Ginger & Black

It’s time to post again on this blog but I find myself in a predicament. At the end of last week, I noticed that there might be a problem with my computer but initially, I paid little attention to it.  The external hard disk attached to the machine and into which all my material has been backed up once an hour for the past two years seemed to be dismounting itself at random after completing a backup.  It was only when it seemed that these random happenings had transmogrified into each and every time, that I decided that it was time to let the experts have a look at it.  

They work out of a small lab in South Tel Aviv and have been looking after my computer needs for about 10 years now, so I trust them. They came back to me with a diagnosis that the hard disk on the computer was damaged and needed to be replaced.  Well, sometimes these things happen, you know, and because the machine has become so much part of my life, I had little option but to subject it to whatever rehabilitation procedures they deemed necessary to put things to right.  I wasn’t unduly worried; after all, it would only be a matter of it costing some money and anyway, everything I had was backed up, wasn’t it?

Prior to delivering the machine to the lab, I asked how long it might take to replace the disk and was informed that if I brought it in early in the morning, then barring unforeseen problems, I might expect to have it back late in the afternoon.  In the event, I brought it in last Sunday afternoon but that was four days ago so when I hadn’t heard from them by Tuesday morning, I called and then I called again a few hours later, only to be informed that the machine wasn’t ready yet because “we’re having a problem restoring the data from the backup disk”.

This is a response that all computer users dread.  You have a disk onto which you’ve been backing up data regularly for over two years (or so you think) but you can never quite be sure what the situation really is until you have to call upon the backed up data to be put in place on your brand new — but empty — computer hard disk.

So a call yesterday morning brought the nightmare news, but it was news that I had figured out for myself anyway because there was no other plausible explanation.  While restoring the data from the backup disk, that very backup disk decided it was time to expire.  In perhaps 0.01% of cases you encounter a situation in which two disks fail at the same time., As John Cleese might have said in the infamous “parrot sketch” from Monty Python, “This disk ain’t resting; this disk is dead.  This disk is an ex-disk!”.  In this particular case, “these disks”, RIP.  Hopefully, they can right the issue, otherwise I am, as the saying goes in one of its milder versions, well and truly screwed; in only a slightly wilder version, I am up shit creek without a paddle or a disk.

When the issue first became apparent last week, I did take the precaution on making sure that I had made copies of the many photographs I have taken over the past decade as well as all the documents, too.  Some of this stuff is purportedly on additional hard disks.  Much of it is also (theoretically, supposedly, hopefully, purportedly, allegedly) also stored on “the cloud” so that (theoretically, supposedly, hopefully, purportedly, allegedly) I shouldn’t need to worry — but I do.  Perhaps the gods might be kind to me, perhaps not.  It would just be a decade down the drain.

So this is the first post I have started on the iPad although I have no idea what photographs I have available to go with the text but we’ll see as I continue.

No hat — chilly

Feeling blue

Now, every cloud has a silver lining and this cloud gave me an opportunity to finish reading a book that I had bought in London last month and started a few weeks ago.  Timothy Snyder is a Professor of History at Yale specializing in the history of Eastern and Central Europe. His 2015 book Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning chronicles the rise of the Nazis to power in the 1920s and 1930s but deals primarily with the atrocities that took place in what had been the Pale of Jewish Settlement in Eastern Europe in the period between the dismemberment of interwar Poland, which followed the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact in 1939 and Operation Barbarossa when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.  Professor Snyder, as far as I can fathom, is not Jewish so the book doesn’t really have a Jewish (or Zionist or anti-Zionist) agenda to it; he is simply an academic going about doing what academics do and some better than others (and this is one of the better ones).

The main contention of the book is that the two years between the outbreak of the war and the German invasion led to the demolition of state structures and with that, the breakdown and disappearance of all legal status, a situation that aided the executioners to get on with their job.  (The abandonment of legal structures—and the events that followed immediately—had actually begun in 1938 in Vienna on the day of the Anschluss).  In the Baltic states, Belarus, Eastern ex-Poland, Ukraine, areas that had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 and then conquered by Hitler’s Germany, the initial executioners were not the Nazis but the Soviets.  After Barbarossa, ex-Soviet collaborators who, in order to collaborate with the Nazis needed to cleanse themselves of their Soviet collaborationist past, joined in the murdering with gusto.  Stalinist evils made way for the Nazi extermination.

But the point that Snyder makes is that the annihilation was not just by state institutions  such as armies of militias but also by ordinary people who, in the absence of law and order, stole and slaughtered as they pleased. Jews, of course, were most vulnerable in this part of the world and all the more so in places where there all guarantees of citizenship or of identity had vanished. There were no rights to property; there was no protection of any kind.  Life itself was no longer guaranteed by any kind of legal and bureaucratic structure. 

If the content of the book was painful to read its prose is fluent but stark.  In gross understatement, this was an instructive read. The role of the Polish Government in training fighters in right-wing Zionist organizations in the 1930s and even during the war hardly if ever gets mentioned in Israel.  Nor does the proposal by Avraham Stern, the leader of Lehi (a.k.a. The Stern Gang) in January 1941 of “cooperation between the New Germany and a renewed racial-national Hebrewdom”, which would involve “the direction of a historical Jewish state on national and totalitarian foundations, which would stand in a treaty relationship with the German Reich, in the interest of the protection and strengthening of the future German power position in the Near East”.  

The fact that over 80% of Jews (and others) were murdered before the Auschwitz killing factory was perfected is another oft-forgotten fact.  In fact, Snyder writes about Auschwitz and I summarize: “Auschwitz symbolizes the intention to murder all Jews under German control … a story of survival at Auschwitz can enter collective memory. … Yet while Auschwitz has been remembered, most of the Holocaust has been forgotten.  [It] has been a relatively manageable symbol for Germany after the … War, significantly reducing the actual scale of the evil done. The conflation of Auschwitz with the Holocaust made plausible the grotesque claim that Germans did not know about the mass murder of the European Jews while it was taking place.  It is possible that some Germans did not know what happened at Auschwitz.  It is not possible that many Germans did not know about the mass murder of Jews.  [It] was known and discussed in Germany, at least among families and friends, long before Auschwitz became a death facility.  In the East, where tens of thousands of Germans shot millions of Jews over hundreds of death pits over the course of three years, most people knew what was happening. …

… For similar reasons Auschwitz was a convenient symbol in the postwar Soviet Union and today in post-Communist Russia.  If the Holocuast is reduced to Auschwitz, then it can easily be forgotten that the German mass killing of Jews began in places that the Soviet Union has just conquered. … In the East the method of mass murder required tens of thousands of participants and was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people … If the Holocaust is identified only with Auschwitz, this experience, too, can be excluded from history and commemoration.”

An anonymous reviewer of this book in The Economist newspaper a couple of years ago wrote “Thinking about the Holocaust should not be easy. Mr. Snyder’s flawed but powerful book challenges readers to reassess what they think they know and believe: a worthy memorial to the victims.”  Professor Snyder names names throughout this book and it seems that little escaped his expedition through his many and diverse sources.

In the end, however, this is really a book about people.  It is a book about inhumanity and humanity.  It is a book about ordinary people.  It is a book about how ordinary people can become so vile and evil in so short a time, murdering their neighbours and stealing their property.  But as the later chapters relate, ordinary people—ordinary people with the same background—could display such kindness and courage in sheltering and saving lives, putting their own lives and those of their families in jeopardy.  The last chapter of the book provides food for thought about the conditions that could — not might — lead to similar slaughters in the future.

Black Earth is a book that should be read by anyone who thinks they know something or  know nothing about the Holocaust.  Simultaneously chilling and enlightening.


All in all, it’s been a funny week, what with dentists, doctors, hospitals, a death, and much more.  The weather has turned really wintry, which in this part of the world doesn’t mean snow and ice but rain and wind.

I decided one day last week that I would venture into the park to see the damage wrought by last week’s night of thunder and lightning and very heavy rain.  More or less as I expected, there were a few trees that had either been uprooted or had branches or trunks that had snapped.

Tree 3


Chatting up

Rubbing up the wrong way

There were also things like sandpits that had become flooded …

Lake sandpit

… and gulls trying to make progress by flying headlong in a westerly direction into a strong wind and vainly getting nowhere.

Into the wind

I continued along the river in the same direction as the gulls and made progress but only with considerable effort as I strode into a wind that made it feel as if I was climbing a steep hillside.  As I approached the bridge above on the wooden pathway along the river, I saw three people coming in the opposite direction and suddenly start to run in my direction, shouting as they were running.  What they were shouting only became apparent as they passed me on their way up the ramp. Essentially, what they were shouting at me was that the river level was so high that it could flood the pathway in less than a couple of seconds, which it did because a couple of seconds after our paths crossed, I experienced what they were warning me about and found myself standing in brown water to a depth that covered my ankles.  I can’t imagine what I looked like, wearing trainers, shorts and a raincoat but as I stood there prior to what I can only describe as the muddiest squelch home that I have ever experienced, I thought I’d better produce an image of the scene.  So, still standing in the water, I clicked the shutter button a few seconds later.


Today’s rain produced a raging torrent, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the 12 years we’ve been living here, in the street below our living room window.  It created Tel Aviv’s version of Amsterdam or Venice though hardly as picturesque.  So much for the 13 months they’ve been working to improve the drainage.

Drainage 1


And then there was one day last week when the traffic on one of nearby streets ground to a halt as what looked like a self-propelled supermarket trolly wheeled itself slowly along the street…

On the move

… except that it wasn’t self-propelled at all. 

On the move 1

The week also brought its usual complement of  fire hydrants on the streets of Tel Aviv.  One day, and hopefully soon, I will produce a book of these things in what will hopefully become a bestseller and win me both the Booker and Pulitzer prize for humour.

Waiting in ambush

I am bush

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 08.01.52

and I am Bush

Baboushka 1

The babushka

I can see you!

I can see YOU but you can’t see me!

The cultural highlight of our week was Saturday night’s concert at the Israel Music Conservatory down the road—two quintets (Mozart #6 and Mendelssohn #2) along with Prokofiev’s second quartet.  We had a family interest in the bottom half of the quartet.  And although this was their sixth concert in six days, they were doing anything but playing on autopilot.  Glorious.


Finally, I’ve been fascinated by the growth and development of this ginger root that has been sitting on the kitchen ledge for quite some time.  It’s used occasionally, sits in a jug, receives no water but apparently still produces shoots which grow from it.  Can’t keep a good man down, it seems.




A Midwinter Tale

The other day, I heard a ping from my phone and I had a quick look to see what important piece of information I shouldn’t miss today.  It turned out that it was a note from my sister with several photographs of an airport baggage carousel.  However this wasn’t an ordinary baggage carousel.  

Then, on second thoughts, it was—but it was a carousel made up to be something different and special.  It was at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport welcoming visitors to The Netherlands and advertising some of the wares on view at the Rijksmuseum.  What a lovely idea!  

And then I had to smile as I thought that supposing the authorities at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv tried something similar what might happen. It might set off a major political storm, for what would they put there?  The works of Chagall? Modigliani? Soutine? Pissaro? Rothko? Rivera? Epstein? Not enough Jewish painters or sculptors to fill a baggage carousel.  So they might have to add other practitioners of different arts to make up numbers—Menuhin, Perlman, Rubinstein, Horowitz.  But what about Barenboim, persona not so grata among some in Israel? And then someone might suggest that contributors to science and technology might be a good idea.  And if then, why not politicians?  And then the trouble would really start although I guess the vociferous exchanges of opinion would be under way long before they got to talking about politicians!  

So I suppose it is probably better to leave things as they are, have the flaps remain in plain black and let the Dutch get on with their own, rather gloried, business.

Rijksmuseum - 1

Van Gogh - 1

Vermeer - 1


The weather forecast in Tel Aviv for the coming days has a little rain here and there but not much and it is looking increasingly as if this is going to be a drought year.  Last week’s storm (which had been hyped up by the media into being a potential disaster but which was, in the event, not much more than a storm in a teacup or a coffee mug) has largely been forgotten.  And the sea a couple of days after the storm had passed looked as if it had come from another world.

The same sea

One of the consequences of even the little rain that does fall is that the channelized Ayalon River, which runs to the west of the main railway line from Tel Aviv to the north and to the west of the northbound traffic on the freeway named after it, contains some water.  (This is the same Ayalon that appears in the Book of Joshua in which Joshua defeated a coalition of five Amorite kings and in which in order to permit the Israelites to complete their crushing defeat before nightfall he asked the Lord to extend the day by uttering the command: “Sun, stand still on Gibeon and, Moon, in the valley of Ayalon”. However, that was some way further upstream from where these pics were taken in Tel Aviv.)


Ayalon, looking north

Ayalon 1

Ayalon, looking south


It’s still winter and they tell me I need to keep warm! Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

The cessation of the storm allowed people out into the recreation areas to enjoy weather that can only be described as springlike — and this, remember, is the middle of January.  On my way out of the house the other morning, I chanced to look down and observed this mollusc doing what common or garden snails do, namely, make its way slowly across our parking area.  Unfortunately, one of his relatives was not as lucky because as I opened the gate to the street, I heard a crack and then a squish and I understood that, as Queen might have put it, “another one bit the dust”.

Slowly but surely

And these pseudovernal weather conditions bring out the best — or at least the most playful — in people.  Among this past week’s pictorial gems is one of a dad in the park playing with his kids who were on swings and seesaws.  As I passed, I thought I saw that he was carrying a folded sweater on his shoulder but it was only when I got close enough to be able to get the shot that I saw that the sweater was, in fact, a cockatoo.  It changed position on his shoulder while he played with the kids but otherwise didn’t move and stayed perched where it was for the three or four minutes I was watching the performance.


A little further along, a woman had hitched up a sort of tightrope and was attempting to cross from one tree to the next.  I photographed her on and off over a period of about 20 minutes and she seemed to have succeeded in making it about a third of way across on my watch before a rather ungraceful dismount.

Like a bird

Flap like the bird above to stay upright

Oh, oh!

Further along, towards the sea, I noted a couple who had obviously thought they’d found a secluded spot but it was not quite as private as they might have imagined.  

If only they knew

Another couple, too, had found a spot for a romantic breakfast although I hardly expected to find bottle of beer on a breakfast table at 9 in the morning in this part of the world.

Breakfast in the park

Actually, it is not possible to occupy a private space in a park that is a designated public space although there are several personal trainers in the park who seem to think that when they occupy a covered area they are occupying a private corner and, as a consequence, they should not be photographed.  I once had to explain to one of these people who had raised an objection to my photographing her and her client (“It’s forbidden to photograph here” is what she screamed at me in a voice that called out in fortississimo).  

So, I had to explain to her that the park is a public space and that just as she didn’t pay the park authorities rent for her outdoor gymnasium, neither did I pay the those authorities rental for my open air photography studio.   “Moreover”, said I, “I am engaged in a long term project loosely called “park activities””.

It actually took me quite a long time to realise that it’s not so much their privacy that they wished to protect as the thought that I might be a photographer in the employ of the Income Tax Authority and as most of their activities are cash payments …

As usual, there was the usual complement of egrets along the river in the park … 

… with a sprinkling of gulls for good measure …


… and there was even a gull tiptoeing across the water…

Walking on Water

Friday morning took me to the Farmers’ Market at the port.  I hadn’t been there for a few weeks so I reckoned that there might be something new to record.  Walking along the promenade and before arriving at the market stalls, I encountered this sizeable bottoms-up group, some with sizeable bottoms, responding to the commands of a woman with some sort of megaphone.  I counted just two males among the bottom-uppers.

Bottoms Up

And there was such photographable stuff at the market, such as these squash, cashew nuts, and carambola that looked as if they would taste as good as they looked.




There was also something I hadn’t seen for years—a man working a grinding wheel to sharpen knives—and that was worth a couple of clicks.


Sharpening 1

Coming out of the port and walking across the bridge at the north end of HaYarqon Street, I noticed this sign.  You don’t have to be Hebrew literate—in fact you don’t have to be literate at all—to recognise what it says. 


And once on the streets, I could have spent hours without having to move very far just shooting people holding and tapping what is undoubtedly the most ubiquitous apparatus of our times—the smartphone.  These two women were standing outside the post office at the north end of Dizengoff Street, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that it was after 8 a.m. and the post office itself had long since opened.  The concentration on their faces was intense and it led me to think that receiving and sending “intelligence” on a smartphone is as close as many people—and not only young ones—get these days to having a truly religious experience.  (Just think of the almost 2,500 tweets that Mr. Trump has chirruped into his phone since being elected President and which have been spewed out into the world at large to cause mental indigestion in most people—except his core supporters, psychiatrists and awaiting journalists.)

At prayer?

And talking of tweets reminds me of a piece that appeared in The Marker, the economics supplement of Israel’s leading liberal newspaper, Haaretz, a couple of weeks ago, in which the editor wrote that while preparing the January issue, it was impossible not to reflect on Orwell’s 1984, which dealt with violent dictatorship and introduced us to the idea of ​​”Big Brother” who follows everyone, everywhere on two-way screens.  The central character of the book, Winston Smith, was a news editor at the Ministry of Truth who handled and changed archives and historical images to fit the narrative of the ruling party. In other words, he prepared “fake news”.

The issue of privacy, the article continued, did not start with Facebook, but is still quite new.  When countries were undemocratic, the public were unable to resist the government and the strongmen who violated their privacy. Today’s world is different in that modern states have determined that their citizens have a right to privacy, meaning that an individual may limit the access that others have to private information about him.

Until recently, everyone pretty well had a good idea of what privacy meant but with the development of technology, especially the Internet, questions about the issue of privacy have changed completely.  Technically, governments and corporations can follow us anywhere and anytime—but most of us seem not to mind too much. Young people, especially, know that their cellphone gives corporations information about who they are, where they are, where they are going and what they do.  However, nobody protests against collecting and storing information about the public, processing it, and selling it on for profit.  

The editor of The Marker also wrote that because of the development of sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence systems, the really interesting question will no longer be who violates our privacy and how, but what they do with the information collected, what insights are extracted, who the insights are sold to—and how they will affect our lives.

This isn’t science fiction because it’s already here.  Seven decades after the publication of Orwell’s novel in 1948, 1984 has arrived 3½ decades later than Eric Blair himself had imagined!

In our sights

The cameras are inside, perhaps

Big Brother

Big Brother might be watching and listening! Yehuda HaMaccabi Street, Tel Aviv

Penultimately in this post, we’ve been reading about corruption investigations for a long time now.  You know the sort of thing I mean.  A politician meets or is introduced to a person who needs a favour or might need one in the future and the politician might be in a position to help out immediately — or in the case of an Opposition politico, at a later date.  And in order to make sure that the politician doesn’t forget, “gifts” are transferred in one way or another.  Sometimes this works and nothing is revealed.  At other times, things fall apart a bit after someone blows a whistle, either because of conscience or a grievance.  At any rate, the givers of the gift/money/bribe are often people referred to as “fat cats” but I had never seen a fat cat — until last week, that is.  

Then I met one near the lifeguard station at the southern end of Tel Aviv Port, not particularly interested in what was going on around about.

Fat cat

A fat cat indeed!


Finally, this week we have what is a rare family event to enjoy when cello and viola get to play together, something that happens but once a year, if we’re lucky.  This time it’s two quintets—Mozart K614 and Mendelssohn Op. 87—with Prokofiev’s second quartet in between them.  The members of the quintet were working hard on the Mendelssohn when I shot this in rehearsal and they should be exhausted come Saturday evening when they will perform it in Tel Aviv—for the fifth time in six days.


Rachel Ringselstein, Tali Goldberg, Tami & Shuli Waterman, Yonah Tzur. Israel Conservatory of Music, Tel Aviv


Weather for soup

Last Thursday, the news on radio and television sounded as if war was imminent.  People were advised not to go out unless absolutely necessary and they should keep their windows and shutters tightly closed.  Moreover, they were warned that they should make sure that there was enough food in the house to see the family through several days.  However, it wasn’t a war we were being warned about but the wintry weather forecast for the following few days  


The clouds say the storm is about two days away.  Tel Aviv Port, 3.i.2018, 08.55 hrs 

We even received a notification via WhatsApp from an organisation that deals with the wellbeing of “older folk” in Tel Aviv, which included instructions on how to avoid hypothermia.   It was purported that these instructions had originated with the Ministry of Health and they included such gems as the need to wear warm clothes, to keep the house at a steady temperature of 24ºC and not allowing it to drop below 21ºC and to switch on a humidifier, insulate windows and doors as far as possible, drink 8-10 glasses of water a day and eat light meals 5-6 times a day in  preference to eating three hearty meals (or it sounds as if they meant heart-damaging meals).

Yes, winter has finally arrived in Tel Aviv.  One would have thought Tel Aviv was about to suffer subzero temperatures, that ice might form on the tops of the latté in the cafés or that the heavy rain might leave dents in the bodies of vehicles.  

The warnings were so dire that for once I decided not to leave things to chance and closed all the external shutters on the windows in the flat on Thursday afternoon as the forecast was for the storm to arrive some time in the night of Thursday/Friday.  However, the main outcome of sealing out almost all the external sources of light was that we overslept on Friday morning as neither had any lightning flashed nor thunder roll until early on Friday morning—and then the winds began to blow and the rain began to fall with an intensity that is quite common for a Mediterranean winter.  

As luck would have it, I was on my way to the bakery to buy a loaf of bread (challah for Shabbat) when all hell broke loose in the heavens so that both the raincoat I was wearing and the umbrella I was carrying proved pretty useless in the sort of weather that turned itself loose at about a quarter to ten.  My trousers quickly became saturated and adhered to my legs and my shoes were sodden, combining to leave the bottom half of my body feeling cold and wet ,making each step I took more of an effort than the previous one.  Then, to add to the slapstick, I had left the hood of my raincoat turned down as I went out, not thinking about the possible consequences.  So when the rain became heavy and I put the hood on, I discovered that it had filled with water so that at that point, my head was as wet as both legs and feet had already become.

I bought the loaf of bread I’d gone out for and plodded home resembling the proverbial wet rat and so notwithstanding the exhortation of the Ministry of Health not to consume heavy meals in the wintry weather, it definitely felt like a hot soup day. So hot soup it was for lunch and we  were more successful than the unfortunate couple in the sketch below.


In the event, the storm only lasted a day and by Saturday morning, it was more or less over except for the odd sharp shower.  In terms of this particularly dry winter, it was a desirable deluge, a welcome wetting, but in terms of what normally happens, it was a bit of a disappointment — 74mm of rain over two days isn’t much.  

Mediterranean winters differ from those in northern and western Europe or most of North America in the sense that you learn that everything is relative.  When the you’re informed in Tel Aviv that it will be colder than seasonal, they mean that the daily maximum temperature might be 15ºC and the nights might be perhaps 10º.  And although to hardy North Americans and even Europeans that might not sound particularly cold, in the context of Tel Aviv where the dwellings are not constructed to deal effectively with a few days of rain a year [they keep you dry but walls are relatively thin], it feels quite chilly indeed.  

Of course, the pleasant thing about winter in this place is that even if a storm lasts three or four days (and sometimes they do) and is followed almost immediately by yet another such meteorological event, you know that when it’s over, you will have sunshine and 20+ºC again for a while.  And so it was — not even 48 hours of cold and rain and then it almost felt like spring again.

However, the fact that it was short and sharp doesn’t mean that damage hadn’t been done.  Walking through the park and along the coast when the storm was more or less over, you began to get a sense of what damage lots of wind and water can spawn.

As I’ve been keeping you informed over the past year, Tel Aviv Municipality has been busy upgrading the infrastructure along the street.  (Actually busy is not exactly the word to use.  Some days, there’s activity; other days it’s a wilderness devoid of people but full of unfinished work.) Part of this upgrade, as I understood it, was to improve the drainage so that when it rains, the street doesn’t become a tributary of the Yarqon stream 150m to the north.  Either it was a misunderstanding on my part or it was an investment gone seriously wrong!

Flooded 1

Shlomtzion HaMalkah Street, 15 mins. after start of heavy rain


Junction of Shlomtzion HaMalkah and Brandeis Streets, 5/i/2018, 09.55 hrs

Walking into the park the morning after, the first thing to hit you is that the river level has risen and the river (or what passes for a river) has turned a muddy brown, which didn’t prevent the rowers or the birds from doing their respective things.  

River browningBrown river

Other birds, however, were not so sure that it was a good idea to come out yet as it really was so warm and comfortable in bed and anyway, s/he overslept, as well.

Cosy in there

The day after the storm had more or less ceased showing off its prowess, the forecasters were telling us that we were going to have a day of sunny periods and heavy showers and that is exactly what we got.  Fifteen minutes after leaving the house in bright sunny weather, I had to run to take shelter as the heavens opened for about 10 minutes.  Although Fujifilm advertises that both the X-T2 camera and the lens I had on it at the time are weather resistant, I didn’t feel that I was obligated to put it to such a stringent test as in a downpour as heavy as this one was.

Heavy rain

En route to the port, I began to get a sense of what I might see once I’d rounded the corner…


…and when I did, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest.

Rough sea

The sea was rough and muddy although I have seen it much rougher than it was the other day.  

Sea Wall, T-A Port1

Tel Aviv Port, 9/i/2013

Although I had made up my mind to make my way down to the sea in the height of the storm on Friday, I chickened out at the last minute (I was already well and truly soaked after my outing to buy bread).  Anyway, I knew that there would be material to photograph the following day.  

I wasn’t disappointed.  The sea isn’t particularly fussy about what it spews out and it vomits up everything that was in it so that you have a wonderful opportunity to view what kinds of garbage people throw into it.

Plastic 2


Plastic 1

What stands out is that in addition to the organic material — leaves and branches and such like — there is such a large quantity of plastic detritus.  Plastic bottles, bottle caps, and cups, not to mention plastic bags, their flight though the air from sea to land brought by meeting an immovable object such as a fence or a wall.

Plastic 3

When I look at the picture I took six years ago and see the waves throwing rocks into the air, I always thought I might be seeing things that really weren’t there.  However, looking at the results of last Friday’s storm the day after, I can see that it really was as I saw it.

Damage 1

“Sun and showers”, they said, and that’s what we got.

For the most part, the storm was over by Saturday morning and breakfasts could be eaten in relative peace and quiet once more.

Breakfast at the Port

Peaceful breakast

Breakfast in the park

Of course, there’s also the funny side of things.  I watched this gentleman for some time do something I can’t do, which is take a selfie (without getting a finger or thumb in the way of me and whatever is around me).  He walked up and down the promenade looking for angles and trying stay dry at the same time.  However, I knew that somehow, some time, he was going to end up having rather cold saline shower — and so it was.

Shower time

And a little further along, I encountered an Alpha camera male.  These men are instantly recognisable because of the size and weight of their antlers and their neck fur, which tends to be emblazoned with the letters N I K O N  D- SOMETHING OR OTHER in yellow on a black background.  You don’t argue with beasties like this.  You get out of their way.

Alpha male

Alpha NIKON D500. Tel Aviv Port

So as I meekly surrendered to his dominant status in the pack that day and trudged backwards with head bent, I clicked away in respect of his superior rank.  (It was self-defence before he shot me, your honour.)  Not that he would have wasted a click on someone as inferior as yours truly.  (BTW, I tried one of those things once.  You need a fully laden backpack with lenses to act as a counterweight if you don’t want to become a latter-day Quasimodo!)

Alpha male 1

By Sunday afternoon, the storm had been forgotten.  The sun was out, the sky was blue and sea had returned to its pristine self.  This was winter in Tel Aviv …

Jaffa from Alma Beach

… as are the lemons all over the place.

Lemon tree



Another Opening of Another Year

Another opening, another year—2018.  It only seems like yesterday when people were warning us all about the great computer crash that was going to occur when we moved to a new millennium and like lots of other things, it just didn’t happen!  

As I write this on the last day of 2017, in Tel Aviv, we are at well into what’s supposed to pass as winter but as I look out the window, it’s another sunny day and it’s a pleasant 17ºC.   Thus far, we’ve had less that 90 mm of rain this season, which is about 40% of the annual average to the present date and it looks like being a dry winter—but one never knows until it’s over.  A couple of good storms between now and the end of March could do the job.

This, of course, is in contrast to messages we’ve been receiving from family and friends in different parts of the northern hemisphere, sometimes with pictures attached.  One Canadian friend sent a link to a news item reporting Ottawa, at -35ºC, the coldest capital in the world while another sent a photo of family members standing together in deep snow, wrapped in many layers but admittedly looking quite at ease with it all.  It’s cold in London, UK and Nashville, TN, in Syracuse, NY and Amsterdam, NL.  But here in Tel Aviv, it just keeps rollin’ along day after day, even though we are promised rain tomorrow and the day after, I’ll believe it when I’ve felt it.  (January 1 2018: Yes, it rained—see below.)

Meanwhile, all the while it’s not raining and is relatively warm, people are out in the park doing whatever it is that people do in the park.  Last week, I came across a scene that looked like it was case of blue murder actually being perpetrated until I passed them and saw that although it might have been painful, it was in some measure short of blue murder.

Blue murder 1Blue murder

Then, turning from the park into the port, I thought I had come across a drowning, something I’d been looking out for since I began photographing [semi-]seriously 10 years ago.  I noticed what seemed to be a hat in the water and an upturned boat, so that was a good start.  And helpless to do anything other than document a damp demise, (I have had an aversion to beach and sea from the time I was a boy and had to dry myself with a sandy towel in the wind on Donabate strand north of Dublin after having exited a freezing Irish Sea) I stood there watching and clicking for about five minutes.  I realised quickly enough that there was a head attached to the hat and that what the body under the bonce was trying to do was to avoid the rocks which were in the direction that his upended vessel was heading.

Hat in water 0Hat in water 1Hat in water 2

Finally, he managed to flip the boat over, losing the hat in the process—but better the hat than the head and managed to head towards land on two feet.  Unfortunately for me then, no drowning!

Hat in water 4

Hat in water 3Hat in water 5

On another day when the sea was calm it permitted the creation of this picture which isn’t quite what you think it might be although it isn’t all that difficult to figure out how the image was created.


And, in addition to photographers, there are spies everywhere watching your every move as you walk along taking photographs of people and things.

Spies everywhere

Of course the mild winter weather (Canadians, Americans and Europeans, take note) permits certain people to take full advantage and to perform their calisthenic exercises in full public view — not that the public take too much interest in things like this in this part of the world.  Yet I thought this guy was sufficiently interesting to warrant a five minute stop as I watched him go through three routines (this was the third) and he was hard at it before I parked myself beside a tree for balance and after I left, too.

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Further along on the way home, I spotted this couple performing a somewhat attenuated foxtrot (or it might have been a fixed-trot or a one-step as far as I could see) and I was  for some peculiar reason immediately reminded of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr .


Shall we dance?

And, if you keep your eyes open, the park can also provide something of the grotesque, in this case just some almost dead wood and a fungal growth on the tree bark.  



Fungus on tree barkFungal grave indeed (as hinted by the music).

Once again, the birds were out in force this week.  There were herons and egrets everywhere …


… then there was a big bird, but not quite a bird beside the rowing club … 

Big bird

The kingfisher almost took the gold medal …


… until I came across this avian tightrope walker about to take off on a high leap.


Nureyev by the river

The park also yielded these two photographs of a man in another world entirely.  Up and down, up and down — and in the end, he doesn’t even have a cricket or soccer field or a tennis court to be proud of.  As far as I could ascertain, the ear mufflers are just that — ear mufflers.  Certainly no wires and given the placement of the earphones around the headgear, I would guess no bluetooth either.  Just mind-numbing vibrations from the motor mower.


Oblivion 1

A Friday morning walk down Ibn Gvirol Street in North Tel Aviv yielded the following, which might just attract some carnivores if they were really desperate — but vegetarians and vegans, look away now if you don’t want to feel ill.

Friday Ibn Gvirol

Not far away from the spitting chickens, I looked across to Rabin Square and found that the view had been transformed.  In the centre of the square was a tall, spindly structure; on crossing the street to have a closer look, I discovered that the tower was made of Lego bricks.  I had noticed a couple of days earlier while on a bus that there was a lot of activity in the square.  There was some sort of mechanical hoist and ladder with people at work up above, apparently affixing the guy ropes.  The Municipality can now apply to have this 36 metre tower entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest Lego Tower.

Lego TowerLego Tower 1Lego Tower 3

Lego Tower 2


All of this brought me back half a century to a fortnight’s field trip to Denmark in 1965 with the Department of Geography at Trinity College Dublin.  There, in addition to the serious stuff like measuring glacial muck and stream velocities, we visited a working sausage factory in which we were able to follow the plump pink porkers being unloaded from a truck and happily running into a building to meet their Danish demise, emerging a couple of hours later as sausages.  If I remember correctly, as if to assuage the group’s feelings having seen what they had just seen, not a single sausage among the 60 or so people who had experienced this highly instructional episode, was willing to sample the goodies on offer—and they didn’t even normally eat kosher.  However, as apparent compensation for this gory adventure, we were also taken to the Lego factory in central Jutland to observe the end-product of a different sort of Danish ingenuity.  

Ah, Geography — that all-encompassing [in]discipline.

Over the end-of-December break from school, we were treated to a couple of days with our London grandchildren, accompanied of course by their parents, at the start and finish of what to us seemed like a whirlwind trip to see family and friends, the high point of which, apparently, was to have been trapped on the snake path up to Masada before 6 a.m. while a sandstorm with zero visibility raged for a couple of hours.  

Our 7-year old grandson Tal was so amused by his grandfather’s warped sense of humour as displayed on the large 120 x 100 cm poster hanging opposite my cluttered desk that on a visit to the Dead Sea, he photographed one of these fascinating “people” for me, which is now included amongst my 1,000 or so photographs of fire hydrants.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 23.25.14.png


On tiptoes

Finally, just to update you on the progress on the infrastructure work on the street, which began in January 2017 (and we are now January 2018, the predicted (imagined) date for completion (I passed the notice at the western end of the street this morning and that’s really what it said!)  Having spent over four months on our section of the street, the business of changing the drainage, sewage and water facilities then processed eastwards in the direction of Weizmann Street last October with an estimated completion time of 3-4 months.  At the time, I reckoned this was optimistic in the extreme given what we had experienced between the end of May and the start of October.  Nevertheless, they seemed to be making progress despite the weather and the mud. 

Then—a new gang of workers began digging up what the others had more or less put back.  Yes, the Israel Electricity Corporation, having installed new lampposts some time back needed to dig up the street once more in order to lay underground cables to replace the overhead ones that hang from pole to pole along the street.  Being a cynic, I reckoned all along that this was what about to happen.  Just as well that Israel supplies household gas in cylinders rather than by underground pipelines.



Unfortunately, after a year’s worth of work to improve drainage, it seems as if one day’s rain is more than the system can cope with!


shlomtzion 1.jpg