Éireann go breá

About ten days ago, as I was walking eastward from Dizengoff Street towards Rabin Square along Gordon Street, about halfway along I found myself walking behind what my warped mind perceived as a kind of ambulatory Irish tricolour.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 15.18.24

I regarded it as a sort of advance notification of what was going to take place in the Republic of Ireland at the end of last week.  However, I didn’t approach the woman concerned to ask if she was aware of the fact that she had engendered in me a kind of weird nostalgia for fear that she might have considered me to be too forward, perhaps somewhat eccentric or beyond any shadow of doubt, nuts.

Walking flag

Truth is, the big story at the end of last week was no longer Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza nor even the on-off on-again/off-again meeting in Singapore of that unlikely couple, those possessors of a very black short back and sides and a carefully waxed greying blond floating wi[n]g but the fact that the Irish electorate stole the show by voting in a public poll last Friday. I’m a little perplexed as to why this particular issue made such a big story around the world but who am I, an uncomplicated pensioned-off Professor of Geography, to fathom the vagaries of the world’s news editors? Officially, this was called a referendum on the “Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constititution Bill 2018”, to permit the Oireachtas to legislate for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.  In other words it was a vote on whether to tell the Legislature to get on with enacting a law or laws to rid the country of the ban on abortions. 

[The current Irish Constitution, adopted by plebiscite in 1937 demands that every constitutional amendment must be approved by referendum and prior to last Friday there have been 35 referenda. The Constitution also provides for an “ordinary referendum”, which can occur if a bill is simply passed in the ordinary manner with a provision that it be sent to referendum or if it is a bill that, in the opinion of the President, “is of such national importance that the will of the people ought to be ascertained” if requested to do so by a majority of the Senate and a third of the Dáil.  Notwithstanding the fact that this was intended for particularly contentious, controversial or highly important bills, of which there have been several, an Ordinary Referendum has never taken place.]

So this was the story that you couldn’t escape between Wednesday and Saturday of last week, zap as you might from BBC to Sky through CNN and everything else, and flick or swipe your way through newspapers offline or online. Israeli news outlets were not immune, either.  And the voters in the Republic of Ireland didn’t disappoint.  Last Friday, they indicated once again to all and sundry that the country has moved well and truly into the 21st century.  The majority of the voters were truly dancing with joy.  

Jumping for joy

Of course, there are probably many others in the country who might well be ruing the fact that the influence of the Roman Catholic church is not what it used to be.  The people determined, by a majority of 2:1, that whether a woman should have an abortion should no longer be the decision of [mostly] male politicians egged on or cajoled or perhaps even threatened by male and female celibates but her decision with or without seeking the advice of family, friends … and perhaps even clerics.  

And the statistics only go to indicate the extent to which Ireland has changed in the past three decades.  In 1986, voters rejected — by almost an identical majority of 2:1 — to permit divorce.  Nine years later, after a hard-fought struggle under the guidance of Mervyn Taylor, the then Minister for Equality and Law Reform, the prohibition on divorce was removed by a majority of just 0.5%. Twenty years further along the line, the voters in a referendum by a majority of 62% to 38% decided to permit “marriage to be contracted by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.  Then, last week, those Irish voters decided by a majority of 66.4% to 33.6% to remove the ban on abortion.

There is now an anomaly on the island of Ireland as performing an abortion in Northern Ireland is an offence except in very specific cases.  Women in Northern Ireland have two solutions to have an abortion. They can either have a legal abortion via the National Health Service or in a private clinic in Northern Ireland (provided they meet the criteria of a serious and long term risk to mental or physical health that is probable) or they can  travel to anywhere else in the UK and pay to terminate their pregnancy in a private clinic.  It strikes me that this situation in unsustainable in light of last week’s events in the Republic but Mrs. Maybe, whose government’s survival relies on the votes of the Protestant and Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party for her government’s survival is unlikely take action, as is her wont, and press for a change.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 14.13.31Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 14.14.40Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 14.17.56Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 14.19.11Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 14.21.02

Amongst the things that Ireland’s referendum has demonstrated is that not just is Irish democracy alive and kicking but that Irish voters are far more sophisticated that many might be prepared to admit—and it’s been that way for a long time.  Not only does Ireland have an electoral system that works well (the Single Transferable Vote allows election results to be more or less proportional (i.e., the proportion of seats won by each party is close to the proportion of votes cast for that party) and make individual lawmakers responsible to the voters in their constituencies but the single attempt to overturn the system and adopt the notoriously non-proportional first-past-the-post system opted for in the UK, Canada, the USA and many other places was rejected by the voters almost 60 years ago. That referendum (on June 17 1959) was held on the same day as the election of Éamon de Valera as President of the Republic.  De Valera’s party, Fianna Fáil, was counting on voters not splitting tickets but casting their votes for De Valera and for a change to the system (which would have benefitted Fianna Fáil).  The voters were happy with what they had.  De Valera was elected President with a 56.3%—43.7% majority; the proposed Constitutional Amendment was rejected by 51.8%—48.2%.  I was 14 at the time, and that’s when I became interested in politics.

This referendum once more underlined—at least in my notebook—that referenda work well when the question at issue is straightforward, allowing the voters to understand the consequences of what they are voting for.  In this vote, as in the referenda on divorce and same-sex marriage, in particular, it was a simple issue which might have been put as “Do you want people to be happier or not?”.  So, if two guys or gals wish to marry and it makes them happy, why not? If two unhappy people want one another out of their respective lives and it makes them feel better, why not? 

Brexit and its consequences was an entirely different matter in which many people might have “felt” that Britain should remain or leave the European Union without having the slightest clue about the consequences of their actions. I guess it’s one of the differences between the British and the Irish, who are display much common sense. But I suppose you need a First Class degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford to have been bright enough to think up something as original as the Brexit referendum.  There’s not much chance of a repeat performance of such lateral thinking though, as the one of the two current front-running candidates for Prime Minister of the UK after the next election has a Second Class degree in Geography and the other being a dropout from a course in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic.

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

And that was the excitement of the week, the rest of which was pretty run of the mill.

There are all sorts of signs that spring in Tel Aviv has been short this year and that summer is arriving.  For a start, the flame trees are in full bloom.  At least two species of these flamboyant flowering trees can be seen throughout the city, lighting up streets, alleys, and parks with their bright red flowers.

Poinciana

Royal Poinciana

Royal Poinciana

Royal Poinciana (flowers)

Flame tree

Illawarra Flame Tree

Illawarra.jpg

Illawarra Flame Tree (flowers)

About the only things that can match the exuberance of the flame trees are the watermelons on sale at every greengrocer in the city.  These ones looked particularly delicious.

Watermelon

And if you keep your eyes open, you’ll find all sorts of pretty things in what passes for a garden in, around and behind the grubbiest of apartment buildings.

Daisy+

In a way, folks, this blog post is beginning to remind me of the way I sometimes feel about newspapers or radio or TV newscasts.  You know what I mean.  The news has been scheduled to fill the time between 20.00 and 21.00 but you’ve only got 15 minutes of newsworthy material.  Do you fill the hour with Tom and Jerry or The Simpsons or manufacture “news”?  What do you think?  A columnist is contracted to provide two pieces of 1,000 words twice a week for a newspaper but nothing happened this week of any consequence.  Does s/he donate her/his fee to a charity for not having been able to produce something worthwhile or produce 1,000 words of rubbish.  You guess!

So, in today’s HaAretz newspaper, the following article made front page news.  Really?  Really!  Front page news!?  And HaAretz regards itself as Israel’s quality newspaper (a view that is shared by all of 4% of Israeli newspaper readers).

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 10.20.58.png

Meanwhile, the Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv Port and the city’s cafés continue to provide me with material to fill 1,500 words minimum, come what may.

Keep up to date

She’s not reading HaAretz — but the Freebie depresses her almost as much

All my own woek

This work of art is only in black & white — but it’s all my own work

Parakeet

Good morning, Israel!

Crosswords, Sudoku and anything else that matters.  You can find him in Café Jeremiah between about 07.30 and 08.30, same seat every day, behind the bushes so that it’s taken me at least two years to get a reasonable photo.

Xword Man

Crosswords and Sudoku.  (Café Jeremiah, Yirmiyahu Street, Tel Aviv)

… and one for my friend

Gee! I guess he forgot to order for his friend as well!  (Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv)

Personal spitoon

Cyclops and his personal spittoon.  Tel Aviv Port.

ready for all eventualities

Ready for all eventualities. Nordau Boulevard, Tel Aviv

Kingfisher

Kingfisher.  Yarqon Park

And to end with, my photo of the month.  Just a wee house sparrow that I came across sitting on a railing as I walked along Basel Street one morning.  As these little feathered friends don’t hang around in one place for very long, I had to be quick.  No time to change the settings on the camera so depth of field very shallow and that’s why the head and feet are in sharp focus but the breast isn’t. 

Sparrow

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

Standard

Post #150: A rather mixed week

Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 8.39.17.png

Someone once asked me about the main differences between living in Israel and living in the UK and that set me off thinking.  The weather? It rains there all year round whereas in Israel, rain is a series of winter events.  In the UK, they have a royal family, which was on glorious display for the world to see at the weekend whereas Israel just has to put up with the Netanyahu family.  But it couldn’t really be that either. 

And then it dawned on me. 

The biggest contrast that I can think of is that in London when one listens to or watches the news broadcasts on radio or TV at 6 or 7 in the morning, it’s roughly the same as what you had heard at 11 or midnight or whatever time it was before you fell asleep.  The contrast with Israel couldn’t be starker, for in Israel there is close to a zero correlation between the two newscasts, so much so that you can’t even begin to guess what might have occurred in the six or so hours that you’ve been asleep.  And then as the day in Britain rolls on, there might be one or two slight changes to the items on the news  bulletins whereas in Israel, in contrast, it varies almost by the hour.  If nothing else, this keeps you on your toes.  What I mean is that in Israel, there’s never a dull moment and I’m not often given to speaking in understatement. 

Think about it.  The week before last it was Iran in Syria; then this week it was Gaza [again] and the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem.  (And what with the split screen on TV showing events unfolding in Gaza on the left-hand side and the bizarre utterances of Bibi that it was a great day for peace,  I was at a loss to figure out his allusions and illusions. And it was always clear from the time it had been announced that Israel would bear the brunt of the fallout from what was ostensibly an American decision, the opening of its embassy in Jerusalem, with the U.S. suffering only opprobrium as a result.)  In between, there was the euphoria of Israel winning the Eurovision Song Contest, an event that seems to become more and more outlandish as the years roll by and I get older.  And so it goes.  

So the other night I was awoken by a dream—although I wasn’t sure whether it was just a dream or a nightmare.  In this incubus, the Prime Minister of Israel appeared on television to address the nation.  (Bibi rarely if ever gives interviews on Israeli TV in contrast to his frequent appearances in American and other foreign media.) Putting on his most serious face and lowering his already base voice a semitone and a half, he intoned that he (and his government, lest it be imagined that he takes decisions on his own) had decided to petition the United States Congress, where he has many friends, to admit Israel as the 51st state of the Union. 

He went on to explain the costs and benefits of such a political earthquake.  True, Israelis would no longer have to apply for visas to enter the United States but they would have to file annual tax returns with the IRS.  On the other hand, an attack on Israel would be an attack on United States territory and the U.S. military would react immediately.  There would be benefits to the U.S., too, as it would be acquiring several hundred thousand trained reservists who could then be utilised to defend American territory.  True, Israel wouldn’t be able to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest (America First, remember!) but that’s the price it would have to pay, as indeed would the fact that in a country that [sort of] separates church and state, the power of the rabbis to dictate to the politicians would become weaker. And so on, et cetera.

What he only mentioned towards the end of his homily was that when Congress approved the request, he (Bibi) could become an legitimate member of the Republican Party in contrast to the honorary membership that he now holds.  And, having been born in Tel Aviv in 1949, which, as a result of his courageous political decision, would now be a city transformed into an all-American city, he could stand for President of the United States in the 2024 election when he would be only 75.  As his late father lived to be 102, that would give him ample time to work to amend the U.S. Constitution so that he could emulate and even surpass Franklin D. Roosevelt and be re-elected four times (and in so doing even exceed the exploits of his buddy Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin), ending his presidential career in 2044 at the ripe old age of 95 to retire to Palm Springs, the mountains of Wyoming or Caesarea to the cheers of his minions.   

I was sufficiently worried as a result of this cauchemar to log into Google Maps to discover that there were only two non-stop flights a day from JFK to Honolulu (a trip that takes 11 hours) whereas there were between three and eight from JFK to TLV taking half an hour less.  So, I thought, perhaps it wasn’t so far-fetched after all.

It was at this point that I awakened in a cold sweat and heard the news that Israel and the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Netta had, beyond all expectations, indeed won the Eurovision Song Contest, stealing it at the last moment from Cyprus. The country was intoxicated by this though I had difficulty understanding why—but I was relieved that my dream was but a dream! Post-Eurovision, it was even rumoured that the Prime Minister was going to cash in on this “victory” by revising the spelling of his family name to Nettanyahu)! 

In reality, it’s been a difficult week and when I started to write, I appreciated that I had a dilemma.  It’s all very well having a fun rant about something political now and then but writing about a very real event that took the lives of 60 people, whatever their ambitions or aims is something else entirely.  This blog is supposed to be about photography and geography and perhaps if I’d been there, to say something about it would make sense, so I didn’t think that this is the place for it.  On the other hand, should I ignore it completely?  No, because I don’t think it’s something one can ignore.   

I toyed with the idea of writing a longish piece and embedding it and partially concealing it within the post as a PDF so that if anyone wished to be proactive they could read it if they wanted, but I rejected that as well.  So I decided that if anyone wants to be so proactive as to correspond with me privately on the issue, then go ahead and I’ll respond.  And that was where I was at when I started to write this post last Tuesday evening.

But following the highly visual media reports and the ensuing political fallout over the past few days, it would be irresponsible of me to say nothing at all.  And seeing that the Turkish president has all but broken off diplomatic relations with Israel in reaction to the Gaza shootings, publicly humiliating the Israeli ambassador he expelled into the bargain, and generally stoking the fires and fanning the flames, it’s worth putting things in some sort of perspective.  (It’s also worth bearing in mind, political opportunist that he is, he is playing the Gaza issue as a religious issue—and when the Deity is brought into the equation, any logic flies out the window.  He has also called early elections in Turkey, which he would probably have won anyway, but from his viewpoint, by berating Israel, it makes sense to make things sure.)  Consequently, I’ll make a couple of indirect comments about these reports and the highly toxic political fallout. 

Since the attempted coup against Mr. Erdoğan in July, 2016 and as of April 27, 2018, a total of 151,967 state officials, teachers, bureaucrats, and academics have been dismissed by government decrees; 136,995 people have been detained and 77,524 arrested; 3,003 schools, dormitories and universities have been shut down; 5,822 academics have lost their jobs (this number includes only the ones dismissed by government decrees issued on September 1 2016, October 29 2016, November 22 2016, January 6 2017, February 7 2017, April 29 2017, July 14 2017 and August 25, 2017—and not the ones who lost jobs when the Turkish government passed a decree ordering the closure of 15 universities on July 23, 2016).  In addition 4,463 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed, 189 media outlets shut down and 319 journalists arrested. (http://www.turkeypurge.com)

It’s also worth noting that according to human rights organisations since the beginning of the Kurdish uprising between 2,500 and 4,000 Kurdish villages have been destroyed, in which between 380,000 and 1,000,000 Kurdish villagers were forcibly evacuated from their homes, mainly by Turkish forces.  Some 5,000 Turks and between 18,000 and 35,000 Kurds have been killed, 17,000 Kurds have disappeared and 119,000 imprisoned by Turkish authorities.  (The variance in figures depends on the sources but the message is the same.)  Up to 3,000,000 people (mainly Kurds) have been displaced by the conflict.

Just to put Mr. Erdogan’s sanctimoniousness in context.  

Turkey.jpg

A turkey

And it’s been going on for a decade already!

 

In addition, the New York Times of April 13, 2018 reported that in the Syrian conflict,  ongoing for over seven years, most international monitors use a general figure of over 500,000 deaths, and many believe it could be higher.  Moreover, the UNHCR reported that there are 6.6 million internally displaced persons in Syria and almost 3 million others in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.  Turkey hosts 3.3 million Syrian refugees and there more than a million in Lebanon, who have little or no financial resources and almost three-quarters of a million others in Jordan in similar circumstances; even Iraq has almost a quarter million with Egypt  protecting and assisting a further 125,000.  The figures appear on the UNHCR website and don’t include the more than a million refugees from the Syrian conflict in Europe, mostly in Germany. (https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/syria#_ga=2.197528426.434206151.1526560830-1487150212.1526560830).  

None of this means that Israel’s actions in Gaza on Monday were justified or not but one needs to put Mr. Erdoğan’s self-righteousness in a regional frame of reference. And as Erdoğan and his minions chose to use the words “holocaust” and “genocide” to describe what happened on Monday, perhaps I should remind him of the Armenian Genocide of 1915—16, which is an absolute unmentionable in Turkey? 

Moreover, anyone who thinks, perhaps like Mr. Corbyn, who wrote on his Facebook page

Today’s killing of dozens of unarmed protesters and the wounding of many more by Israeli forces in Gaza is an outrage that demands not just international condemnation, but action to hold those responsible to account.” 

that the protesters were all unarmed, like innocent civilians marching down the Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square with placards reading “Stop the War”, is simply living in cloud-cuckoo land.  Yes, lots of innocent civilians were injured and some were killed, too. But of the 62 people reported killed last Monday, most of them attempting to breach the border separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, Hamas boasted (rather than the BBC’s favourite phrase “Israel claimed” or “Israel alleged”) that 52 of them were members of that organization while Islamic Jihad claimed “ownership” of another three.  It really is difficult to compete with the impact of images, especially moving images in colour.

And with specific regard to the events of last Monday, it is worth recalling the words of Nobel prizewinner Elias Canetti in his classic 1960 book Crowds and Power. 

“The baiting crowd forms with reference to a quickly attainable goal. The goal is known and clearly marked, and is also near. This crowd is out for killing and it knows whom it wants to kill. It heads for this goal with unique determination and cannot be cheated of it. The proclaiming of the goal, the spreading about of who it is that is to perish, is enough to make the crowd form. This concentration on killing is of a special kind and of an unsurpassed intensity. Everyone wants to participate; everyone strikes a blow and, in order to do this, pushes as near as he can to the victim. If he cannot hit him himself, he wants to see others hit him. Every arm is thrust out as if they all belonged to one and the same creature.”

The Gaza issue is not simply a black and white affair but is multi-coloured, multi-layered and multi-faceted.  There are other actors involved in perpetuating the misery of the people living there, not just Israel.  Look at a map and see that Egypt, too, has a border with Gaza and its gates have been mostly shut over the past few years.  Hamas is supposed to govern the despairing people who live there but what has it done to alleviate their wretchedness? The EU has poured in billions of euros, ostensibly to improve housing, education and social conditions but Hamas has used much of that to construct attack tunnels rather than houses and infrastructure and still the money pours in.  Israel is often accused of overreacting to events in Gaza, of using disproportionate force.  But I can’t recall anyone ever suggesting what “proportionate” force might be. And why, World, are there 4th-generation refugees at all?

So if anyone wants to be so proactive as to want to correspond with me on these issues, then go ahead and I’ll respond. 

(And I was going to write nothing!)

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

And now, just for the fun of it, some images.  So I’ll start with two of my favourites.  The first adorns our living room and was taken early one morning about a decade ago with just about every setting on the camera wrong.  However, that’s irrelevant because the image is fine.  The second is an “adaptation” of a picture taken a couple of years ago of the boardwalk at Tel Aviv Port just after the first rain of the season.

*T-A Park & Port — Where's the line?.jpg

Where’s the line?

*Photos — Planks

First rain—the morning after.  Tel Aviv Port

 

One day last week, returning home, I was reminded of Irish theatre, and in particular of the final line in Seán O’Casey’s Juno and The Paycock, in which “Captain” Jack Boyle bemoans the state of the world with the famous final line that ends the play:  “Th’ whole worl’ is in a terrible state o’ chassis” .  And what exactly caused me to be reminded of the state of the world?  Why, the image of who/what will inherit it after we have finished destroying it along with ourselves, of course.

Roach

Heir to the world

 

And while on the insect trail, a few years ago, we had been invited out on a summer afternoon in London for drinks in the garden when all of a sudden a wasp flew into a glass of beer.  Now, I know that I could and perhaps should have been kind-hearted and fished it out as soon as it flew in and run the risk of being stung.  However, I had the camera with me and decided that it was a much more humanitarian gesture to allow the creature a merry, if not entirely happy, demise.  So it swam around for quite a long time before succumbing, I presume, to an overdose of alcohol.

Dying drunken wasp

Yesterday morning, while in the park there was this solitary hoopoe foraging on the ground for sustenance with its beautiful bill designed mainly to pick out insects, although, apparently, small reptiles, frogs, seeds and berries will also do. They generally stride over relatively open ground with periodic pauses to probe with the full length of their bill. They’re not an easy bird to photograph as they don’t stay still for long but when they do pause to take a break, they’re there for the taking.

Hoopoe

And while in the park, there are, I suppose a dozen or so people whose paths cross mine at least three or four times a week.  She is one of them and I’m still trying to puzzle out the intended meaning of the slogan on her top.  Probably vainly.

Silo fresh

And as for inanimate objects that appear to have human form — or which somehow remind me of  people, what about this tree (albeit inverted, as the more obswervant among you might have noticed) near the bridge above the river on Namir Road?

It's really a tree

It’s only a tree!

A couple of months ago, I triumphantly announced the completion of the work on our street—but prematurely as it turns out.  The last month has seen “corrections”, with corners being repaved and manhole covers removed while workers jump into and climb out of them, apparently fixing the work done on the sewage system.  And still, the Israel Electric Corporation hasn’t turned up to do its bit of the work, so they’ll be around for a while yet.  May 29 marks the first anniversary of the encampment outside our house! 

Manning the manhole

Finally, and unrelated to anything that’s come before, a squirrel on Haverstock Hill the main street in Belsize Park in London, for no other reason than that I like it and that it reminds me of what I should be doing after listening to the news these days.

Squirrel Belsize

Standard

On camels, flies and cellphones

It’s difficult to avoid any mention of politics this week given the sequence of events that have taken place but I shall try (and probably not succeed).

Earlier this week, I decided to combine my morning walk with the need to stock up on caffeine so rather than walk through Yarqon Park I set off to walk the streets in the direction of the store in the Carmel Market that sells good coffee beans roasted by the outfit from which I used to buy my coffee when we lived in Haifa.

I wasn’t expecting to find any spectacular photographs though I thought that I might spot something interesting on the way and as usual I had the camera with me.  I was walking south along Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) Street, heading for King George V (figuratively, of course), when I had just crossed Frishman Street.  I wasn’t thinking about much when suddenly I stopped and took a few paces backwards towards the  building on the corner because I had just passed what I thought was a camel in a garden surrounding an apartment building.  A camel in Central Tel Aviv? It’s possible, I guess, but extremely unlikely.  However, when I reached the point at which I thought I’d observed it, there it was, looking almost as much like a camel as any real-life camel I’d ever seen.

The camel 1

Camel

Hump off, Europe, I'm voting

Camels vote, too, so hump off! I’m blinkered so I’m voting Brexit!

Then, looking for these two images of camels reminded me that I really ought to spend some time putting [some of] my pictures in order.  I hate doing things like that because they really are so mind-numbing and anyway it’s always easier to find something more creative to do, like capturing or editing some more images to add to the dishevelment that is my photo catalog and my workspace. I’m pretty disorganised in general though I can only suppose that if I were photographing in order to make a living and not just for the fun of it, I might do what I really should do each time I upload the photos to the computer.

At any rate, it gave me an opportunity to look at several images from the past decade or so and sort them into broad categories.  Next week’s work is to refine the categories and then start thinning them out.  I mean, I really don’t need 1,000 pictures of flowers or 200 of crows and pigeons, not to mention 300 of dogs and cats.  Come to think of it, I probably don’t need to be surrounded by a thousand books either as I thin my photo collection but that’s the way things are!

Messy desk

So in contrast to last week’s fulmination about politicians, this week is photos, some of them not so recent and some of which may have appeared before in earlier posts.

On Wednesday, I took a bus part of the way to King George Street and walked past Dizengoff Centre through to the  far end of the Carmel Market.  Dizengoff Centre is a large urban shopping centre on several levels straddling both sides of Dizengoff Street with what seems like umpteen entrances; inside, there are ramps, stairways, escalators and elevators all apparently leading to a point in the building that you had not been aiming for when you stood on the escalator, descended the stairs, entered the elevator, &c.  It’s an impossible place to navigate and being as kind as I can possibly be to the architects who designed it, I would have had them sent to an architects’ gulag years ago.  From responses I’ve heard from people who work there, it’s the sort of place in which people can find their way to and from the shops or offices in which they work and they probably also know the way to the nearest toilet or coffee shop.  However, they are all incapable of giving directions to anywhere else in the centre, even in some cases how to find a specific exit.

Anyway, approaching the centre, I came across the following scene.  A man was stretched out on the pavement, close to the entrance to the underground car park.  Homelessness is something we have come to take for granted and it’s not difficult to find people (almost all male) asleep in parks, on benches, in doorways and elsewhere or attempting to clean themselves up in a public toilet.  More often than not, in most places they seek some sort of quasi-privacy—a doorway, a park bench that’s partially hidden or some such location.  However, not this guy.

I admit that my conscience is pricked each time I line up the camera to record another image of such a hapless individual and I’m criticised sometimes for not striking up a conversation with them before, while and after photographing them—but that’s never been one of my strong points.  However, as they are an integral part of the modern urban landscape, I have little alternative than to record the image.

Amidst the traffic

This one, however, was a little bit out of the ordinary in that I was out later than usual—it was already almost 9 a.m.  As far as I could see, he was sleeping soundly under his sleeping bag, foam mattress underneath, water bottles by his side—amazing really, given the urban noise that was being created all around him.  Probably the most thought-provoking part of this scene is the fact that nobody else seemed to be aware that he was there.  As I crossed Dizengoff Street to photograph him from a different angle, I looked at the other people on the pedestrian crossing and as far as I could ascertain, not a single one even afforded him a glance, which says something about the extent to which this is all taken for granted, part of the norm in society.

Amidst the traffic 1Amidst the traffic 2

As I continued southward on King George Street at the junction with Bograshov Street, I came across yet another man who’d been sleeping rough, looking far less happy and far more unkempt than the one on the corner of Dizengoff and King George Streets, probably because the throng had awoken him from his slumber—remember it was almost 9 a.m.  Not only was he being disturbed by the thoughtless and cacophonous multitudes but he was being pestered by a fly.  I managed to aim and focus just before his right palm met the back of his left hand but sadly didn’t manage to record the demise of the fly (as the zipper said to the buttons) and I was left guessing to whether a fly in the hand is worth two hours of shush.  I must say, on looking at this picture again, that I am impressed with his colour coordination.

Fly goneFly gone copy

Continuing in a general southward direction towards Allenby Street and the Carmel Market, I took the picture that appears underneath.   There’s nothing inherently unusual about what appears in this picture.  This part of town has innumerable small eating places, some of which seem designed to provide you with a stomach upset in minutes rather than hours.  This place claims to have been providing Tel Avivians with gluten-free falafel since 1955 though how that tallies with the wholemeal flour also advertised is beyond me except that the falafel might be gluten-free but the pitta encasing it not so.

What is interesting about this picture, in addition to the announcement of what’s for sale and the certification from the rabbinate that the food contains no forbidden ingredients, is the hygiene arrangements.  Yes, there’s a tap, a sink, liquid soap, a garbage receptacle and—miracle of miracles—also paper for drying one’s hands.  However, the more perceptive among you may also have noticed the double-handed mug on the left-hand side of the sink. 

No, this is not for the use of thirsty people wishing to display their ambidexterity.  This is to meet the requirement of those people who, for religious reasons, shun modernity by declining to use a tap for washing their hands.  The two-handed cup beats the tap because as it is explained on the Chabad.org website that “after the first hand is washed, it is clean and pure whereas the unwashed hand is not. So if the two hands touch after the first hand was washed, it is necessary to rewash the first one so a two-handled cup is operated to make the process simpler, making it easier to avoid the hands touching each other.  Although any cup can be used to wash hands, one should be careful that the two hands don’t come in contact with each other after the first one is washed.”  Seems to me that a tap and soap do a far better job as far as hygiene is concerned but every one to his or her own craziness (“mishegass” in one of the vernaculars)!

Gluten-free falafel & sink

I finally reached the market where I bought my coffee and continued down to the bottom to catch the bus home.  Looking at the stalls, I was reminded that fruit (and vegetables to a lesser extent) are still more or less related to seasons in Israel, in contrast to the situation in places like North America or Europe where everything is available all year round.  It’s true that things have changed a bit over the years.  It used to be that grapes, for instance, were never generally available between November and April; no oranges in the summer; no plums or peaches in the winter.  These days, there are varieties of fruits that extend the season by several weeks at either end.  Citrus is available year round; this year’s persimmon season was several weeks longer than usual.  Some fruits, however, have very short seasons and if you don’t catch them during the few weeks they’re in season, you have to wait another year (or travel abroad) in order to eat them.  The cherry season is here but will soon be over; likewise apricots.  You can still find strawberries but by the end of the month, that’ll be difficult.  

Cherry season here

Apricots

Strawberries.jpg

And edible avocados have all but vanished until autumn. 

Smiling avocado

Ginger, however, is available all year round, even though the Gingerman might very well be telling us to keep our distance. 

Ginger swordsman

Anyway, after the market it was home again to make a start on thinning the picture collection.  It really is a drudge but it has to be done, I suppose and it gave me an opportunity to rediscover some images I hadn’t seen for a while.

In contrast to the Gingerman, which seemed to be telling us to keep away, this thing at Borough Market in London had a sort of “Come hither” attitude to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In contrast, the “lady” in the fish market in Catania (at the bottom) was more than keen on manicure (or perhaps its pedicure or porcicure?) in order to keep up with the Joneses (or the Cohenses or whatever)!

Beard & nails

Cigarette and nails.  Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv

Nails to match copy

On a Tel Aviv bus

Nails

As seen on a London bus

Trotters, Catania

Porcine pedicure. Catania Fish Market, Sicily

I also came across a couple of sunsets.  Normally, I’m not into photographing sunsets.  I usually find them a bit boring, lots of yellows and golds and ambers with the occasional bits of red.  However, I decided I’d hold on to this pair one in Israel and one from Scotland, which I quite like.

Sunset T-A.jpg

Sunset, Tel Aviv Port

Sunset on Skye.jpg

Sunset, Elgol, Skye

Finally, in this first run-through of images to maintain or drop, there were a couple of hundred of people speaking into and staring at smartphones.  It seems to me that at any given time, at least half the population—anywhere—is engaged in some form of [in]activity related to their smartphone, whether it’s actually having a conversation (which is what I thought phones were for, taking photographs, looking at them, playing games or whatever else these wonderful little machines allow you to do.  They have become so much part of us that I cannot remember what we did and how we did it before they came along—and it’s not all that long since they arrived on the scene.

Accordionist (phones)

Mamma, It’s not easy to make a living in London.  Chalk Farm, London

(V&A)

After a hard day at the V&A

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quiet! His cellphone arm has become disabled

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even trees do it!

Mobiles 3

Is that a new ringtone I hear?

Mobiles

Deal done, Donald!

Phones (at the barber)

Be careful you don’t lather or shave the phone, please!

Well, there you have it.  I’ve managed to get to the end and avoid any politics, more or less.  We’ll wait and see what the week brings with it given events of the past few days before I make an utter fool of myself!

Meanwhile, for your edification and contemplation (from a half century ago and best from 1.00 into the clip!)

Standard

Amber = caution?

Well, they surprised everyone and rather than Edward, Albert, Ethelred or some other true blue-blooded English name, Baby Cambridge got a French-sounding one—Louis.  Arthur and Charles, old faithfuls used by the child’s father and grandfather, were runners-up as middle and ultimate names.  Named after Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, mentor to the child’s great-grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh (the man who spent the past seven decades walking with his hands behind his back), he gets as his first name the one that his father and grandfather carry as middle names.  I suppose it’ll be shortened to Lou or lengthened to something like Lolly but preferable to Ludwig.  And I  also suppose it’s something else to keep people’s minds occupied while less important things are happening. 

And, oh yes, there’s a Royal Wedding coming up in just over a fortnight’s time (of Harry & Meghan, of course) to keep the minds fully occupied with the important things in life just a little longer, such as whether Prince Philip’s new hip will be able to stand up to the excitement.  Meghan is, as we all know by now, a commoner, and not just an ordinary commoner—but an American one and an actress to boot—and as an additional sign of the times, a divorcée.  What is the world coming to? Or, at least, what has Britain become? 

All that, of course, happened just a couple of days ago and I doubt whether many people  other than purist royalists will remember that the baby and his name(s) happened at all.  Meanwhile, the past few days have been filled with other minor news items.  The British Minister of the Interior (or as the British prefer, home secretary), who rejoices in the name of Amber Rudd, resigned in the midst of a scandal concerning whether or not she knew that her office had set targets for removing some people to had immigrated to Britain as youngsters (some of them just young children) but who didn’t have the paperwork to prove that they had lived in Britain all their adolescent and adult lives and were thus legal residents.  As a consequence of this, some had been deprived of their rights to receive basic services from the state and were fighting deportation to their “country of origin”. 

In what has become known as the “Windrush Scandal”, it turns out that Ms. Rudd said that she wasn’t aware of the fact that the government had targets for ferreting out illegal immigrants but that she should have known, which prompted one senior Labour politician to suggest that she was either negligent or incompetent and should resign.  Ms. Rudd might have been pointing a finger at the overworked bureaucrats in the Home Office who had failed to point out to her negligence and perhaps it was one of those officious officials who leaked to the press the document which indicated that it was in her briefcase and she therefore should have been aware of it.  Shades of Sir Humphrey and Jim Hacker. 

At any rate, Ms. Rudd resigned late one evening and that was that.  I must admit that I felt a little sorry for her, especially as her predecessor in the job for seven years was none other than Mrs. May(be) herself and who surely must bear some degree of responsibility.  However, what never fails to amaze me in all stories of this nature is the ineptitude of some people who reach the highest offices of state and even more so the self-righteousness of opposition politicians, sounding off as if they would be any more moral or competent when they achieve power.   

And what also astonishes me, having lived so long in Israel, is that a minister in fact resigned.  I mean, a minister actually accepted responsibility for her error and handed in her notice, called it a day, hung the keys to her ministerial car on the ministerial garage wall.  That sort of action would be extremely unlikely to happen in this country unless the perpetrator(s) had intentionally decided to break up the coalition and bring down the government or when someone if forced to resign office because they are about to be imprisoned for criminal behaviours of various kinds.

One of the ironies emerging from this story is that Ms. Rudd was replaced by Sajid Javid, a millionaire former investment banker, son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver who chose to personalise his office by hanging a portrait of Margaret Thatcher on the wall. (In contrast, another son of yet another Pakistani bus driver was elected Mayor of London and was, it appears, responsible for nominating Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate to lead the Labour Party in order to “broaden the debate” but then, having realised what he’d done, chose not to vote for him.  Which only goes to show that one shouldn’t generalise about ethnic groups, religious groups or whatever.)  And another irony of the ruddy affair is that the journalist for the left-of-centre Guardian newspaper who researched and uncovered the story, Amelia Gentleman, is the wife of Transport Minister Jo Johnson who in turn is none other than the younger brother of right-of-centre Boris Johnson, the loose cannon who serves as Mrs. May(be)’s Foreign Secretary.  It’s all in the family/families.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.10.12

Meanwhile, here in Israel, alongside a disaster in which ten teenagers lost their lives in an incident of unadulterated Israeli idiocy (it’s dangerous so let’s do it)—a flash flood on an outing to the Negev desert—ignoring the advice of the Meteorological Service of the danger from flash floods in low-lying areas in the desert, we were treated to a further episode in the long-running “Bibi Show”.  Our Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister staged a performance in which he unveiled a wall of folders and a cabinet of CDs taken by Mossad agents in Tehran and smuggled to Israel, proving, as he put it, that the Iranians lied about their intentions regarding the production of nuclear weapons and therefore couldn’t be trusted.  (Iran is a genuine problem and its increasing presence in Syria and its ability to act independently on the territory of a foreign state, is worrying, to say the least.)

However, without presenting any evidence as to whether or not the Iranians had breached the agreement they signed three years ago, it was clear that the audience for this show—because that’s what it was—broadcast on prime time TV, was aimed at a single individual, i.e., Donald Trump, using terms he was likely to understand, in an effort to persuade him to dump the deal.  The previous week, Trump had received the President of France, Emmanuel Macron (in a meeting described in The Economist as “Jupiter meets Mercury”) who had gone to Washington in an attempt to coax the American president to do exactly the opposite, i.e., to look for a way of changing the terms of the agreement with the Iranians and stick with his European allies.  From the comments of the American president, uttered as Bibi concluded his show, it seems as if Mr. Trump got the message and had already made up his mind—although on past experience, half an hour is a long time in the mind of Mr. Trump; ample time, in fact, to alter a decision and tweet it to the world several times.

So now I’ve finished my rant for this month or so, some pictures—at last.

One morning last week while walking down Nordau Boulevard in North Tel Aviv at about half-past eight, I observed this gentleman for a couple of minutes.  He had emerged from the building at #33 and opened the door to his car, presumably to drive off somewhere but then discovered that he could neither move forward nor backward.  He got out of the car and evaluated his situation and after a minute or so came to the conclusion that he wasn’t going anywhere soon as he evaluated his situation and came to the conclusion that there probably wasn’t even room for a pair of ants to negotiate the spaces between the car in front him or the one behind. 

How do I get out?

How do I get out? 1

From his body language, I thought that he thought that he might somehow be able to drive away but finally he gave up and trudged back into the building either to locate the perpetrators or possibly to call the towing outfit employed by the Municipality and which is usually quite busy on this particular street at this specific time of the day.  I was surprised that he had expended so much energy on what was patently going to prove such a futile effort.

Another one bites the dust

Then walking through the park, I came across one individual who has found an answer to overpriced cups of coffee by bringing his own — his coffee, his coffee pot, heating apparatus, gas lighter and drinking vessel and all the rest of the paraphernalia.

No Starbucks for me

Meanwhile, out on the street, I ran across this guy who is indubitably quite proud to enlighten the world about the fact that he is a Jewish marathon runner, the information permanently imprinted on his skin.

Jewish flying marathon runner

By the time I got to Tel Aviv Port, I heard a whoosh behind me on my left-hand side and I managed to lift the camera and click just as the cyclist overtook me, coming rather too close for comfort in the process.  Two versions of the photograph appear below, which only illustrate that you don’t have to have everything in perfect focus to produce a decent photograph.

Cycling thru the Port

Cycling thru the Port 1

On these morning walks, you never quite know what you are going to see.  Sometimes I return with perhaps 40 or 50 pictures; other times, like this past week, less than 10.  I even had one day this week—and this hasn’t happened for at least five years—when I returned home with nothing.  And I don’t mean nothing that was worth keeping; I mean I photographed nothing because there was nothing there that caught the eye. At all, at all.

For instance, walking through the port, I came across a pile of what seemed to be metal frames, perhaps for strengthening corners inside a building prior to plastering and painting.  At any rate, my eye is attracted to symmetry and uniformity so I took a photograph, really to see what I could make of it afterwards.  And I think that what emerged from this image (which, incidentally, is not a black and white image) is something that is quite attractive.  Well, at least is appeals to me.

Squares 1

The original

Squares

The reworked

And, as I said, you never quite know what you’re going to bump into each morning and my eye isn’t just attracted to piles of symmetrical or regular pieces of metal…  

What you bump into

While doing some stretching exercises prior to walking, I noticed at the distance a person who seemed to be asleep on a park bench yet not quite in a sleeping position.  I got on with the stretching and then when I set off, I walked past him and true enough, he was asleep, fast asleep, really.  

Half asleep.jpg

I thought his face seemed interesting enough to stop and photograph from close up.  I approached; I cleared my throat; I coughed; I clicked.  I presume that he felt comfortable enough to sleep but it really wouldn’t have been my choice.  And looking at the photo, I seem to remember having seen him similarly situated on various park benches throughout the area over the past couple of years. 

Asleep on a bench

And there are always other absorbing images that recur in and around the park that I photograph from time to time.

The evil eye

The evil eye 1

Row, row, row your boat

Ménage à trois

Ménage à trois

Kingfisher

Kingfisher 2Kingfisher 3Kingfisher 1

And just before I take my leave, I must return to the politicians. Boris Yeltsin, the pre-Putin president of the Russian Federation is reported to have said (when he was sober, I guess) that there are numerous irritants to being a politician.  The first of these is that ordinary life suffers. Secondly, there are many temptations to ruin you and those around you. The third, seldom discussed, is that people at the top generally have no friends.  The late, great, Dave Allen, an Irishman known as one of the most controversial comedians in the United Kingdom for frequently highlighting political hypocrisy (as well as demonstrating his disregard for religious authority) used to sit and watch politicians with great cynicism—absolute cynicism, in fact. 

So am I too cynical in thinking that while Mr. Netanyahu was unveiling his folders and CDs, his associates in Likud and those further to the right, were beginning a process of dismantling democratic Israel as we have come to know it by introducing two pieces of legislation — one on the nature of the Israeli nation state and the other on the role of the Supreme Court?  An amber light? Or a red one?

I can only hope that Abraham Lincoln got it right when he stated “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” 

Only time will tell, I suppose.

Standard