Some readers of this blog add comments to things I’ve written occasionally; most never do; a couple are frequent correspondents. One of these latter wrote after the last post: “Your two buildings as extras were also well appreciated. I think the first one was already shown in an earlier blog … I always like to look at those things.” Like me, he’s a geographer and landscapes and buildings are part of what we like to observe.
So continuing and developing this in a logical manner, I decided that it was time to include some photos of a development that has been taking place just around the corner from us over the past 30 months. Actually, I’m a little early with it because the project is still ongoing and the apartments are as yet uninhabited but there’s little doubt that by the time spring rolls around, there will be another 30 or so households in the neighbourhood, all with cars, dogs and kiddies to accompany them. (And this development is only a small portion of what’s happening around thus tiny corner of Tel Aviv.)
Late in 2015, planning notices were posted regarding the impending demolition of two or three old residential buildings at the corner of Brandeis and Bnei Dan Streets near us prior to the construction of a new building on the site. Then, one day in March 2016, demolition equipment turned up and—yes, you’ve guessed—demolished buildings that had stood for more than 50 years in a matter of a couple of hours. For a few months after they had cleared the rubble, the work of excavating prior to laying the foundations of the new buildings began but I didn’t photograph any of that because (a) it was shielded by a high temporary wall and (b) I didn’t think that it was all that particularly aesthetic or interesting. In retrospect, perhaps I should have for the sake of completeness. However, by the time time we got back from from a trip abroad in September 2016, what had been a substantial hole in the ground was now a hole in the ground with a large red and white crane. I would have liked to have seen the construction of the crane itself but I missed that as well.
At any rate, the crane was in situ for about a year and it was in place in July 2017 before we once left for a few weeks away. By the time we had returned in September, the crane was gone, so I also missed its unbuilding. Since then, I’ve been photographing the site at irregular intervals as the new building has taken shape. The exterior looks as if it is now more or less completed and they are now working on the interiors and, as I said a couple of paragraphs ago, I expect that the new residents with their assorted paraphernalia will move in by spring, if not earlier. It should be fun to document those moves as they occur over the coming months.
(Dates on the photos above have been labelled chronologically so with no more ado, I summarise.)
So here we are near the end of September, more than halfway through the “festivals period” that brings life in Israel to a series of stuttering fits and starts as people struggle to discover what’s open full time, half-time or not at all. We are now (Wednesday 26/ix) in the third day of Succoth (Sukkot[h]), a festival variously translated as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Ingathering or the Festival of the Last Fruits.
The Hebrew word sukkot is the plural of sukkah (a booth or a tabernacle), which is a temporary walled structure usually covered with plant material such as palm leaves. As a sukkah is also the name of temporary dwellings in which farmers used to live at harvest time, it is meant to connect with the agricultural significance of the holiday; it is also supposed to remind us of the fragile dwellings in which the Israelites lived during their 40 year schlep through the desert after exiting Egypt for the Promised Land.
People decorate these makeshift structures with all sorts of oddities and prizes are awarded for “sukkesthetics” and such things. Religiously observant people eat their meals inside their sukkot and many really pious devouts sleep there as well even though they don’t have en suite bathrooms. There are all sorts of other customs associated with this festival but being a geographer (or to paraphrase John Cleese, an ex-geographer) I’ll stick with just the visible landscape effects.
This is, of course, that these temporary structures spring up in all sorts of places as soon as Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) has concluded. Indeed, it is regarded as a mitzvah (a moral deed performed within a religious duty) to kick-start the construction of these temporary shelters as early as possible after the fast has terminated. Consequently, one can often hear the sound of hammers on nails almost as soon as the hunger has been alleviated.
In the past, most of these structures would have had a simple wooden frame. Today, most have a metal frame which consists of rods or poles that interlock with “walls” that are pieces of material strung between the uprights. You can see them in gardens or close to the streets all over the place — although North Tel Aviv is perhaps not exactly the best environment in which to observe sukkot in abundance. Nevertheless, several typical examples can be found along almost any street.
And then there was this sukkah below, a Sukkamobile — or as it is referred to in Hebrew, a Suknoa, which is much the same thing, and which is in a class of its own. It is Tel Aviv’s answer to the Popemobile, the main differences being that the Pope is clean-shaven, prefers a white outfit to a black one, doesn’t usually roller-skate along city streets amongst the traffic and doesn’t have klezmer music blaring out of some hidden loudspeaker.
In any normal country, this guy would be defined as a traffic hazard and would be taken off the road for endangering the lives of drivers and their passengers, not to mention pedestrians and cyclists and their pets. (He has been observed and even photographed before whizzing along on the footpath jeopardizing the life chances of common or garden pedestrians.) However, in Tel Aviv, skating along a main street amidst traffic, he hardly gets a second glance and if the authorities were to be so foolhardy as to suggest that he be prevented from endangering the lives of his fellow citizens, it is not beyond reason that such action might foment a political crisis, which could bring down the government. (I’ve just had a bright idea: My distorted logic therefore dictates that he should be forced off the street immediately, the sooner the better!)
Having said that, though, perhaps he should be left on the road and others encouraged to follow him in their masses. (That is an unintended pun and has nothing whatsoever to do with a popemobile.)
(For this piece of mobile frivolity, I am totally indebted to my co-grandparent, Nira Querfurth, who obviously thought it might appeal to my addled brain, which is the main cause of my warped sense of humour.)
In my last post, I mentioned the arrival in Israel of Mobike, a Chinese bicycle rental company which effectively allows its rental riders to park or leave their bikes anywhere, without fear of them being stolen and without the need to return them to a rental station or lock them to a tree, a signpost or a railing. These things have sprouted in the past few weeks and have rapidly become a public nuisance as almost none of the riders seems to give a second thought to the fact that, having left their machines wherever the desire to dismount hits them, other people might like to walk along the footpath without having to shift a heavy bike somewhere else in order to pass by. The situation, apparently, will only get worse as rental scooters come online, as I believe they may already have.
All of this only adds to a situation in which Tel Aviv Municipality has spent considerable sums creating cycle lanes between the roads and the footpaths, carefully marked out with arrows to indicate the direction in which cycling is permitted, with occasional reminders that there’s a not inconsiderable fine for those straying from what has been sanctioned.
As this is not the Netherlands where, I am told, people are born on bikes and live most of their lives on them (my information might be a bit outdated because I haven’t been there for a few years), it seems that very few of Tel Aviv’s pampered cyclists might be even in any way be vaguely aware of the directional arrows and, in fact, many of them seem to be completely oblivious to the bicycle lanes themselves, continuing to ride on the pavements giving rise to multiple close shaves with forgotten footsloggers, a forlorn breed if ever there was one.
As a matter of fact, many cyclists also seem to be under the impression that one-way streets do not apply to them only to motorised vehicles (but not including motorised bikes or scooters, of course) and that they can ride wherever they wish—and they do. If it hasn’t happened yet, then one day some unsuspecting automobile driver will make a right turn on to a one-way street, in the correct direction, only to drive headlong into a cyclist—who is not wearing a crash helmet although at least one of the two kiddies riding pillion might have—who is reading a text message and if it happens at night, s/he will no doubt be without a light—coming in the opposite direction. After that, there might be better enforcement of the rules.
Now, with all these other things to photograph, I’ve been a bit lax with the real stuff. However, I did manage a couple of modestly decent images over the past week.
Walking home the other morning, this flower in a garden abutting the street caught my eye and I thought it made a pretty picture. At the same time, I thought I could make something better out of it if I sat down and did some serious editing.
And this is what emerged after some work on the image—much more mysterious and exciting.
And early yesterday morning, crossing the footbridge at the sea end of the Yarqon Park, I caught this couple coming in the opposite direction and thought it worth a try. Again, I thought a little editing might help.
Finally, walking home this morning along Pinkas Street and literally at eye level, this Bird of Paradise flower, about to emerge came into view — so there was only one thing to do.