I always turn my cellphone to silent before I get into bed because I like to try and pretend that I’ll have a proper night’s sleep. I leave it close at hand because it seems that nature has declared that I should check the time at every other hour throughout the night. So just after midnight [very] early on Sunday morning, I thought I heard the phone buzz. However, as I tend to do nothing on the assumption that if it’s a real emergency, whomsoever is disturbing me will call again and then again, I did nothing. Then at one-thirty, the first of my regular nocturnal stirrings to check whether or not it’s already morning, I saw that it was a note from our upstairs neighbour asking if I was awake and whether or not we had electricity. Well, I answered “No” on both counts and awoke again just before 6 only to discover that the flat still seemed not to have any power.
Then I did what one does in cases like this and looked out the window too see whether it was just us or whether it was a neighbourhood blackout. (I have to add for non-Israeli readers that in winter, especially, it’s not uncommon that during heavy rain and thunder & lightning there’s an electricity outage that might last for a couple of hours or even longer. This one, however, had already lasted for six). Opening the bedroom shutters, the streetlights were on and the neighbours directly opposite had light in the flat. Next step — into the kitchen to have a look at the other side of the other street only to discover that the lights were shining brightly there, too. So out into the stairwell to check the circuit breakers but they’re all up. Conclusion? We have a problem.
So at 06.05, I call the Israel Electricity Corporation to report the issue only first to hear a recorded announcement to the effect that there has been a major outage in several streets in South Tel Aviv but that’s obviously nothing to do with the issue we have here. Then a young woman’s voice can be heard on the line informing me that the problem has already been reported (by my neighbour, just after midnight). As six hours have passed since the fault was first reported and there’s still no electricity, I ask the imbecilic question as to why, a query for which the damsel has no answer.
Thus began a series of phone calls at fairly regular intervals from both our neighbour and me to 103, the Electricity Corporation’s emergency number, inquiring in increasingly desperate tones when approximately we might have power restored. Eventually, at 3 in the afternoon, the miracle happened and the lights and heating came on and we were back in business.
The reason I’m writing all this, of course, is that electricity is something we take completely for granted and it’s only when you don’t have it that you start to realise how dependent we are on it and how hopelessly lost most of us are when we don’t have it. In that sense, it’s rather like health. So at 6 in the morning, having just informed the Electricity Corporation that there was no power, what did I do? I filled the kettle and waited for the water to boil so that I could make some coffee. Nothing doing, of course, and I felt stupid for the first time among many during the 15 hours that were to follow.
The telephone receivers in the flat are all cordless, so no power to the base, therefore no landline. OK—not a big deal as we’ve got cellphones and it was just as well we had charged them up the previous evening before we retired for the night because by early afternoon, it dawned on us that they would be quickly drained if we overused them and I began to think that I might have to spend a couple of hours in the car with the engine running just in order to charge the cellphone and stay in touch with the rest of the world. Needless to add, no electricity, so no computer and no work. No washing machine, no dryer, no dishwasher, no microwave, no hob, no oven. Fridge and freezer stay closed. No TV, no radio—and that was the one good thing about it all as I didn’t have to hear any news throughout the day, something that lifted my spirits (as did the Bushmills whiskey at the end of the day when power was eventually restored).
At 2 p.m., we decided we’d better go out if we wanted to eat and drink something hot. However, just as we were coming to the end of our meal, the cellphone rang and it’s the voice of yet another young lady from the Electricity Corporation to announce that a team of technicians have arrived at the house and they need access to the building—but neither we nor our neighbour was in. I pleaded with them to hold on for 10 minutes; they agreed and this was the time it took me to finish up and to walk home. An hour later, we were powered up and online again and the eventful part of the day came to an end.
So much for powerlessness. But what about power?
Since last week’s post, the Israel Police have recommended to the Attorney-General that they indict the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in two cases. The first concerns bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges over some NIS 1 million worth of gifts, including NIS 750,000 ($212,000) from Arnon Milchan, an Israeli-born Hollywood film producer (Pretty Woman, The Revenant, 12 Years a Slave, among others). The second involves allegations that he was willing to sell out Yisrael HaYom, a freebie newspaper that is now Israel’s largest circulating newspaper, which is seen as his mouthpiece and is funded by Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who donates to right-wing causes in the United States and Israel. The allegation is that this was to be in exchange for favourable coverage in Yedioth Aharonoth, which, prior to Yisrael Hayom coming along had been the largest newspaper in the country but tended to be critical of the Prime Minister. However, the spoke in the wheels of Mr. Netanyahu’s side of this story, which is that nothing actually came of this, is that a former aide agreed to serve as state’s witness in order to avoid time in prison over a separate case. Some of the conversations between Netanyahu and Yedioth Aharonoth publisher Arnon Mozes were recorded on the aide’s smartphone, which had been confiscated by police when investigating him in the other case. There’s also a third case involving the purchase of submarines by the Israeli Navy in which Bibi (Mr. Netanyahu) is not suspected of wrongdoing but, unfortunately for him, his personal lawyer and another close confidant are.
Mr. Netanyahu came out fighting after the police recommendation was announced. Regrettably, for the “Citizens of Israel” (to whom his speech was ostensibly addressed but which actually meant “Dear Likud Supporters” once you heard what he had to say), his attack on the “unfair” methods that the police had used to investigate him poses a danger to Israeli society, undermining as it does one of the institutions so central to the proper functioning of a democratic society. He used the mantra that he has used since the investigations into his alleged wrongdoing began: “Lo yihyeh klum ki ayn klum”, which translates loosely as “They’ll find nothing because there’s nothing there”.
Interestingly, his speech was made from the same porch at the Prime Minister’s residence from which a former Prime Minister nine years earlier had protested his innocence on charges of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate documents, and tax evasion. He, Mr. Olmert, was released from prison last July after a residency of 16 and a half months.
And as if that wasn’t enough, last Monday, a fourth scandal erupted with a bang, one which had begun with a special report by the State Comptroller last July on the problematic relationship between the Ministry of Communication and Bezeq, Israel’s main telecoms company. This report found that the Director-General of the Communication Ministry (who had previously been a senior aide to Netanyahu), had been providing Bezeq with confidential documents and other information he had as a consequence of his new job and from which Bezeq stood to benefit. Netanyahu had appointed himself Minister of Communication when doling our portfolios after the last election, in addition to being Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and the major shareholder in Bezeq has been a good friend for years. On Tuesday night it was reported that the gentleman involved (the ex-Director-General) had reached a deal with the police to turn state’s evidence in which he will reportedly incriminate King Bibi in exchange for a lighter sentence for himself. Another screw has been turned.
The wolves are circling. Coalition partners are beginning to criticize. Loyal government and party members are beginning to worry that all this might have negative repercussions on their chances of winning the next election. It would appear that loyalty has its limits and when you are relatively young, a few months in prison or two years delivering meals on wheels to underprivileged senior citizens might seem a lot more attractive than a decade behind bars. Loyal former aides are beginning to talk to save their own skins and when they do, it’s a bit like throwing up. You know, you feel it coming and you think you can hold it in to save embarrassing everyone around you but in the end, it all is all expelled rapidly and tends to be very messy.
The beginning of a power outage there, too??? Interesting times.
But there’s no point in speculating about what might happen. That’s the job of professional news commentators and pundits, one of which I am not. Anyway, the ball of political twine seems to be unravelling so fast that it would be a pointless exercise.
That was quite some rant but no worse than a few others that have appeared here occasionally over the past two years and it’s good to get things clear in your own mind from time to time.
Meanwhile, between one thing and another, I’ve been a little neglectful with photographs over the past week but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t managed some.
The work on the street looks like it might be coming to an end and it appears that some kind of temporary surface might be in place by the end of the month and the street will be open to traffic again after almost 15 months of closure although I might be a bit optimistic about that.
It prompted me to go back and look at a photograph I took almost 14 months ago at the western end of the street as work was beginning just to see if there was an estimated date for completion given at that time—and I wasn’t a little bit surprised to discover that there wasn’t.
Looking at the same sign towards the end of last week, I noticed that there is now an estimated date of completion — March 2018. Yippee!
But on closer inspection, it would appear that there have been several different estimated dates of completion given over the past year. Fascinating.
When I started photographing in Tel Aviv, my first project had to do with balconies but I never did come across as wild and weird a party as was taking place on a balcony on Jabotinsky Street while I was walking home the other day.
Then on Weizmann Street, I came across Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the changing of the guard. London has nothing to equal this. Mind you, the changing of the guard in London is a daily event whereas Tel Aviv’s occurs perhaps once a decade or even more infrequently.
On another day, turning the corner from Dizengoff Street into Nordau Boulevard, I caught a glimpse of something that only registered a few seconds after I had passed it so I actually took several steps backwards to have a better look from the street and, yes, it was what I thought I had seen — a new barber shop. But although I’m sure that there are many of these male hairdressing salons in and around the country, I’ve never been into anything like this in my 70+ years of having my hair cut. Fit for a king perhaps but the king has other things on his mind at the moment.
As you are aware, I’ve been photographing hydrants and the preparation of a hydrant book is, as I’ve already mentioned, under way and turning out to be a bigger project than I’d imagined. Of course, the humorous thing about the hydrants and what attracted me to them in the first place, is that they suggest faces — people looking at scenes and commenting, people chatting to one another with very vivid expressions. However, the trouble with picking out faces in the street is that once you start, you tend to see them everywhere you go and in different shapes and sizes, which means, of course, that you are never alone.
Then passing through the Farmers’ Market at Tel Aviv Port on Friday morning, you come across the artichokes again and understand why it’s hard to best Mother Nature!
Finally, perhaps someone can explain to me sometime what it is that certain people have about feeding pigeons. As I passed the supermarket on Nordau Boulevard, one of the workers emerged with a packet of red lentils and another containing seeds of some sort, proceeded to tear open the bags and scatter the contents all around whereupon a flock of pigeons descended before he had even finished ripping open the package. As I tend to regard these birds as a category of winged vermin, I wonder if these same individuals would afford the city’s rats the same largesse?
And here, just because I liked it and was reminded of it when I came across an article about the centenary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, there’s this piece which was written three decades ago for his 70th birthday. Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyric (Sondheim got his first serious job when he became the lyricist for West Side Story, which most people just associate with Bernstein) and it is sung by Lauren Bacall.
Finally, I got notice the other day that a piece I wrote when I was still academically inclined will be published in the Handbook of the Changing World Language Map by Springer. If anyone is remotely interested in reading the sort of stuff I used to write, then here is the final draft version.