 2005, the book relates the invention of mass marketing which led to cigarettes being emblazoned in advertising and film, deeply tied to modern notions of glamour and sex appeal. No product has been so  deeply entrenched in American consciousness and none has received such sustained scientific scrutiny. It was the development of new medical knowledge that demonstrated the dire harms of smoking that ultimately shaped the evolution of evidence-based medicine with the tobacco industry engineering a campaign of scientific disinformation in order to delay, disrupt, and suppress these studies. Well worth the read!

The final picture is one that used to greet us when we returned home from a longish stay in London, especially in summer.  Dead cockroaches do not provide a particularly pretty or interesting picture, but I took this one at the bottom of the stairwell of the building not long after Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had met.  Looking at the original picture, I decided to embellish it and then looking at the enrichment I had given it, I came to the conclusion that instead of being a picture of two cockroaches, it represented the pair of presidents cracking up after they had managed to fool the world into thinking that perhaps they had discussed something serious when, after all, it was just a fun meeting between two serious people who happened to hit it off!

Good luck on Tuesday to those of us voting and let your conscience rather than tactics sway you !

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Birds, zebras and hydrants (among other things!)

I was reproached last week by an old friend who has recently–[fairly recently, I might add]—become a reader of this blog.  She told me that the anger that I feel inside of me is palpable in the words I write; in fact, it’s too strong.  I guess that she didn’t have to be over-preceptive to detect that, and as I no longer have a live-in toner-down of what I write, I do tend to go overboard sometimes.  And yes, I do get angry from time to time, mainly as a result of the actions and the inaction of politicians and the general way in which in a democracy, many of them are incapable of seeing past the next election.  Still, I think I prefer to be in that situation rather than to suffer what unfortunates in dictatorships have to live through.  Nevertheless, having written that, as I was walking home through the park this morning, as is their wont, my eyes fell upon a sign, which, for the non-Hebrew readers of this blog, reads: “Danger! Constructing a Dictatorship here!”

Notwithstanding aberrations such as thuis, as I wrote over five years ago when I began writing this blog, I’m basically a likable and essentially a happy individual (I hate to think of myself as a chap)—it’s just that as I grow older, unlike some fruit and other things, I appear not to mellow and I feel increasingly frustrated with many events that are happening around me and over which I have no influence whatsoever.

At any rate and come what may, I’ve decided to refrain from any further comments on Israel’s upcoming election and the people and parties contesting it——at least until after the coalition talks appear to be concluding and then, who knows what?  So what do I do meanwhile?  Well, I revert to the aims I set out with over five years ago, i.e., use the blog as an outlet for some of my photographs.  As  I wrote then, “… an SW photography blog — something where I could show and explain some of the many images I have taken over the past few years”.  And now, to my horror, I find that I have 44,000 to choose from, which, in itself, means that I’ve got a lot work to do thinning these out or else the new disk that was installed recently on my computer will be full before I know it!  So that being the case, I’ll use the next few weeks at least to mix some recent photographs (taken over the 10 days or so prior to each post) with some of my favourites from through the years, with short appropriate comments on why I took the photo and what there is to see in it.

So as the announcer on the BBC Light Programme used to say 70 years ago at a 1.45 p.m. for Listen With Mother, “If you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.”

It’s a Tuesday morning but two days ago, at breakfast, I looked out of the kitchen window and saw a small bird perched on the railings. There was nothing particularly unusual about that; birds often fly in and then fly out.  This one—I think it’s a wagtail—didn’t fly out and it’s been there for three days already!

Not being sure what to do to convince the birdie that I would prefer that s/he not hang around, I thought that it might be hungry so I took a Pringle’s potato crisp from the packet (I very occasionally indulge) and put it on the window ledge.  The little thing  pecked and pecked until it had bite-sized pieces to match, consumed them in front of my very eyes and then looked at me longingly as if to ask for more.

Later in the morning, when I came into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, s/he was still there and then as I sat at the table, I heard a “ratatattat”, which continued without any discernible rhythm and I looked up to see the nudnik (because that was it was rapidly becoming) pecking away at the window.   And when I went to look, I saw that not only was there a “ratatattat” but the little pieces of Pringle’s that s/he had pecked down to size, after which it had flown off for a few minutes to help its digestion, had flown back only to leave on the window ledge a generous deposit that perhaps had been Pringle’s so that in addition to the ratatattat, there was a generous helping of shittyshatshat!

By afternoon, the knocking was still going on.  Where this tiny being found the energy to peck away at the window is beyond me; there’s obviously no word for “glass” in Wagtailese.  In short, it was beginning to get the better of me.  And then I hit on the idea of closing down the kitchen blinds.  Alright — that meant that I would have to turn on the lights but maybe it might have stopped the little bugger from looking in.  And when I returned to the kitchen a little later and peeped through the blinds, there was nothing there and I regarded myself as triumphant.

No way!  Next morning, there s/he was again going through same act.  Not only that, but while flying off to take a break from looking in through the kitchen window, s/he returned with two friends and there were now three of them outside the window.  So I was left with no alternative but to close the blinds again and hope that the issue might have vanished.

It hadn’t, in that today (Tuesday) the third day, there she was again.  Note that I have applied a gender to the bird not because I know how to distinguish between the male and female of the species but because I was convinced that no male bird would have brought two buddies to stare in through the window at an aging male member of the human species.  (And if you think that the birdie is sweet just from looking at the photographs, I beg to differ!)

However, I decided to put the male/female issue to the test.   So after my shower this morning, having dried myself, I went into the kitchen wrapped only in a bath towel.  I waited until she looked at me face to face and then I dropped the towel briefly (ensuring in the process that I was visible only to Winny Wagtail and not to any of the neighbours).  And imagine my shock when this bird, which had hitherto just sat and shat, suddenly perked up and went into an ecstatic frenzy, wings fluttering at an incredible speed as she flew up and down in the small space between the bars and the window, feathers flying all over the place.  I’d never had much success with birds before and never such an effect on one—and I didn’t even have the camera to record this little incident.  Were I a Buddhist and a believer in reincarnation, where the soul of a person transmigrates to another body after death, I might have thought something else… but unfortunately, this is not the case.

And these weren’t the only bird pictures of note this week. (Somehow, in the general absence of people doing “interesting” or just mundane things, I seem to have a plethora of avian photographs.  Anyway, last week walking home after a morning walk to the sea and back, I came across three crows perched on a bar near the first playground I encounter on entering the park (which is, coincidentally, the last one on the way home.  Normally, three crows don’t interest me and in general, crows have little to commend them.  However, I noticed that one of them had a twig in its beak so I got the birds into focus.  Then, the two unencumbered ones flew off and the crow with the twig remained and, more importantly, remained in focus.

Knowing that these birds don’t generally remain still for long periods, I just waited with the object of my interest in focus until the decisive moment arrived, which is when I got the picture I wanted!

 

So much for the past week.  However, as I had promised some older favourite photos, I wondered when I took my first picture of a fire hydrant. It turns out that with the exception of one below, which I took on weekend trip to Pennsylvania with an older friend in the summer of 1978 and which I kept all the years because, kitschy though it is, I liked it …

… the first one I took in the “modern era” dates from February 2008.  Long since passed on to wherever ancient fire hydrants are disposed of, I find that I’m attracted to these things because I see faces in them.  This one at Tel Aviv Port, and this is what attracted me, just looked so old and sad that I had to record the picture and I photographed it several times as the rust caused its demise and destroyed any “life” that had been in it.  And once I had detected the “faces” that are part and parcel of the character of the fire hydrants, I was up and running and now have a “collection”about 1,500 of them.

Tel Aviv Port, February 2008

However, there is a problem in that I tend to see faces everywhere and in all sorts of places you don’t expect to see them!

Chocolate Yogurt top

 

 

 

 

I’m not what you think I might be!!!!!

 

Corporate Man, City of London

It’s not just fire hydrants that have attracted me.  Although most of the photos I took before I retired pretended to hav some sort of didactic logic to them, there were some that were just decent photos, was photos go.

Jerusalem. Pre-Six-Day War, 1966. High density living

Then, years ago I was fascinated by this road sign that appeared on Parkhill Road, in Belsize Park, in London.  What could it mean?

 

 

A visit to the zoo and little manipulation of the image solved the issue for me …

Humped-back zebra 

and eventually led to the image below,

Humped-back zebra crossing

And several of the photos found their way into the “book” that I wrote with grandchildren in mind.

Faces on the Street Draft 4 March 2018

Bottoms Up!!!

Regent’s Park, London

And by the way, in case anybody’s interested, the little birdie is still at the kitchen window — and it’s 16.30 on Tuesday afternoon!

 

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Lily Waterman, age 8, on a bright spring morning

I was going to begin this post with a deep philosophical issue but then I received a copy of the photo above the day before yesterday and thought it might be better to start with something positive before I move on to an issue that has been bugging me on and off these days before I return to the issue of springtime later on in this post.

The big question is this: Why do I appear to be more cynical as I age?  In order to try to answer this and enlighten you on what is for me a serious matter, I thought you might like to share in my frustrations of one day last week!  However, before I enter that saga, let me say that releasing my frustrations through being sardonic about things has a distinctly cathartic effect, which can be magnified by screaming and/or weeping.

So the story is thus. In early September 2020, before travelling to London, I filed Vivien’s will with the Ministry of Justice in Tel Aviv.  It had been written 11 years earlier and was a holographic will (one handwritten without witnesses) and was in English, with wording based on a formulation recommended to us at the time by our lawyer.

The Ministry of Justice granted probate on January 23 2021 and a copy of the will appears on my personal area on the Israel Government website. However, last week, I needed to renew the car’s vehicle licence prior to bringing it for its annual road test.  In the course of trying to accomplish this task online, something which is supposed to make life more efficient and less troublesome by absolving one from the requirement of going to to a bank or post office to make payment, I  discovered that this proved impossible. My ID number was unacceptable and Vivien’s ID number was no longer recognized (that’s efficiency!).  So it turned out that before I could renew the vehicle licence, I needed to transfer ownership of the vehicle and although the Ministry of Transport suggests that this can also be accomplished online, it also proved impossible, for same reason that I seemingly couldn’t renew the vehicle licence.  (Although I was listed as the second owner of the car, it had been registered in Vivien’s name so that over the past decad we could pay a reduced rate for the annual vehicle renewal because of her physical disabilities.

This being the case, I called the Ministry of Transport several times at the number that their website had provided and left my details. After two days of trying to reach a human being with brain and voice attached in order to hear what I was supposed to do next, I was called one evening by an employee of the Ministry and informed that someone would call me on February 23 at 11.05 [exactly] to arrange transfer of ownership.  “It’s a simple procedure”, the guy said, “it’ll only take a couple of minutes.” When I rang again last week to confirm, I was informed that I might have to wait up to three hours from the appointed time of 11.05.  And so it turned out.  Eventually, at 12.40 on the appointed day, I heard a woman’s voice on the phone and in the course of conversation after I had explained why I was calling, she asked me if there was a will.  I responded that there was and then she said “Oh, I  see it on the screen in front of me.” (as I could also for I was looking at my personal area on the http://www.gov.il website in front of me).  It all seemed so efficient — until the next utterance from the Ministry of Transport bureaucrat,

She said “But the will is written in English”, to which I responded “Probate was approved by the Ministry of Justice over a month ago and they didn’t see any problem!”  Her response?  “We (the Ministry of Transport) need the will to be translated into Hebrew because we don’t deal with documents written in a foreign language.”  [Hebrew is the only official language of the Jewish and democratic state in which I live].  Then she said: “I’ll do you a favour and grant you temporary ownership for this year so that you can renew the vehicle licence and the car can have its test.  After that, you’ll have to go to the Licensing Office in Holon (once it opens again physically!) with the translated will so that you won’t have this problem again next year.  I’m sending you the proof of transfer now in the post.” I asked her if she could perhaps send it to my email address as the post in this part of the world is irregular at best but her response was quite definitely negative.

However, by the following day, I managed to renew the vehicle licence (using Vivien’s defunct ID!) although there was nothing doing with on the transfer of ownership, which, apparently, will have to be done physically, whenever and if the licensing authority should reopen its office.

That took the best part of the morning and then the afternoon was taken up mainly (and unsuccessfully) trying to download an app to my iPhone.  Apparently, this particular app, the “Green Passport”, is something that I will need to show in order to prove that that I have been vaccinated. It seems as if the certificate from the Ministry of Health that I downloaded a few weeks ago is susceptible to forgery so an app, on which the images move, has been designed instead.  I tried repeatedly for over an hour but kept receiving a notice that no such app existed, at which point I surrendered to Google and discovered two things.

The first was that the two numbers which appear on the Ministry of Health website and to which one is directed if having difficulties downloading the app do not lead anywhere, least of all to a human who might (or might not) be able to assist.  The second thing I learned is that each country or region in the world has a different App Store and my iPhone used the UK one (as that is where I purchased my first iPhone several years ago) and I had not had a problem until this one arose, because the Ministry of Health had decided to make the app available only on the Israeli App Store but, I read, that if there was sufficient demand, they might consider making it more widely available.  I googled again to find out how to migrate my App Store to the Promised Land; I followed the instructions to the letter but up to this point, it all turns out to have been in vain.

Several days later, I discovered that hidden on the Ministry of Health website is a means of down loading what is called the Green Passport, which you then print out, which IO did.  So let’s wait and see what happens when I’m asked to produce it!

(Even the birds were screaming!)

 

However, not everything last week was as black as I have painted it here.  On Thursday mornings, for the past few weeks, I spend an hour and a bit on Zoom with my two London grandchildren. Normally, it’s English comprehension, grammar, punctuation and the like but last week I was asked if I  would spend some time talking to Tal (who will be 11 next month) about “something political”.

That something was a piece of work in which he was required to present the arguments for and against lowering the voting age to 16.  I was impressed by what he had prepared and by what he knew about voting and suffrage.  Towards the end of our half hour together, I decided to present a slightly different argument from what we’d been talking about just to see his reaction.  So I mentioned to Tal that if he was considering lowering the voting age to 16, perhaps he might also consider taking away voting rights from people who reach perhaps 80 or maybe 85.  “Why?”, he asked.  “Because most of them don’t work but take money from the state in the form of pensions, &c.”, said I.  “But they’ve got experience; they understand things “, he said, “something that lots of 16-year olds don’t have”.

“OK”, I said, “but lots of them are in care homes”.  His response to this comment was that people in care homes sit on armchairs around the TV sets and listen to the news and read newspapers, so can they follow events.  Sensible argument.  When I mentioned this exchange to my almost 86-year old cousin later that day, I was told that I should have mentioned to Tal that 15 minutes after hearing or reading the news, many of these these older folks will probably have forgotten that they did so anyway.

At any rate, when I compared what Tal understood with what I remembered on a similar topic 65 years ago, all I knew about politics was the headmaster at the primary school I  attended, Zion School, on Bloomfield Avenue in Dublin, Joseph Barron, was a city councillor and a member of a political party called Clann na Poblachta, a Republican Party led my Seán MacBride, the son of Maud Gonne, a woman with whom the poet W.B. Yeats was infatuated .  Mind you, when I was 10 or 11, I didn’t know any of this. Joe Barron stood unsuccessfully for election to the Dáil in 1948 for the Dublin South-Central constituency and unsuccessfully again in 1951, 1954 and 1957.  But he was persistent, if nothing else.  He was finally elected a member of parliament in 1961 and as the only member of his party and (Seán MacBride had lost his seat at that election), Joe became the party’s leader.  However, t his political career ended in 1965 when he lost again and three years later, he died.  End of story.

I’m writing this on Sunday morning as Israel emerges from [yet another] mini-lockdown, which marked the festival of Purim, which fell this year on Friday.  As a consequence, the government instituted a night curfew (from 20.30 until 05.00 the following morning) in order to prevent undue, unseemly and unwanted gatherings over the holiday (which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman the Agagite, an official in the Persian Empire, who was planning to kill all the Jews, as recounted in the Book of Esther until his plans were foiled by Mordechai (Morduk?) and his cousin Esther (Astarte?), who had been inveigled into becoming Queen of Persia. This day of deliverance (whether it’s true or not is hardly relevant) became a day of feasting and rejoicing.

In normal years, Jews celebrate Purim by exchanging gifts of food and drink, donating charity to the poor, eating a celebratory meal, reading of the Scroll of Esther” publicly (usually in synagogues).  It is also generally a fun day, marked by dressing up and having a little too much to drink.  This year was somewhat different (and it’s the second year things have been like this at Purim.  However, it didn’t turn out quite as the health authorities and the government planned, with the two great offenders being Chassidic sects, many of which insisted on carrying out their expansive public gathering indoors and at high density as is their wont and, not to be outdone, a vast number of teenagers and twenty-somethings congregating over the Purim holiday and generally having fun on the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere in even greater numbers than usual.  Jerusalem (as a walled city— or at least parts of it are) doesn’t celebrate Purim on the same day as the rest of the country but [usually] on the day following except that the day following Purim this year was a Shabbat and Shushan Purim, as it is known, was celebrated on Sunday, instead—all of which meant that police were kept busy trying to shut Jerusalem off from the rest of the country for all of Sunday for reasons that should be quite obvious to everyone by now.

So I return to my initial question—why am I becoming more cynical in my old age?

I’d better put up some photos before I go completely bats (I suppose I’m not supposed to write “bats” in these Corona times so “bonkers” will have to do.). (The images bear little in common with the text that has preceded them!)

Corona Time. Tel Aviv Port, February 24 2021

It’s time to bet back to walking around the city — but meanwhile, the park birds provide photo opportunities galore.

Gulls, too, form a multicultural society of their own! Yarqon Park. February 2021

 

The Night Heron is still hanging about waiting for a bite …. maybe. Yarqon Park, February 28 2021

 

And the mynah is quiet, too, for once.

Purim means parties and parties mean people and people mean discarded matter — lots of it …

 

 

… but the other side of Purim is fancy dress and Tel Aviv Port did its damnedest to get in on the act.

 

And as I stated at the outset, there’s spring in the air, to be experienced all over the park.  What a difference a week makes!

       

 

And spring time means more exercisers than have been seen in the past four months — and people take exercise in many different ways.

Every morning, come rain or shine, between 07.30 and 08.30

 

Happy families!

 

Carrying your pooch is exercise, too.

 

 

 

 

Finally, the image below is a photo that I took at the the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv four years ago.  I’d forgotten all about it until it turned up one day last week as a “memory” on Facebook.  I quite liked it after I took it and four years on, it looks even better.

 

And that’s it for now.  Many people in Israel are expecting the next lockdown to coincide with the Passover holiday in four weeks’ time.  Before that, we are due our fourth General Election in less than two years and I’m wondering whether the only people who will be permitted to vote will be those who can produce a Green Passport. I wouldn’t rule it out. The government is meeting today to discuss whether or not to permit the return to Israel of an estimated 25,000 Israeli citizens currently abroad and who have expressed a desire to exercise their democratic right to vote!  It really is time to enter the 21st century and to institute into the Israeli political system an absentee or postal ballot!  Just a thought.

Have a great day and an even greater week!

A Winter Wonderland

How do I begin this post?  With a rave or with a rant?  Perhaps I’ll leave a rant [if one develops while writing this] until the end, as today we might be seeing the very beginning of a return to something resembling normality, as museums galleries, gymnasia and concert halls open to the public again — or at least to those who have received a Covid vaccination.

The thought of things returning to normality was so outlandish that she couldn’t stand the pressure. (Corner of Stricker and Shlomtzion Streets, Tel Aviv)

So, I’ll start off with two stories.  Last week, I received a gift from an old friend.  It was a book, one that I had read several years ago. Nevertheless, but it’s one of those books that if you really want just to read short items and then smile after reading most of them, this is it.  The book is entitled: Am I alone in Thinking …? — Unpublished letters to The Daily Telegraph.  To the uninitiate, The Daily Telegraph, is a conservative British daily newspaper (a broadsheet, which means that it seeks to be regarded as a “serious” newspaper, as distinct from the tabloids, which are not).  Its readership comprises mostly Conservative older folk and its one saving grace is that it publishes generally “do-able” crosswords.  The book consists of letters to the editor, which the editor[s] decided not to publish, which is just as well.  In bed one evening last week, I read the first few pages and when I got to this communication from one, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume, I laughed out aloud, something that might have frightened the neighbours had they been listening.  The letter read as follows:  SIR — I find it intensely humiliating to be asked by airport security staff if I have packed my own bag.  This forces me to admit, usually within the earshot of others, that I no longer have a manservant to do the chore for me.  Gentlemen should be able to answer such questions with a disdainful: “Of course not!  Do I look like that sort of person?”  Well, at least Mr. Ord-Hume, if he is still in the land of the living—the book was published in 2009—hasn’t had to be humiliated recently as nobody has been travelling very much in the past year.

Then, the other day, I travelled out of Tel Aviv for the first time since arriving back in this country in mid-December to visit my oldest friend (we met, aged 6, in Zion School in Dublin), who came to live in Israel in September and what with me being away and then in self-isolation, followed by a five-week lockdown, this was the first opportunity that we had  had to get together.  So off I went to the city of Ra’anana, all of 20 km away.  We nattered away for a good four hours and midway through the chatter and the tea and the lunch and the tea, and me being 76, I asked where I could find the loo (that is the bathroom, as American euphemism would have it).  Directed to the appropriate spot in the apartment, I emerged, announcing that while in there, I had decided to write a letter of complaint to the CEO of Marks and Spencer, where I have bought most of my underwear for the past half century (yes, I admit, shamefacedly, that that’s true).  “Why?”, I was asked.  “Well”, said I, “it’s because M&S have redesigned their underpants.  They used to sell Unterhosen that made it easy for older men to do what must be done quickly and without fiddling.  Not so any more — there are so many folds that what used to be a simple procedure has now turned into a minute and a half of near-absolute panic.”  Mind you, I will mention that there are other aspects of the design that might become useful as I age but it has been suggested by a very wide person to whom I sent a draft for comment that I spare my readers the details!

Anyway, perhaps by the next post I’ll have some more photographs of people in the streets.  It’s not that the streets have been entirely empty but cafés, restaurants and other places where people meet and chat have been—and still are—closed.  So, on the mornings during which the rain let up, it’s been out and about the Yarqon Park for an hour and half of exercise (what actually used to take me about an hour when I started doing this regularly about a dozen years ago).

We’ve had a few wet days, although, as is the case with a Mediterranean winter, after some days of heavy rain, the weather has now cleared up.  (It takes just about 10 minutes of heavy rain to turn in the street into a stream but once it’s over, it clears up as rapidly as it appeared.)

Shlomtzion HaMalkah Street after 20 minutes of rain

We even had a hailstorm one day last week, which provided me with one picture of a situation unusual for Tel Aviv, to say the least.  I suppose that it was just as well I took the camera out when I did because 10 minutes later, the the hailstorm has ended and the sun came out for a few minutes, it was all gone, which indicates, I guess, that it what I photographed wasn’t coarse salt.

 

Hailstones (or just coarse salt?)

 

Mud became the operative word.

The Yarqon stream. Saturday morning, 20/ii/2021

 

And when the storm had abated, the rowers took to the high sea where the mud that had polluted what passes for Tel Aviv’s river had migrated overnight.

Mud, mud, glorious mud (not to mention the floating garbage)

The sea was still rough on Sunday morning, two days after the end of the storm.

 

There was also the inevitable clearing up of the mess caused by the storm so that everything will look neat and tidy until the next squall rolls in and does its thing.

Neat and tidy does it every time

 

However, it’s important that one should note that people , in the absence of cafés and during a break in the rain, continued to stand in a queue for their coffee and croissants in Tel Aviv Port in the hope that they might be able to find a bench under an umbrella where they could sit and chat——and shiver.  And to what purpose?  For the most abhorrent thing of all is that the coffee they had queued for was being served in paper cups—and in gross understatement, coffee—as well as other drinks—doesn’t taste the same in paper cups; that’s because people’s smell and taste perception is affected by different features of the vessel in which the beverage is served and that’s because there are multisensory interactions between the smell and taste of the drinks and the type of vessel in which they were presented. (See Cavazzana et al., “The vessel’s shape influences the smell and taste of cola”, Food Quality and Preference, Vol. 59 (July, 2017) pp. 8-13!). (I used to be an academic, you know!)

 

 

 

Maybe they had run out of coffee at home and had no alternative.

And just around the corner from the where the coffee was being served in paper cups, this unfortunate pooch was left waiting patiently until its owner emerged.  However, the doggie didn’t receive any coffee—or croissants for that matter.

 

And talking about dogs, this mini-dogwalker crossed my tracks earlier this morning.  I mean, I’ve seen more than seven or eight dogs being walked before by a single person but this is the first time I’ve come across a population of miniatures. (Or are they toy breeds?)

 

And when I reached the port area, I was reminded that a year has already passed!

March 2020 (Then)

 

February 2021 (Now)

And so, I was left walking though the park and the port photographing (mostly) the avian population.

Night heron. Yarqon Park.  February 2021

 

Of mixed lineage, methinks. (An avian Dalmatian, perhaps?) Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. February 2021

 

An egret in waiting

 

And everyone’s favourite bird!

 

Social distancing is for the birds (or not, as the case may be)

And finally, a few images that have nothing (or very little) to do with what’s come before.

I hadn’t realized they’d been selling much lately at all.  Castro, Tel Aviv Port.  February 2021

 

For non-Hebrew readers, the caption reads “Private Parking”

 

And then walking home along Nordau Boulevard, this minibus passed and I was reminded that it’s almost election time again.  Mr. Sa’a the man whose smiling visage appears on the back of the bus, used to live just around the corner and had been Minister of Education and Minister of the Interior before taking “a break” from politics, returning to what had been this “Natural Home”, i.e., the Likud Party last year.  However, like many other advisers, underlings and lackeys who had been close, perhaps too close to Bibi, he did not find favour in Mr. Netanyahu’s eyes and was not reappointed to the [anyway overly bloated] government coalition last year, and so decided to take the make-or-break step and set up his own party, thereby adding to the plethora of rightwing options that the voters have this time on Israel’s eternally revolving election roundabout.  However, when you see a smiling face on the back of a bus, you can’t help but think that things are, perhaps, not going as well as they might be.

Gidon Sa’ar. — and th and the caption? —  Everyone’s Prime Minister

BTW from the smile and slogan, it’s easy to tell from the caption that this before an election.  Mr. Sa’ar  has also promised solemnly  that there is no way will he sit in a government headed by U-NO-HOO.  We’ll see and then judge after March 23 (or more likely, in May), by which time a coalition will have emerged (or not as the case may be).

Meanwhile, I will continue to stay warm and alert by biting hard on these until Spring arrives.

 

And for anyone who missed the livestream last Tuesday, here’s the link to the replay (the music starts at about 12 and a half minutes in).

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Penguins, PPE and Porter

Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. Early morning

I know.  I know.  I’m late by a week or more but perhaps you didn’t notice. And if you didn’t notice, then maybe the time has come to pack it all in and find something more productive to do with my time, such as write a book (ha-ha!).  At any rate, the cause of this delay is that I upgraded the Operating System on my computer on Thursday of last week and although it seemed fine that day, the following morning all hell broke loose.  Computers are a bit like cars — when they work, they’re fine but when they decide to have an off-day, in gross understatement, they grate on the nerves.  Anyway, nothing seemed to work.  It was as if the machine had suffered a mini-stroke. I couldn’t find files or folders although I knew they were there and after consulting my family Mac guru, there was no alternative but to bring it to the Machospital in South Tel Aviv and let them figure out what went wrong.  The following day, I picked it up recovering from the mini-stroke has been limited for it seems to have affected its memory which is far from behaving normally. Perhaps the old girl is suffering from MacAlazheimer?

Anyway, this glitch probably appeared just in time, otherwise my readers would have had to endure one my occasional (or perhaps not so occasional) rants.  People have told me that I shouldn’t get upset about things over which I have no control but that’s sometimes more easily said than done, the reason being that on Sunday evening of last week, I sat down (alone again) and decided to watch a movie on TV.  But which movie?  Should I spend half an hour searching through Netflix’s offers only to find that most of what is there is rubbish.  Or perhaps I should just look at the offerings that have been on TV and which I bothered to record for I spend 10 minutes a week checking to see if there are any movies on, the names of which I recognize, and when I do recognize a name, I then try to remember whether they’re things I’ve missed or just things I’ve seen before.

So this time, I went through recorded movies and chose to view Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, a film from just over 30 years ago and which we went to see in Haifa when it was released.  I actually chose it because it’s a movie I remember that I enjoyed immensely.  However, memory sometimes only serves you partially and in this case, I had forgotten that the character played by Julia Roberts was called Vivian, so I thought to myself that I’d prefer to watch something else.  At any rate, I looked around for an alternative and chose Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren acting the role of Maria Altman, a woman who had escaped the Anschluss in 1938 and found refuge in America and then, with Arnold Schoenberg’s grandson as her lawyer, went on to sue the Austrian government to return five paintings by Gustav Klimt which had been owned by her family in Vienna.  A wonderful film — except as with Pretty Woman—  I had a forgotten a detail that appeared near the very start of the film; the opening scene was at a Los Angeles cemetery in which a coffin adorned with a Star of David was lying — a Jewish funeral.  No, not for me, the way I was feeling last Sunday evening.

After those two failures, I then did what I try to avoid each day and turned on the evening news on TV and what greeted my eyes and ears somewhat blew my mind, as that day saw the funeral processions of two aged (and probably venerable) rabbis, obviously much esteemed by their followers.  It was estimated that these processions each comprised about 10,000 individuals, all as far as I could ascertain, male.  Again, looking at this particular image below which appeared in Monday’s newspaper, I’d be generous in saying that I estimate that at most, 20% of the participants were wearing masks and of those that were, only a small proportion were wearing them covering mouth and nose.  As for social distancing, forget it.

At a time when the country is trying somehow to deal with a pandemic, this was a demonstration of people who ignore the rules that the rest of us have to observe and live as a law unto themselves.  However, it seems as if others have learned a lesson from all this in that the owners of stores in shopping malls seem to have had enough being being locked up/in/down and they, too, seem to have taken the law into their own hands, or as the TV news last night referred to them, Corona mutineers.

However, what really got my goat last week and yesterday was that none of the politicians who “matter” (actually, none of the seem to matter much at the moment) uttered a pip or a squeak of condemnation. I wonder why?  Could it have something to do with an event scheduled to take place on March 23 unless that, too, is put off because of Corona or because the numbers in the polls (generally inaccurate in Israel) prove to be unfavorable.  (Have I lapsed into cynic mode again?  Tut tut!)

In anger or desperation, I posted the picture above on Facebook and received some reactions.  One old acquaintance, who had spent some years in Antarctica more than half a century ago wrote: “…the photo looks like nothing so much as some of my photos from penguin rookeries in Antarctica.”  More to the point, a young woman living north of Tel Aviv, whose parents are friends of mine, wrote on her Facebook page: “The ticking time bomb that Israel has created is exploding. The charedim have no science education so they don’t understand Corona. They don’t serve in the army or do national service so they have no sense of duty to the state or experience of integration. They do not consume our news in any format so they don’t know what is going on outside of their world. The men do not work so are not forced to encounter people outside their spheres. They are encouraged by state financing to continue fanatical cults of personalities amongst their rabbis. Some communities only speak Yiddish. What the hell did we expect to happen? Attacking bus drivers and breaking lockdown rules seems like the tip of the iceberg.”.

I think that she just about hit the nail on the head with that one.  However, as I think we all realise, this con has gone on for so long, I can’t see an exit strategy.  They sit on their behinds all day and discuss all sorts of issues, real and hypothetical, but when it comes to making a decision, what does all this “learning” provide?  Nor very much, it seems, because they run to their rebbe or yeshivah head (individuals who suffer from and distinctly enjoy the fruits of personality cults) and do whatever they’re bid.  In this particular case, it appears that they were bidden to ignore the government, the Ministry of Health, Covid-19 and all the rest.  On the Monday evening, the day after these “events”, a senior police officer, interviewed on the evening news and asked why the police didn’t to more to stop such things happening, could only say that more penguins, wishing to enter Jerusalem from outside were prevented from doing so and without the help of others (at this point he raised his hands and indicated that he meant politicians) there was little more the police could do.  My line of thinking was that if these had been “normal” Israelis, things wouldn’t have passed so quietly and if they had been Arab Israelis, I dread to think what might have been the consequences!.

And meanwhile the authorities lock up law-abiding Israelis in Corona hotels irrespective of whether they have observed quarantines, been vaccinated or whatever!

So in order to alleviate my exasperation about events over which I have no control, I took to the streets and the park with the camera to see what I could find.

I started off with the inevitable mobile phone, this time a accompanied by a vaper.  The mask is off because I suppose it’s difficult to vape with one on and it’s not worthing making a hole in the mask to accommodate an addiction or let the vapor out, so as the song says …

 

However, at least some of the pansies found the whole situation rather amusing.

 

Meanwhile, parks create their own images.  Open-air kindergartens are now a commonplace scene, in particular in the springlike weather we are enjoying at present …

 

… and it’s a well known fact that the People of the Book start reading very early and in almost any situation, there’s no time to lose!

 

Meantime, the park continues to reveal its images in all their glory!

 

Easier getting up than down, it seems!

 

Others find other things to do in the park and one young woman just couldn’t wait to get online before starting the morning’s calisthenics

 

 

And then there are the egrets. Whereas some of these birds just sit in solitude waiting for something edible to pass by in the river before they choose to dive in …

 

… some others, more daring members of the tribe, fly down to the river where, on occasion, a kind angler will treat them to a slap-up breakfast!

 

And then, of course, there’s the Yarqon regatta.

 

And once more there are the inevitable hydrants.  This girl, near Tel Aviv Port has made sure that it had brought its mobile phone with her and is hooked up to the world — and moreover, she won’t go thirsty.

 

And once you get as far as the port, you see all sorts of wonderful things — like hungry rubbish bins (garbage cans, refuse containers, trashcans)

 

… Water speed boards or whatever they’re called

 

Finally, I came across this guy wearing his own version of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment, which, unlike the more common PPE, requires intense concentration for lengthy periods of time.  However, I seem to have been the only person around who paid him much attention!

 

However, the picture of the week is not mine at all but one that someone sent me of the two Jerusalem funerals juxtaposed with two images of Hamantaschen, a hamantasch being a three-cornered pastry with a filling such as poppy seeds or prunes or something else dark and mysterious, and which is traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday Purim (by some, that is, but never by yours truly).

Take your pick, as they say!

Oh, and before I forget.  On Tuesday evening (16/02/2021) at 19.00 Israel time (17.00 GMT, 18.00 CET) there’s a concert from the Jerusalem Music Center worth watching and listening to.  Not the usual sort of thing I put up here but from experience, it will be an hour well spent!

https://www.jmc.org.il/index.php?lang=eng&p=concert&id=840

 

P.S.  It looks like spring is on its way (Photo: Shuli Waterman)

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Music, Elections and Music Again

I actually started this post yesterday, which was my birthday, so I had inserted the link that appears below in order to remind me of how old I am.  Sometimes I remember and at other times I forget, which seems to be an indication of the fact that I am now 76, which, I am told by some is the new 60.  Blah, blah and another blah.  But somehow the mood wore off me after a short while and as it’s now Thursday, I shall now resume my nonsense for this week.

 

Well, here we are again.  Israel’s fourth election campaign in less than two years has already begun and we haven’t yet  been informed about who the candidates are to be.  In fact, we’re still not sure which “parties” will be contesting the election for we, the saps, have now entered that “fluid period” when there are still current, former and aspiring Knesset members in search of parties to sponsor their ardently held desires to represent “the people”.  Not that any of them will care too much about “the people” they will claim to represent if and when they are elected. I say this because on the basis of past experience, the day after the election many of these same individuals with larger than average egos and overambitious estimates of their own self-importance will start looking around for a better arrangement that will lead them [ideally] into government or, failing that, into a stridently vocal opposition where they hope that some people , mainly reporters and interviewers, will sit up and take notice of their existence.

The electorate knows quite well from bitter acquaintance with the system that after it (the electorate) has expressed its opinion through “the democratic process”, the politicians will be looking after themselves rather than the innocents who voted for the party which they (the politicians) belonged to on election day itself.  As a result of all this, I am currently minded to cast my vote on two sheets of [preferably used] toilet paper which I will stuff into an envelope; I will then place it in the envelope designed to hold the slip of paper with the symbol of my “preferred” party, and write an appropriate message on the outside.  However, being basically a decent person and not wanting to ruin they day for any unsuspecting teller, I will probably grit my teeth and select a more conventional method of voting.

But be in no doubt; the campaign has started.  Mostly gone are the days when party representatives would knock on your door or stop you in the street in an attempt to sway you to vote one way or another.  Almost gone are the days of cold calls on your phone exhorting you to do the same thing.  There are some very large posters displayed along main roads and across bridges but my phone is already filling up with messages trying to swing me this way or that — not that I will pay much attention to any of them other than to try and block any further messages from the same numbers—a futile exercise really because each of the parties seem to have several numbers from which they will harass and plague us.

It’s really a sad situation and one wonders how the authorities will expect people to stand in line, masked and socially distanced, in order to cast their ballots for politicians in whom we have very little trust after a year of rampant COVID 19.  Will we have to have a negative COVID test less than 72 hours before casting a vote or produce a “green passport” with which to prove that we have been vaccinated?  Will people who have chosen, for whatever reason, not to be vaccinated be prohibited from voting?  Who knows?  Has anyone given it any thought? After all, there is no postal or absentee vote and we now all know that half of American voters know  that that only leads to “stealing” an  election”.  (On this point. ex-President Trump has been (temporarily?) silenced and was absent from the Biden Inauguration last Wednesday, which as President Biden is reported to have was “just as well”.  Soothing words were spoken, which made a change, and the rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” was, I found, extremely moving.)

Still, the Israeli election campaign is already producing some funny moments.  Last weekend, the almost defunct Labour Party, the party that ruled Israel for the first 30 years, elected its tenth leader in 20 years.  Merav Michaeli, a former journalist, TV personality, radio broadcaster, feminist and activist, was elected leader of the party by the small proportion of its members who bothered to vote.  She has always struck me as a very down-to-earth politician who seems to believe in what she says but, unfortunately, she belongs to the wrong party.  Anyhow, I learned of this earth-shattering event at 6 a.m. last Monday morning, during the first of my two daily news updates. One of Michaeli’s first acts as Labour Party leader was to instruct Labour’s two ministers who sit in the government to resign from the their coalition posts as she had been absolutely opposed last year to Labour entering Netanyahu’s government.  They two gentlemen responded by announcing that they were resigning from the party but not from the coalition, thus remaining in their government posts.  What made me laugh out loud was the reaction of one of this pair of insubordinates, Amir Peretz, an individual who is currently Minister of Economy and a former party leader himself, and someone who has been Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister in the past.  He labelled Ms. Michaeli “an opportunist”, and this came from a man who has been a member of five different parties over the years and who doesn’t think twice about the conflict of interests incurred by being elected on one list and the following day leaving it!  What is opportunism other than unscrupulous expediency?  Ask Mr. Peretz!

But enough of Israeli elections.  There are two months to go and lots (or nothing) can happen between now and March 23 (which is just four days before the start of the festival of Passover), so there’ll be lots of unleavened bread, bitter herbs and salt water to mull over, with coalition talks dragging on and on towards the summer.  Great fun!

Meanwhile, Israel’s third (or is it the fourth?) lockdown continues as COVID continues to rage.

Without wishing to apportion blame for this situation on any one group or another, it’s interesting (and perhaps one of the telling points of this whole COVID plague) that almost every decision contains one or more political facets.  There’s little doubt that the Prime Minister will attempt to convince voters that he, and he alone, is responsible for the fact that 3,000,000 people have already been vaccinated.  Yet, the question that needs to be asked OUT ALOUD is why the country is nevertheless in the mess it’s in and who was responsible for that situation.  In Israel’s case, it would seem that there has been more than just a modicum of disinclination to take on and restrain the breaches of lockdown and social distancing amongst some of the Strictly Orthodox (Haredi) and Arab communities, the former having been steadfast allies of the Prime Minister and which, he hopes, will remain so after the election for reasons dear to his heart but something that is far from certain.  In this regard, there appeared in Haaretz this week an interesting article by one of its top journalists, Anshel Pfeffer, (who, incidentally is also the representative of The Economist in Israel and the author of Bibi, the [unauthorised] biography of the man himself.  Mr. Pfeffer explains things in a way that I could never do.  Pfeffer on Haredi violence

Meanwhile, the population looks on in horror.

Looking on in horror!

I am still out most mornings when weather permits, walking though the park and the port.

The streets of the city are near empty; cafés and restaurants are shut although people can still buy coffee to drink out of paper cups (yuk!) and sit on benches that are conveniently situated not too far from where the coffee and croissants can be had.  And as people sit, unmasked and not always 2 metres apart, I sometimes wonder about the anomalies, if not the absurdities, of social distancing rules.

Shabbat morning [external] prayer services. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

And being restricted to park and port, I am somewhat limited in the subject matters that I photograph — the sea, the waves, the birds, and so forth.

 

 

The Yarqon estuary after three stormy days

 

Parakeet

 

Drake

 

 

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Occasionally, there are other things, too, like this very hungry tree making a meal of the railings on Stricker Street.

 

And on occasion, if you keep your eyes open, you find some other things of interest, like the sign below where it appears that Hebrew- and English-speaking males may enter & pee together and likewise Hebrew-speaking females. However, Anglophoniae are only permitted to enter one at a time (evidently)!

Men & Women and mistranslation

Finally, one of the joys of “working” at home is that a homeless quartet needs somewhere to rehearse, so while they get sown to business in the living room, I’m in the next room writing something like this!

What they were rehearsing was A MUSICAL HOMAGE—MozartString Quartet in G Major, K. 387 (dedicated to Haydn)KurtágArioso – Homage à Walter LevinBrahmsString Quartet in C Minor, Op. 51 No. 1 , for a live-streamed concert to be aired from the Jerusalem Music Center, next Tuesday 2/2/2021 at 19.00 hrs Israel time (GMT+2). https://www.jmc.org.il/index.php?p=stream

Meanwhile, for those of you who are interested, on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 8 & 9 at 20.00 hrs Israel time (GMT+2), you can purchase tickets for their next streamed concert either via the Carmel Quartet website (www.carmelquartet.com) or from (+972)-3-58-58553353.

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Monkey Business and more

Not really in the mood

I know I’m late with this one (not that I work to any strict timetable) but I needed to be in the mood and have a little more time for reflection than usual before I put pen to paper (or index fingers to keyboard) this week.  Does one write a blog post and ignore events less than a week after they occurred, in this case after the President of the United States appeared on television screens in America and around the world appearing to give the green light to tens of thousands of his supporters, who had descended on Washington to back his groundless claim that November’s presidential election had been “stolen” from him, to march on the Capitol and demonstrate against this “theft” of what was “rightfully” his?  Giving him the benefit of a teeny-weeny modicum of doubt, perhaps he was unaware that mingled with those who truly believed his claims were assorted thugs and anarchistic groups with agendas and, seemingly, operational plans of their own, who found that the President’s egging on of his own supporters presented them with an opportunity to wreak havoc to American democracy by threatening the lives of the duly elected legislators who had gathered to give formal legitimacy to the results of the election that had taken place a little over two months earlier ?

Spiralling out of control?

His words were more than just a call to thugs and other assorted idiots to march on the building that is the home of American democracy but to disrupt—if not bring to a complete end—the democratic process of rubber-stamping a result that everybody had been aware of for weeks, i.e., that Trump had lost the election.  Perhaps a man who cannot bear to be labelled a “loser”, whose narcissism was dealt a mortal blow, was not entirely aware that his words would be taken so literally and beyond.  What followed this seditious call for an insurrection and the overturning of the will of the people to replace it with the will of Trump just beggared belief.  This was happening not in Belarus or in Libya or Zimbabwe or some other banana republic but in the country which has prided itself as being the embodiment of democracy, a showcase for the rest of the world, armed with ironclad institutions to protect it.

The President of the United States had just incited a mob to disrupt —and perhaps prevent— the peaceful transfer of power from himself to his democratically elected successor.  Perhaps he intended that they just create a rumpus outside the building and intimidate those inside from afar; perhaps he did not did not plan that they enter the Capitol and lay waste to what they found there—but that’s what happened.  And the fact that so many Republican legislators seemed to think that it was all okay — until the mob entered the building, that is — is scary enough but that of those who voted for the Republican Party at the last election think so, too, is scarier still.  His call later in the afternoon, while the hoodlums were on the rampage, “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens you see the way, others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home and peace.” would have sounded like a bad joke if only it wasn’t serious and frightening — not just for the USA but for the world as a whole.

The unreadiness of the Capitol police to foresee what was about to happen and to do anything about it when it started it was equally terrifying.  Meanwhile, the Capitol has been turned into a large camping space for part of the 20,000 National Guards who will (hopefully) protect those at the Inauguration of President Biden.  It’s not America and how it prepares for elections is perfect — far from it.  Just think on the one side of the crusades to register “people of colour” and on the other,  legislation to make it  more difficult for them to vote.  Or the perpetual deeds of gerrymandering to influence the results of the election before people cast their votes at all we begin to understand how divided American society is and has always been.

But how America has changed! It used to be if that if there were a close result here or there, after all the recounts and examination  of claimed irregularities had been exhausted, the losing candidate would deliver a concession speech and pledge allegiance to the new President, his administration and Constitution or whatever.  Not this time around.

And while I was listening to Trump’s angry incitement last week and to the reports coming from Washington, I had also started reading Bob Woodward’s Rage, his second book on Donald Trump and had got to the following description from four years ago, just after Rod Rosenstein, who had occupied the second spot at the Justice Department for just 12 days, came in charge of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election because his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, had just recused himself from the investigation.  Rosenstein had just appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate this, telling one of Trump’s aides that the president should be encouraged because Mueller was going to expedite this and find out whether Trump aides had coordinated with Russia but not to get Trump. A special counsel investigation, he said, would be best for everyone. When Trump was informed (and this was in 2017!!!), he said, “This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked!”

“In line with Rosenstein’s assurances”, wrote Woodward, “the official White House statement from Trump released … that evening said: ‘As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know—there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.'”

According to Woodward, “Trump’s placatory tone was the opposite of his mood. The following morning Trump tweeted … that he wondered why there had been no special counsel for ‘all of the illegal acts’ of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. ‘The Russia investigation’, he said, ‘is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.’ … Trump’s anger, more than any previously seen by his inner circle, was uncontrollable. He oscillated—stormed—between the Oval Office and his private dining room. ‘We barely got by,’ said Rob Porter, then the White House staff secretary. Trump is a large man—around 6-foot-3 and about 240 pounds, almost the size of a football linebacker. On the move and in a rage, he is frightening. Why Mueller? ‘I didn’t hire him for the FBI.’ Trump had interviewed Mueller for perhaps another tour as FBI director and rejected him. ‘Of course he’s got an axe to grind. Everybody’s trying to get me.’ Impeachment talk was on the TV. ‘What power does a special counsel have?’ Trump asked. ‘Virtually unlimited’, Porter, a lawyer, explained. … Trump stayed mostly on his feet, continuing to move between the Oval Office and the dining room. ‘I have to be fighting,’ he said in a frenzy. ‘I am the president. I can fire anybody I want. … ‘”

Seemingly little has changed in four years—five years, actually if you count the first Trump election campaign—so America had plenty of time to get used to the idea of a crazed man being in charge, a crazed man who has emboldened or perhaps scared into quiescence and pliability the right wing of the party he has led as well as spawning more extreme members of the other party to behave likewise.  As for the witch hunt, according to the President yesterday, it’s still ongoing and is now the worst witch hunt the whole world has ever seen.  Paranoia magnified by ego and self-obsession gone mad.

And this was all so beautifully summed up by Kal in last week’s edition of The Economist newspaper.

And then, what raced through my mind was whether or not something like that could happen here in Israel given the plethora of rightwing fanatics and desperadoes of all shades — secular, religious, strictly religious, Jews and Arabs — there are and, as repeated lockdowns have shown, prepared to ignore decisions taken by politicians.  But, it turns out that it’s already happened, albeit nearly 70 years ago and not because of a disputed election result.  However, it was something I had not been aware of before and which illustrates my ignorance on yet another issue!

https://www.thejc.com/comment/opinion/the-march-on-the-knesset-69-years-ago-1.510442

And I can’t help wondering whether or not it could happen again though I think that even Bibi Netanyahu, arch-panderer to Trump, might have been surprised by what took place in Washington last week.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 16.20.11
Cormorant

But then if we look back just 25 years ….   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhMF30VLZCA

 

And today? Cigars and Champagne

Meanwhile here in Israel, the campaign for the country’s fourth election in less than two years has been launched officially with the Prime Minister receiving his second dose of the vaccine, once more on live television.  Whereas I could understand the cameras being there when he received his first jab three weeks ago (setting an example to the population at large, &c. &c.), this time around when people had already seen him sitting, wearing the same black short-sleeved shirt as he did then, his stalwart self-satisfied smirk sitting smug on his mug, you knew for sure that the election was upcoming, and especially when the news reported yesterday that if things go according to plan, the adult population of Israel should have all received — or at least been offered — vaccinations by mid-March, i.e. just one week before the election

Mind you, last week was not without its funnier events, too.

Strictly unkosher (several times over)

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2021/jan/12/welcome-to-brexit-dutch-officials-seize-ham-sandwiches-from-british-drivers-video

So, before I go further off on a tangent once again, some photographs from the past few weeks since I returned to the Promised Land in addition a few “oldies”.

Avian Reflections, Yarqon Park

 

A tale (tail?) of angles. Yarqon Park

 

At Tel Aviv Port (1)

At Tel Aviv Port (2)

Not many of these in the neighbourhood!

 

 

It’s been a long, long time.  Nordau Boulevard, Tel Aviv

 

Hoopoe. Minding its own business and enjoying the sun

 

Nice n’ easy does it every time

 

I take things quite seriously

And for those of you who’ve got this far, why not relax with some music.  A concert from last July (the 1st and only one of a planned three before the government banned assemblies of more than ten people indoors) starting the following put paid to the 2nd and 3rd).  Enjoy an hour and a half of Haydn, Ligeti and Brahms.
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Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Countrymen …

 

Israel’s [first?] election of 2021.  YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU [R VOTE]

*************

Adrift with the prospect of another election (yet again!)

Back in Tel Aviv, I completed my fortnight of self-isolation — well, almost.  By my calculation, I should only have been permitted to exit the house last Monday morning but come Sunday, Day 13, I really couldn’t face another day of sitting around inside so I took myself out a day early to buy some bread and coffee beans, not that anyone was checking, or so it seemed. And just as in the previous period after I had spent two weeks in self-isolation in this country, in March 2020, when I eventually emerged from quarantine, it was straight into a lockdown, which began so it was said, on Sunday evening at 17.00 hrs and which is supposed to last “at least a fortnight but probably three weeks — or more”.  Not that anyone seemed to be paying much attention.

It is intended that we not wander more than 1 km from our places of residence but nevertheless one is permitted to do so—for exercise, to shop for food, and several other mundane things.  Public transport is still running, the traffic seems as heavy as normal—people are allowed to travel to work—though many shops are closed.  Food shops are open, pharmacies too, and other outlets providing “essential services and goods”, such as stores selling mobile phones.  It is also intended that we stay away from contact indoors with family and friends but if you want to buy, say, a new washing machine or if you have a problem with, say, your water or electricity supply, there’s nothing to stop you having someone come in and install the machine or fix the water or electricity even though the technician who arrives in your apartment may have visited half a dozen others before he gets to you on that same day. Significant matters, like cultural events are still taboo and remain virtual although musicians and actors are permitted to travel to work to rehearse and record programmes for future streaming or broadcast.  I hate to say this because I understand the objectives of this lockdown but the way things are panning out, it’s really farcical, which is why I heard on this morning’s news broadcast that next week will see the introduction of a new “serious” lockdown, in which there will be greater enforcement of confining citizen prisoners in their cells.

Emerging from quarantine (officially), the first task on my list of things to do was turn up for Vaccination Shot #1.  The day after arriving back from London, I had a text message from Maccabi Healthcare Services asking me to call and arrange an appointment for inoculation. Inoculations in Israel follow a strict order.  First, the Prime Minister and the Minister or Health (on live TV, of course.  What else?), then members of the government and Knesset and the State President, then health care workers and then the “vulnerable”, which includes some people with underlying health issues and the old (i.e., the over-60s!!!).  I called the number within two minutes receiving the notification and got a recorded message (which I had expected) telling me that because of the situation I might have to wait a little longer than usual, so I put the phone on speaker, prepared dinner, then ate dinner, cleared up and then waited after dinner.  Normally, I would have hung up after 15 minutes but I guessed that if I did that the appointment given me would be later than otherwise.  And then, just over an hour after placing the call, it was answered and I received an appointment for 10:04 on December 28 with a second shot due three weeks later.  The instructions were to turn up wearing a mask (naturally) 10 minutes before the designated time to avoid crowding so I duly arrived at 09.56.  I joined the line at 10.00, had a needle stuck in my upper arm at 10.03, was done by 10.05 and was instructed to sit outside in the sunshine for 10 minutes and if I felt OK, I was free to go home. It was like an automobile assembly plant, a conveyor belt.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it before in this country for sure, or elsewhere for that matter.  As of today (Friday), over 800,000 people have already received the vaccine in Israel, quite an achievement indeed.

Nothing could go wrong, they said, except that just after I arrived home, I felt something sickly and then ticklish and took a selfie.  I looked incredulously and then shaved and it hasn’t returned.

I found it hard to detach myself from the Brexit trade talk, which (along with Covid-19) had been the bread and butter of all the news in the UK during most of my time there, and especially during the last month.  With all the song and dance act about “deal/no deal”, I always had the impression that something would work out before the deadline so that it could be approved by the UK parliament by December 31 and so it came to be.  The UK Prime Minister was ecstatic — he’d won back sovereignty, independence and all the rest though other politicians seemed a little less euphoric than BoJo. As things turned out, my attention had been drawn to a BBC television programme Have I Got 30 Years for You, which was a retrospective on a satirical comedy programme, Have I Got News for You, that has been broadcast weekly for the past 30 years.  The format of the programme, which satirises the news of the previous week (mostly), is that there are two permanent panel members (Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, and Paul Merton, a professional and improvisatory comedian, both of whom have been there from the beginning), plus two guest panellists and a guest host that change from week to week.  At any rate, you can see the “interesting” bit at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TXlLWOAZkU from 39 minutes and 19 seconds in, ending at 44:55—if you don’t want to watch the whole show.