I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the world but here in Israel, it seems that there’s only one subject worth talking about—and it’s not the state of the world or even the flying inflammable kites that are landing in that part of Israel surrounding the Gaza Strip and which have transformed hundreds of hectares of farmland to burnt out waste over the past few months. No—it’s not even the indictment of Sara Netanyahu for allegedly using state funds to pay for private meals from gourmet restaurants when the cooks at the PM’s residences were “demoted” to the status of “maintenance personnel” in order to justify the meals to satisfy the appetites of Mrs. Netanyahu and her famished family and friends.
No, Silly. Of course it’s the FIFA World Cup or as it’s referred to in some parts of the world “the Mondial”. Turn on the TV and you find that the First Channel is showing the live matches each day. That amounts to six hours of live football a day. And then when they’re not actually showing the live matches, there are teams of pundits, mostly male, talking about them. There are even TV quizzes about earlier World Cup competitions. Meanwhile, the sports channels, all 13 of them it seems (although it’s not quite) showing repeats of earlier matches. And Israel isn’t actually competing; it hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1970 when it was eliminated at the Group Stage of the competition. I can’t imagine what things would be like here if this country was actually playing.
Wherever you go, there seem to be small assemblages of [mostly] men of all ages sitting in cafés or standing on street corners and when you walk past them and catch snippets of the conversations (which is always interesting), the words that stand out seem to be “kick”, “corner”, “penalty”, “goalie”, “free kick”, “red card” and so on. The other day, while walking the length of the Carmel Market, I was reminded of a geography class in school—Senegal, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Serbia—as the vendors reeled off the names of places, the existence of which they may not have been aware until this competition began.
The highlights of the competition thus far as far as I’m concerned have been Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick in the match against Spain as much for his mental preparation prior to landing a boot on the ball as for the kick itself, which was a work of art and the political statements by the two Kosovar players in the Swiss team after scoring goals against the hated Serbia. On the odd occasion that I’ve bothered to watch, some of the games seem more like all-in wrestling than football but that might just be my imagination!
In retrospect, it looks as if Argentina could have done with that warm-up game against Israel a few weeks ago as it would have instilled them with some self-confidence (or not, if a miracle had happened). But if they are eliminated from the competition at the Group Stage—and that will only become evident on Tuesday afternoon—then their scapegoat can be Mrs. Regev, Israel’s Minister for Culture and Sport, whose insistence that the warm-up game be played in Jerusalem rather than Haifa led to the cancellation. And I, for one, would be quite happy to ship her off to South America to face the wrath of the Argentines!
As for the visual presence on the World Cup on the streets of Tel Aviv, I came across this poster outside a bar one day last week. The presume that the idea is to keep you in an air-conditioned bar for all three matches; in other words for eight hours on the trot. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I just love misspelled posters, street signs, menus and the like and as far as I’m concerned, the larger the better. This one struck me as a good example and for more than a single reason.
First of all, I know that summer has arrived and we’re most probably not due to see rain again for the next four or five months. Still and all, although I’m aware that wine can be “dry”, I can’t see the Mondial as a reason for manufacturing or advertising dry beer. Second, if you did stay in the bar for eight hours and drank all the beer with no limits, then I assume that you would get 49, 59 or 69 ills—or is that just my own misspelling?
Walking around the city one comes across some fascinating things. One of the things you often see but don’t always get an opportunity to photograph is tattoos. I find tattoos rather repulsive but that’s probably because I belong to a generation for which people who had their body parts tattooed were generally the sort of people who you might have preferred not to meet—merchant seamen with a woman in every port or people who had spent time behind bars. Anyway, you’re not supposed to call these graffiti “tattoos” any more but “body art” and given the patterns and colour in use today, it’s probably a term which reflects the situation better. I still find it repugnant. Here are two examples from last week.
However, I might now be about to be accused of unoriginality and auto-plagiarism, as what follows here appeared in a post nine months ago. At any rate, those people who carry around with them indelibly punctured pieces of pigmented epidermis, prior to having their bodies modified in the name of art or love or whatever else, should at least be encouraged to read the short story written 65 years ago by Roald Dahl to which I [again] provide a link below, just as a warning of what might or could happen to a person with a tattoo, especially an aesthetically pleasing one!
Skin by Roald Dahl
I might add that it’s not only tattooing that I find objectionable. I find that things like dreadlocks, shaven heads, nose-rings, navel rings, rings and pins in places that can’t be mentioned—even pierced ears—are not to my conservative and evidently dated taste. However, if people want to mutilate their bodies or their general appearance, that’s really no business of mine as family members often inform me. They can do what they want. I just don’t like it. Really detest it. But what can a grumpy old man do? Nothing. Which makes me even grumpier.
But then, of course, there are tattoos and there are tattoos …
… and there’s body art and there’s body art!
Tel Aviv Port yielded several images worthy of display over the past few days. The crows have been out in force recently and they are inventive if nothing else. This one was working so intently when I passed that I stopped to observe. It knew there was food in the bag and I have no doubt that it succeeded in extricating said food from the bag and gorged itself on the contents leaving the park authorities to clear up the mess, just like lots of the people who spend time in the park.
Later on, outside the park, I watched this one decide on what to do with the plastic box that contained the remains of someone’s meal, which may or may not have been placed in a waste basket after use. If found the box on the street and had a good look around to see whether another one of his tribe was eying the same box. It picked the box up and moved it down the street, holding it in its beak while it hopped along. For all I know, it might have been testing it for weight and then eventually decided that the best thing to do to prevent its brothers from enjoying the contents was to fly off with it to one of the trees lining the street. Problem solved. QED.
The crows manage very well for themselves. The pigeons tend to hang around waiting to be fed. And, as I’ve asked before, would these people who feed these winged vermin act in the same way with tailed vermin. I think not.
And while on the subject of God’s creatures, there was this engaging scene I noticed on Ibn Gvirol Street the other day.
As for God’s other creatures, we’re still seeing our flying ants invade the kitchen from time to time. We’re told that it’s the start of summer and perfectly normal although I must say I’ve never seen these particular little bug[gger]s before!
Coming out of the park on to the streets, this roller-blade performer passed by. I had noticed her coming through the park and thought that she was safe enough but then she emerged on to the street. Yes, she has lots of protective equipment to keep her from injury lest she fall but, as usual, I think that the music that might be bellowing through her head might be a little distracting should a car driver hoot his/her horn at her as is occasionally known to happen in this part of the world. I suppose if there were no reaction, they would blare louder, as is also known to occur in this corner of the globe.
Still, she looked less out of place than this gentleman who appeared out of nowhere in the port as pretending to be an oarsman but one who’s afraid of water.
… and this one who in a temperature of 28ºC at 8 in the morning looked as if he were practising his cross-country skiing technique without any snow to be seen (or at last as far as I was aware!)
An early morning visit to the market yielded not only cherries and olives …
… but also an array of headgear for the secular and religious alike without discrimination.
The walk home produced an image of someone trying to push the car into the flow of the traffic on the street although someone might have informed him that the handbrake was on …
… while this early morning cyclist was finding it difficult to stay awake—which on Tel Aviv’s streets and given the respect paid to cyclists here in Israel could be fatal.
And a little further along, these came into the camera’s viewfinder and words most appropriate to the accompanying caption seemed to be “brief” and “why bother?”
Then while on the bus on the way home, I was reminded of “The family that prays together stays together” and thought to myself, as I often do, how the world survived in pre-smartphone days. Looking at people in the streets of Tel Aviv, it seems to me that about a third of the population is reading texts, another third is writing them, about 20 percent are actually using them as phones and the remainder are looking at replays of Messi missing or messing a penalty shot or how Ronaldo managed to kick the ball so high and curve it so sharply. There are times when I think that staring at the tiny screen of a mobile phone is about as close as most people come these days to having a religious experience. And there you are—my cynicism has emerged yet again!
Finally, Friday morning at Tel Aviv Port gave me three views on ultra-relaxation …
Oh, and the flame tree did its best to show off last week, too!