Power and powerlessness

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.

Just smile at them and …

You’re standing on my toes!  I’ll tell you everything you want to know!

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.   

Coming to an end

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.


Mid-January 2017

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!

Completion date

Mid-February 2018

But on closer inspection, it would appear that there have been several different estimated dates of completion given over the past year.  Fascinating.

Completion date 1

Mid-February 2018


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.

One hell of a party

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.

All change 1

Out with the old …

All change

… and in with the new

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.

In the barber shop

Fit for a king

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.

What is this mess I see?

Why all this mess???

Faces everywhere 2

Railing tastes good  …

Faces everywhere

… or “Boo”, as you’re heading to a car park at night …

Faces everywhere 1

… and even as you lie in the dentist’s chair, mouth agape, looking upward 

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.

Singing the Nation


Diets, roadworks and dirt

As far as I can see, this week has started off on the wrong foot.  Yesterday morning, I met my dietician and he’s not pleased with me at all.  My doctor gently suggested a year or so ago that I lose some weight (I have been described in medical terms as “slightly obese”, which means simply that I’m overweight but not grossly so).  

I had a few sessions with the same dietician over a decade ago and I worked hard to lose 6 or 7 kg until family members started to tell me that I was beginning to look haggard and that enough was enough.  This time around, it’s been harder.  Nevertheless, I’ve followed the prescribed diet fairly closely and after the previous visit, a fortnight ago, he pronounced himself happy that I’d lost over a kilo in the two weeks since the prior visit.  However, yesterday there was no change; I weighed in at exactly the same as I had been   previously—and I’d been a strict follower of the diet sheet, or so I thought.  So I knew I was in for an admonition and that’s exactly what happened. As a consequence, he decided to discipline me by putting me on two days a week of absolutely no carbohydrates, something that I don’t find particularly appetising, and I’m to report back at the end of February.

His diet sheets don’t make for particularly exciting reading for in his lexicon, food = fuel.  It’s no more than that for there is apparently no aesthetic quality to food; it’s purely functional.  One has to use considerable imagination to turn the dietician’s suggestions into dishes that do not just fulfil his demands but also taste and smell as if you can enjoy consuming them.  One has to understand that although this health professional has excellent qualifications and references—I was sent to him the first time by our then GP who said that the reason was because he was unpleasantly strict and unyielding.  That was true, although he’s mellowed somewhat over the years and now smiles when I enter—but I have the feeling that his idea of haute cuisine is to boil two eggs over a Primus stove on the summit of a tall mountain and that his his idea of haute couture is to wear a polo neck sweater over his shirt.

Notwithstanding my disgruntlement at what I was being commanded, he left his prize exhortation until just as I was about to depart.  From a dietician’s perspective, walking 5 km in the morning with a camera is a waste of time.  Apparently, it’s a waist of time and to the waist’s detriment.  One has to be earnest about walking and work up a sweat as a consequence of, otherwise it’s pointless.  It evidently doesn’t matter if you’ve managed half a dozen decent images on the walk to have made the exertion worthwhile. Put very simply, stop-start won’t do.  It has to be start, go, and keep going until you feel like dropping — and only if you  feel like it after you’ve done all that, then go back home and get the camera and go out again.

I’m giving deep consideration to this medical advice.  In retrospect, it’s probably as good a time was any to make a change.  After all, the photographs on my computer require sorting and cataloguing again and I need the time to execute the preparation of the coffee table book on fire hydrants (though why a coffee table book, I don’t know, because we don’t have a piece off furniture like that) that I’ve contemplated and planned for a while.  And now that I’ve started, I’ve discovered that it requires a lot more effort than I could have imagined.


Meanwhile, exiting the elevator the other morning I saw something that somehow reminded me of pictures one sees of people who are having a deeply religious experience.  The cat in the picture appeared to me to be kissing the wall in gratification for some miracle or other.  

Kiss the wall

However, changing the angle slightly also changed my perspective on this.  And much as I am loth to change my mind once my prejudices have been formed (and, like others, I have many), the moggie was simply very thirsty and had taken a decision to avail of the nearest source of water, whatever its origins.

Drink the water

It reminded me that I had made a similar error of judgement or interpretation a couple of years ago when I came across a scene one morning in Tel Aviv Port.  Initially,  and despite the attire, I thought that the gentleman might be a Mussulman at prayer.  But no! He was facing towards the sea and you don’t get to Mecca by sailing across the Mediterranean (I used to be a geographer, you see).  Then, when I examined the situation more closely, I discovered that his only prayer might have been that he come across a precious stone or medal that somebody might have dropped and which had fallen between the planks on the boardwalk.  Armed only with a small torch and a knife, he kneeled his way from board to board in search of hidden treasures.  I wished him luck but he wasn’t at all grateful for all the attention I had paid him and  I was left wondering why.


And, of course, every now and then, you do come across someone engaged in real prayer — or at least dressed in a uniform appropriate to such an event.

At prayer

I’ve actually come to the conclusion that the closest that many people come to having a religious experience these days is when they commune with the outside world through the ether with these electronic amulets in one hand and their carcinogenic joss stick in the other.  All that’s missing in this photo, variants of which pop up every few meters no matter where you are, is that dark magic liquid in a paper cup that increases one’s pulse rate and raises one’s blood pressure.  I get by with late Beethoven, Shostakovich’s chamber music and Mahler’s symphonies, among others.

National pastime.jpg

Obviously, the crow in the picture below had found the perfect solution to a raised pulse rate and higher blood pressure and was managing to soothe its nerves before flying off to terrorise the neighbourhood once more.

Crow soother.jpg

The lapwing, on the other hand, was looking somewhat forlorn and despondent in the mud and might have taken a leaf out of the crow’s book and done something meaningful to raise his spirits.


Talking spirits, I came across this bottle sitting on a park bench at the end of last week.  The only reason that this appears here is that if I remember correctly, something that is becoming a rarity as age advances, this was my introduction to white table wine over 50 years ago.  Wine was not something that we drank with a meal in a Jewish household in Dublin in the 1960s.  The only wine I knew before I was 21 was the sweet sacramental stuff that came out every Friday evening and occasionally the following morning.  Then when I went to Israel soon after I married,  I was introduced to a red table wine called Adom Atik (trans. Ancient Red), which was produced around 1960 by a winery then known as Carmel Mizrahi, along with Carmel Hock, the biggest selling Israeli table wine in the 1960’s.  Adom Atik was then Israel’s biggest selling table wine in export markets, mainly to a kosher market abroad but seemingly—and I find this strange to say the least— the Swedes had developed a liking for it, too.  The principal thing I remember about these two wines is that they were on-the-spot-liquid-headaches, a way of guaranteeing instant cephalalgy.  

Returning to Dublin and writing a Ph.D thesis, occasionally on evenings when we (yes, we!) worked late on maps and graphs, we went to the Bianconi Grill at the Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street.  It was here that I discovered that not all white wine should have soda water added to it to take the taste away, as per Carmel Hock.  In fact, Blue Nun, if I recall, was so sickly sweet that it really shouldn’t have been served with food at all.  Nevertheless, it was a sort of culinary landmark. 

Blue Nun.jpg

Returning home the same day, I observed this gentleman, his scooter and his canine companion.  As I looked on, I tried to figure out the relationship between man and dog, a relationship that initially appeared to be too close for comfort.  It was only when I was able to view the goings-on from the opposite angle that I understood the meaning of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics from Somewhere, as the dog settled in as a pillion passenger and had breakfast.

Man & Dog0

Man & Dog1

Man & Dog2

Man & Dog3

Man & Dog4

Meanwhile, the essential infrastructure work that has plagued the street (or, at least, bedevilled the residents) for the past 14 months (and for the past 9 months outside our house) is showing signs that it might be about to come to its end.  It will be a terrible loss to us all when the labourers, their heavy equipment and most of all, their voices, leave depart and they move on to their next project.  Now that pipes, cables, poles and all the rest have been changed, we’ll have to wait and see how long it takes before a permanent surface is put down along the entire length of the street.  And I’m not betting on the Municipality organising a neighbourhood street party to celebrate the cessation of hostilities. 

Dirty work in construction.jpg

Dirty, filthy work as an infrastructure labourer

The end of the street

Yet, in a way, I’ll miss some of the characters associated with the work such as the guy below, whose [nominal] function was to prevent people falling into holes and channels that had been dug where the street had been before but who seemed to be engaged in Russian-language word games, day in, day out—all day, every day.

Russian Xwords

Going through my pics the other day in one last search for images of hydrants and related objects that had not been classified as such in my catalogue (and there were a few), I came across several pictures that I hadn’t looked at for a while.  A few years ago, when one of our granddaughters was 2 years old, she looked up at the wall in the kitchen where we have several pictures of fruit and vegetables hanging and informed me that there was room for yet one more.  Yes, there was a gap, so I asked her what she thought should occupy the empty space, and quick as a wink, she said “an avocado”.  I tried suggesting other things that I had already photographed but she was insistent, as kiddies are sometimes, so I bought a ripe avocado, halved it, put it on the chopping board, which I placed on the worktop with the lights directly above it, climbed up onto the worktop (after removing my shoes, of course) and this picture, which now hangs in the kitchen, was the result.


And not far from the image of the avocados in the catalogue was a picture of several pieces of wood glued together, cut from a tree somewhere near Brescia in Northern Italy in the last decade of the 16th century and here it was, over four centuries later, still working hard and producing a most wonderful warm, rich and rounded sound.


Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet #13 in B-flat minor, Op. 138 (1970), performed by the Aviv String Quartet.



Poles apart

Tel Aviv

Poles apart

I had actually planned on posting this on the blog three days ago but somehow restoring the data to the new hard disk on the computer after the the backup disk had crashed during the restoration procedure took a little longer than I could have imagined.  However, I hope that by the end of the day, it will have been completed.


Slowly does it


Many years ago, I read Primo Levi’s If This is a Man, the memoir of his experiences in the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz III. where he had spent 11 months as a prisoner until it was liberated.  Levi’s book revealed a perturbing insight into the human capacity to produce such horrors as existed in the concentration camp and the book relates not only the author’s extraordinary survival of Auschwitz but also the reasons behind the inhumanity of the Nazi concentration camp system.

On reading If This is a Man, I discovered that I had entered this world as the Red Army was approaching Auschwitz in order to liberate those prisoners remaining, those who had somehow managed to survive, on the morning of January 27 1945.  This chance synchronicity—my birth and the liberation of the death camp most closely associated with the Holocaust—literally raised the hairs on the back of my neck and caused goose pimples all over my body.  And being made aware of this serendipity has provided me since with what I regard as my own special relationship with the Jewish people, something I personally regard as being more significant than the far more general and important bilateral association between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel or , for that matter, belief in God. It also made me aware that in the trilateral arrangement of Jewish identity involving belief, behaviour and belonging, it is the third that strikes me as being the most significant.  

January 27, then, is marked throughout the world as International Holocaust Day.  (In Israel, for over 65 years, the Holocaust has been remembered on the 27th of the Hebrew month of Nissan, usually late April/early May, a week before Israeli Independence Day.) So it was ironic, then, that in January 2018, just a day before International Holocaust Day, the lower house of the Sejm, (the Polish parliament) approved the Amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance (a.k.a. the “Death Camp Bill”) which would criminalise any mention of Polish complicity in crimes committed during the Holocaust, including any reference to “Polish death camps”.  This was further approved by the Polish senate later in the week and is awaiting the signature of the Polish President so as to become law.  Poor timing gone mad!

This amended act provides for a penalty in precisely defined situations for the purpose of preventing intentional defamation of Poland, with final determination of specific cases resting with the court.  (Apparently, the provisions of the amended act do not limit freedom of research, discussions on history or artistic activity, whatever that is supposed to mean.)

Of particular note is the added Article 55a, which states that if anyone in public and against facts, ascribes to the Polish People or to the Polish State responsibility or co-responsibility for the Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich defined in the International Agreement on the prosecution and punishment of major war criminals of the Axis Powers signed in London on August 8, 1945 … or for other crimes against peace, humanity or war crimes, or who otherwise grossly reduces the responsibility of the actual perpetrators of these crimes, then that person is subject to a fine or imprisonment of up to three years.  If the perpetrator acts unintentionally, they will be subject to a fine or restriction of freedom.  

Now, the relationship between ethnic Poles and the Jews who also lived in Poland is complicated and complex.  In his 1996 book Konin—A Quest, Theo Richmond wrote (p.160)  “… one can understand why many Poles found it extraordinary that a people who had lived in Poland since the Middle Ages showed so little desire to learn its language.  Until the First World War most Jewish boys received only a cheder education, speaking Yiddish in and out of class, mixing in a world where only Yiddish was spoken.  As adults they acquired enough Polish for everyday transactions in the marketplace.  This shut them off not only from Poles but from those fellow Jews who had received a secular education.”

Many educated Polish Jews had little problem acknowledging their Polishness and their Jewishness.  The pianist Arthur Rubinstein, a citizen of the world, was feted in Poland as one of that country’s foremost artists and basked in the glory of being a lad from Łodz who knew how to play the piano well.  However, when he returned a medal awarded to him by the Italian government, he signed his letter to Mussolini “Arthur Rubinstein, a Jewish pianist” and he chose to have his remains interred in Israel.


Arthur 1887-1982Rubinstein Panorama

Notwithstanding the convoluted entanglement of Poles and Jews, the enactment of the “death camp bill” last week illustrated, amongst other things, the depth of the resentment  held by many supporters of the current Polish government not only towards Jews but towards Russia, Germany, the European Union and who knows what else.  Some Poles appear to have more chips on their shoulders than our local fish and chip restaurant in London can stuff into a cardboard box.

It also illustrates a point made I made in my last post in which I quoted from Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth when he wrote that while Auschwitz has been remembered, most of the Holocaust has been forgotten. … 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.  …  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. … [and] Auschwitz was a convenient symbol in the … Soviet Union and today in post-Communist Russia.  If the Holocuast is reduced to Auschwitz, then it can easily be forgotten that the … mass killing of Jews began in places that the Soviet Union has just conquered. … In the East the … 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.”

So to come back to the “Death Camp Bill”.  Most people want to be remembered in a positive light.  However, sometimes for this to happen you need to misrepresent (distort?make adjustments to?) the facts somewhat. Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp.  When it operated, there was no Polish state so it can’t have been a “Polish death camp”.  Some unfortunate Jews may have been given the job of making sure their fellow Jews entered the gas chambers to be murdered but that doesn’t make it a “Jewish death camp” as one Polish politician apparently suggested last week. However, to say that it was not a Polish death camp is not to be taken to mean that the [Polish] people living close to it and to other such camps did not know what was happening.  Nor does it exonerate Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians and others who participated and observed the pillage and the murders of the over 80 percent of Jews who were killed in the bloodlands of Eastern Europe prior to the perfection of the death camps.  

The sort of ultranationalism that is reappearing in Europe and elsewhere in recent years gives rise to situations such as these and unfortunately, we are all too aware of how things evolved the last time this sort of thing happened in the previous century.  (And if we think that Israel’s current right-wing bunch are much different from the Poles, then think again.  It’s just that their prejudices differ.)

People killing other people is a fact of the level of inhumanity that humanity can reach.  Ordinary people.  We’re all human, you know, and much as I don’t want to think about it, could we all reach similar depths in similar situations in which all rule of law has broken down and vanished?

And if the Polish parliament can choose to distort historical facts by enacting laws such as the “Death Camp Bill”, then one wonders what will happen when the last person with a tattooed number on her arm departs this earth?  Will they say then that the sources documenting the Holocaust are all fiction?


Anyway, enough of this heavy stuff.  At least I got it off my shoulders.  Now for some pictures. 

One morning last week, I decided to stray from my regular paths and walk north of the Yarqon stream.  Just as I came to the northern end of the bridge, I came across something that bothers me whenever I see it.  Similar things happen in different parts of the world.  You know what I mean.  You’re in the car and you join a queue at the traffic lights where (depending on the number of cars in front of you) you are destined to spend the next two to ten minutes more or less stationary.  Then out of the blue, someone taps on your window and asks you or motions to you that he’d like you to part with some of your small change to his exclusive benefit.  Or a “team” of windscreen washers appears from nowhere, lifts your wipers from off the windscreen and manages to smudge it brown with muddy water, rendering what is on the outside only partially visible — and expect you to reward them financially for their unrequested efforts.  I regard both of these acts as potentially dangerous.

However, it’s a moot point as to whether what I saw the other day constitutes a road hazard or whether it’s purely street entertainment.  I regard it as an unwanted menace because even though the traffic isn’t moving because it distracts the driver’s attention; my better half thinks it’s just good fun.  In this case, a juggler—actually, he wasn’t even a juggler but a hula hoop exponent (the juggler was last week)—waited for the cars to stop and then picked up his hoop and a folding stool and sauntered into the middle of the road in front of the stationary cars and began tossing the hoop into the air.  After about 15 seconds of this clowning about, he proceeded to repeat the exercise while balancing on the stool, after which he took his bow—and he still had the time to amble alongside the automobiles with an empty palm outstretched awaiting signs of gratitude from the motorists, some of whom complied with his desire.  Colourful as it may have been, I still regarded him as a traffic hazard!

Junction entertainment

Junction entertainment 1

Junction entertainment 2

Junction entertainment 3

Actually, the reason I had changed my walking route was to photograph [yet another] member of the fire hydrant tribe that is so ubiquitous around the streets of Tel Aviv.  I had noticed this happy couple several times from a distance when driving the car but they were too far away to photograph from the car and there never seemed to be an opportunity to stop and look properly to figure out if it was really photographable.  So the only solution was to walk to it and see — and it was.

Me & My Shadow

As usual, he’s had a little too much to eat and drink—and we both suffer as a result!

The hydrants, I discovered a long time ago are really faces in a crowd or on the street and I have a tendency to see such faces everywhere,  For instance, after washing my hands at a public loo near the park the other morning, I drew out some paper to dry them on and there it was, yet another face staring right at me.  So out came the camera to record it—even though it was sticking its tongue out at me!

Loo eyes

While walking on Ibn Gvirol Street on another day last week, I was reminded of the Wall Street crash.  Woe betide any unfortunate wishing to withdraw cash from this ATM, a real hole in the wall street.

Wall Street Crash

The Great Depression

And this series of ads for Samsung’s Galaxy A8 smartphones has been running for the past couple of weeks (and I presume that parallel pictures have been appearing all over the world), which makes you think that there really is something not quite right with 21sr-century consumer societies.  Why on earth does anyone think we need more than we need?

More than you need!

I also walked to the Carmel Market one morning last week, not because I wanted particularly to buy anything but because it’s a nice hour’s walk.  Once I got there, there’s a wonder of the things to savour and record.  The pile of chilis looked as if they’d be hot enough to burn a hole in the camera if I got too close.  They reminded me of a vegetarian curry I once ate in a restaurant not far from Canons Park Station in London (and I like spicy food) which was so pungent that I was able to locate its exact whereabouts in my digestive system for the 36 hours following. 


Opposite the peppers were these pomegranates waiting to be juiced.  I always feel that pomegranate is not a particularly user-friendly fruit.  They’re tasty but they’re seeds and it’s from the seeds that you get the juice.  It’s far too much bother to do anything useful with unless someone has already extracted the juice for you.

Pomegranate juice to be

Then as I looked around having photographed the pomegranates, I espied a gentleman wearing a coat which I could only surmise he’d put on because its colour would have hidden any stain from the pomegranates were he to have handled them as sloppily as I do.

Some coat!

Coming home from the market, I passed a garden with several aged Strelitzia reginae, a.k.a. the Bird of Paradise flower.  This only went to remind me that not everybody or everything ages beautifully.

Not quite paradise

And then another day, rounding a corner one street from home without the camera but with the iPhone, I noticed this gentleman.  I wasn’t altogether whether his message was was telling me in no uncertain terms: “Paparazzo, keep away from me!” …

No photography!

… or whether it was a variation on the theme of “Thou shalt not make graven images”.  

Graven image.jpg

Either way, it’s expressive.

Finally to my picture of the week.  There’s a small petting zoo in the park.  Actually, it’s not really a petting zoo because the kids can’t get in — and just as well because it’s just a large cage with a couple of emus, three or four ibex, and a few geese and ducks.  The closest you can get to the animals is if you stand outside the cage and look in.  There are signs all round telling people not to feed the animals and birds but this is Tel Aviv where the Jewish mother syndrome is strong and there are always people who think that the poor creatures might starve if they don’t help out by giving them stuff to eat.

Some time in the past month or so the park authorities decide to embellish the enclosure by creating a small pond (presumably for the geese and ducks to splash in) and laying some largish flat stones on top of one another (presumably to make the ibex feel more at home).  However, they didn’t seem to have created anything in particular to improve the living standards of the emus.  Nevertheless, I walked over to have a closer look and as I was standing on the outside looking in, one of the emus wandered across to have a look at me on the outside looking in.  

At first, I thought that we might not be able to communicate very well given that he’s Australian and I always have a problem with an Ozzie accent.  Also, although he’s big, he’s still bird-brained so a discussion about anything serious such as the mental stability of this or that politician or this or that politician’s wife seemed out of the question.  In the event as we stood there, on either side of the cage, each of us sizing the other up and wondering how to break the ice, he asked me what camera I was using and what lens I had on it.  (Even though they both say Fuji, he (or maybe it’s a she; I don’t possess the knowledge to discern) being Australian, was probably reading it upside down and couldn’t decipher it properly).  

I thought the conversation would develop into one about the relative merits of zoom lenses .v. prime lenses as is usually the case with emus.  But not so, for when I told him about the camera, his immediate response was: “Cobber, I suggest that you should really try a Phase One digital back if you really want top quality pictures.”  That amazed me and that was when I surreptitiously pressed the shutter button and this is the portrait that resulted.


I know that this is a frivolous ending to a post that began with a serious topic but if  the two sections are all that different, perhaps subconsciously that’s why I called it “Poles Apart”.