When I was young[er], like many kids brought up in the British Isles, I learned a nursery rhyme that went (in one variation):
Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day
Little Stanley [or Brigid or Fatima] wants to play
Well, by the time you reach mid-October in Tel Aviv, this rhyme is about as useless as 100 teenage girls from Devon (with Basil Fawlty’s full support) singing the praises of Torquay United, exhorting them to win the F.A. Cup this season.
It actually rained at the beginning of the week for a few minutes in North Tel Aviv but not enough for even 0.1 mm to be registered. Just enough to leave marks on the cars reminding us of what’s to come (hopefully) over the next few months—and to change the scent of the air for a few minutes after almost five months without precipitation. Today (Thursday) and yesterday, the temperature peaked at around a coolish 25ºC and with the relative humidity at around 50% rather than the summer’s 80%-90%, it really felt rather pleasant.
Not only has the weather struck a change (although there will undoubtedly be several very hot hamseen days yet before winter sets in) but Israel reached the end of its 23-day tunnel that constitutes the “festival season” — New Year, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and Rejoicing of the Law (Simchat Torah), which in the synagogues marks the end of the reading of the Torah cycle (Deuteronomy 31:10-12), followed immediately by the beginning of the cycle (Genesis 1:1–2:3).
However, another feature of the Simchat Torah synagogue service is the recitation of the Prayer for Rain, “Mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-geshem” (“He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall”). From the recitation of this prayer until the first day of Passover after which the Prayer for Dew takes its place, these words are inserted into the second blessing of the Amidah prayer, central in the Jewish liturgy.
Personally, I find it all a little like “Rain, rain, go away” in reverse but this creates a sort of Catch-22 situation when an old cynic (and former sceptic) like me states categorically that there’s no connection between the incantation of the prayer, no matter how often it’s recited, how fervently and how loud it’s intoned and the physical event that is called rainfall—and that’s because not long after the onset of the first serious precipitation event of the season, those who prayed for it to happen will claim that it occurred because of their prayers. Which, of course, is a no-win situation for hapless doubters, me included.
When the rain eventually does come this year, I am curious to see what happens in our street. In years past, the drainage system has been unable to cope with what happens soon after the onset of a heavy downpour. Usually, within five minutes, the street turns into a raging stream. However, now that Tel Aviv Municipality has invested heavily in a new drainage system (and sewage and electricity and whatever else) and we have endured 4½ months of what seemed to be never-ending noise, dust and sand as the diggers, the bulldozers, the steamrollers and other heavy equipment chugged away just a few metres from our living rooms and bedrooms from 7 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, it should be able to cope.
Except for the fact that the work is not yet complete and the team has just returned to attack that last 40% of the street. I had to laugh the other day when we received—along with all the other neighbours—a flier detailing the “new” traffic arrangements in the four months it is scheduled to complete the job of replacing the infrastructure under the street after which (I hope) they will lay the final road surface along its whole length. However, given that they estimated at the outset that our 160m would take them 2½ months and in the event, it took them two months longer, I have a funny feeling that their guess this time around might be equally awry as one stretch on the the last section includes a large elementary school and a public car park (opposite one another). Should be fun! My guess is that it may very well be spring before we can drive from one end of the street to the other by which time the rainy season should be over and it should be time for the dew to reappear.
Meanwhile, in the absence of sand and dust we prepare for the rain, the mud, the muck—and the continuing noise. I attach a picture of a prematurely happy neighbour a week and a half ago. He was happy to see what he had thought was the back of the men working in the street and who not only had prevented him from using the parking space in front of his house but also managed to damage it in their search for the route of the sewage or drainage pipes underneath and which took them the best part of another week to put to rights.
And we now have a temporary storage space for bricks, blocks, and whatnot directly across the street and daytime on-street parking restrictions on the street perpendicular to the one being worked on.
With all this chat about rain and street works, I seem to have neglected pictures from the past two or three weeks of strolling around (mostly) North Tel Aviv. And even in secular North Tel Aviv, come this time of the year, one can observe the phenomenon the sukkah, or the temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). These booths are topped with branches and are often well decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes. Traditional Jewish law demands eating and even sleeping in the sukkah. However, people aren’t expected to remain there if they were to feel very uncomfortable. (For instance, some people might feel a little vulnerable sleeping in a sukkah constructed on a footpath in a busy street in Tel Aviv at nighttime.) And if and when rain falls on the sukkah, nobody really expects you to stay inside (and my dear wife is convinced that it always rains during Sukkot although I haven’t checked the rainfall statistics to check out this questionable claim.)
The structure of the sukkah should consist of a roof of organic material that has been disconnected from the ground (often palm fronds) and it must have three “walls”. Apparently, it should be at least a metre tall (presumably so as to permit people other than children, midgets and dwarves to enter and sit comfortably) and it should be positioned so that all or part of its roof is open to the sky because only that part of it which is under the sky is fit for use (or kosher). This often leads to some peculiarly specific architectural designs so that everyone who wishes can eat, drink, and sleep kosherly.
As I noted at the outset, the weather in Tel Aviv has cooled down a bit although when I went out one morning last week it was already 27º at 8.30 in the morning although you’d never know it from what some people are wearing!
I suppose whether you put on lots of clothing or very little depends in part on what sorts of physical activity you participate in.
But then there are those among us who are heated up from the inside and find release by discovering and redeeming those miscreants who because of their misdeeds are about to enter the gates of that fiery place known to some of us as Hell. However, although there may well be lots of potential victims about—probably a majority of Tel Avivians by some accounts—I’m not sure that the gentleman in the picture was going to find too many clients along the Tel Aviv beach near the Marina early in the morning, especially given the identity of the saviour he purports to represent.
Last Friday saw the annual Sukkot bike ride around Tel Aviv. We got inadvertently caught up in this a few years ago when we found that we couldn’t get a taxi to take us to the airport that particular morning. It must have taken us half an hour of phoning around until we found a taxi company in South Tel Aviv that appeared to be unaware of what was going on and they sent us a taxi driver who seemed not to mind in the slightest threatening to get out of his cab to remove police barriers in order to get us where we needed to be and on time. But the mind boggles at the unnecessary inconvenience caused to ordinary Tel Aviv residents who, trying to get to work or do their shopping or get to their favourite café, find that several of the city’s main traffic arteries are blocked for there next four or five hours.
Even crossing the roads was a hazardous undertaking as several thousand cyclists and their children and their dogs cycle or roller skate or scoot round the city. Interesting and fun though it may be for the velophiles and velomaniacs and their entourages, the same cannot be said about some of the security guards employed to oversee matters!
Meanwhile, tourists come and tourists go, cycle rides or not.
And behaving like the proverbial fly on the wall, except walking around and watching more than listening, I saw some other fascinating things.
For instance, I stood and looked this thing in front of an apartment block on the west side of Arlozorov Street for quite some time until I came to the conclusion that yes, indeed, something was missing.
And then around the corner from us on Yehuda HaMaccabi Street, I came across what I could only think of as a bedraggled Arsenal supporter after they’d been unceremoniously beaten by Spurs. Then again, on second thoughts, it might as well have been a Manchester United or Liverpool supporter following this weekend’s miserable goalless draw at Anfield.
And, ah, yes, the designer jeans! I often wonder whether they’re home-made or whether their wearers buy them that way — and if the latter, do they pay more for what is obviously and evidently less? Maybe they pay for the skilled work involved in cutting and shredding. Who knows?
Walking through the park the other day, there was a kingfisher perched on top of a pole, trained to pose, no doubt, by a kingfisher trainer. And when I returned along the same stretch of park an hour later, there s/he was still in posing position for all and sundry to shoot (photographically, of course).
I also came across a chewing gum repository—an electricity pole. I considered this to be a very thoughtful gesture on the parts of the masticators, as this awful stuff usually gets thrown straight onto the ground, ending up on the soles of my shoes and those of others, if we’re not careful.
And then on Friday morning, I came across a young woman who must have been in somewhat of a hurry. She was not all that easy to photograph and needed even more exposure than the already considerable exposure that she herself had on offer. I didn’t notice the dog when I snapped the first one but three minutes later, after the dog’s doings had been cleaned up from the middle of Nordau Boulevard, there they were—off together for coffee and croissant, I suppose.
Finally, here’s a tattooed youth, one of an increasingly large number of individuals, both young and old, male and female, who seem to take a delight in having their bodies inscribed, engraved and painted in shades of dingy blue-green and diabolic off-pink. I can’t really fathom why people want to have themselves tattooed; at some later stage in life, when they mature (or if they’re already older, when they get come to their senses) they may very well feel that they wish to remove these elements of body-art (which I think is the politically correct term to use these days).
I suppose my distaste for all this might be down to the fact that in my formative years—yes, in case you are in any doubt, there was such a period—people who wore or bore tattoos were generally considered unsavoury—ex-sailors and ex-criminals or perhaps sailors and criminals. And whatever the scribblings and scratches they had on their arms and legs and goodness knows where else, it could only vaguely be termed art. But then again, with my basically conservative nature, I find pierced ears somewhat disagreeable, too, not to mention studs and rings and things that hang from or are attached to other parts of the body, many of which I am too embarrassed to mention.
There are times when I think: “What’s going to happen when the current girlfriend or boyfriend falls out of favour and is replaced by someone else but the names are permanently engraved on the back of one’s neck or on the insides of one’s thigh?” Or perhaps the body art becomes sort of permanent shopping list or a reminder of what you, the subject and object of the body art, are named!
At any rate, these people who carry around with them indelibly punctured pieces of pigmented epidermis, prior to having their bodies modified in the name of art or love or whatever else, should at least be encouraged to read the short story written 65 years ago by Roald Dahl. I provide a link to it below. It’s just a warning of just what might or could happen to someone with a tattoo!
Skin by Roald Dahl