Autumn approaches

When I started to write this blog nearly three years ago, I made a promise to myself and to some family members that as far as possible, I would avoid mixing pictures and politics.  To those of you who bother to read the blather I sometimes write, you’ll be aware that although a promise is a promise, I’m weak and I don’t always manage to live up to that well-meaning pledge.  

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Wearing a blather bonnet and holding prattle prompter.  (Photo: Lily Waterman)

So, to be candid, I thought I might be able to get away without writing anything remotely resembling a political statement in this post.   Having observed the nomination, the swearing at, the confirmation and the swearing in of Justice Kavanaugh a couple of weeks ago, I thought it might be possible to evade the media for a while or at least read about things a day or two—or even a week—after they happened so as to try and get some perspective on the “stories” that had unfolded.  Try as I might to evade news stories as they unravel, it’s almost impossible, especially in this part of the world. (Remember that it is the practice of news media and their editors to dispense their versions of events as dramatically as possible so that the more readers/viewers/listeners they attract and the higher their ratings will rise.  Or am I being too cynical?)

So I dithered over this piece for more than a week wondering if I could post a story based solely on recent photographs, in particular as things seemed to be moving so rapidly on so many fronts that by the time I would have finished, I might have got everything wrong—and I yet might.  However, I’ve failed miserably and so it is that I am forced to comment from my own  warped perspective on a couple of news stories.

The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip is warming up again although last Friday’s demos were a little more subdued than in previous weeks.  Recently, each evening’s TV news bulletins seem to start with something that has happened in and around Gaza.  It might be that Israeli kibbutzim and moshavim surrounding the Gaza Strip have been targeted by coloured “party” balloons launched from Gaza, each load of which carries an incendiary device which, on landing, sets alight whatever is in the vicinity. Over the past six months or so, hundreds of acres of farmland and crops have been incinerated, their produce destroyed by this very efficacious low-tech terrorism to which, thus far, there has been no effective response.  Some of these pyromaniacal devices have been carried by the wind to places some distance from the Gaza Strip but I suppose that until one lands in Tel Aviv nobody will pay too much attention.  

What does surprise me, however, is that these incidents (and they have been daily occurrences) have been barely reported by the foreign news media.   From this, I only have to surmise that a dozen small fires a day that are extinguished relatively quickly are of no interest when compared with major forest fires in California or Australia or wherever.  More recently, the incendiary balloons have been supplemented by extensive burning of tires near the border causing noxious fumes to drift eastward into Israel, thereby causing a health problem.

Apparently, there are differences of opinion between army and government about how to respond to these Palestinian provocations and there are differences of opinion among ministers as to how “tough” Israel should be.  Unfortunately, although some spokespersons for Hamas, the faction that ru(i)ns Gaza and the lives of its inhabitants, declare that they have no interest in escalation into war, their actions on the ground seem to be to the contrary.  So it looks like sirens and shelters might be in the offing again soon.  We’ll all learn in good time — or not as the case may be.

Meanwhile, down on the farm (or more correctly, down in the Yarqon Park and Tel Aviv Port) where I deflate my frustrations each morning after having the heard the morning news and the blah-blah of the talk show that immediately follows it over breakfast), I came across this unfortunate accident close to the north bank of the stream.  To my regret, I didn’t arrive in time to see the upending itself but I did get the attempts to reflect the vessel and I can report that the oarswoman was seen a few minutes later paddling her way downstream in the direction of the rowing club, apparently unscathed.

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Other rowers were busily enjoying the fine weather as we make the transition from summer to autumn although having said that, it still seems quite summery in Tel Aviv although we’ve had a couple of days with rain in the past couple of weeks. 

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It’s not just the people on the river who enjoy their mornings in the park.  Last week I observed a threesome who looked as if they were training for an audition to join a circus.  The rope, by the way, is suspended from the railing on the bridge along Ibn Gvirol Street, a main north-south drag in Tel Aviv. …

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Then there was the couple where it seemed that either she was training for a kick-boxing tournament or was intent on becoming a leading exponent of MeToo! Israel.

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And there were these two who seemed as if they were a synchronised sparring team.

In the park

The surprise of the week in the park was the fisherman who actually caught something.  The banks of the stream (and the railing along the promenade in the park) are littered with  people (mostly men, mostly not so young) holding fishing rods.  It’s seldom that I ever see any of them catch anything remotely resembling a fish and I have to assume that “fishing” is an excuse for meditation.  However, this guy actually caught a fish and as I watched him release it from the hook and place it in a plastic bag I can only assume that he intended to cook it and perhaps even to eat it.  I cannot imagine that anything coming out of the waters of the Yarqon stream would pass Ministry of Health or Ministry of Agriculture inspections but that’s not my problem, is it?

Caught a fish

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There were two other “stories” out of Israel that managed to unhinge my feeling of wellbeing over the past fortnight.  The first concerned a young American woman of Palestinian heritage from Florida, Lara Alqasem, who had been accepted as a graduate student at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to study for an MA, with some considerable irony, in Human Rights.  She arrived in Israel on October 2 with a valid student visa and was refused entry and held in detention on the grounds that she had been active in Florida in the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions ) movement as a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.  (Israel enacted a law last year banning entry for any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”)  She does not deny this but claimed that that she was no longer active and her decision to study in Israel might seem to have indicated this.  The detention order was supported by two ministers who are some way from being favourites of mine, the Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan (see: Silly Affairs) (there’s a lovely typo in there if you can spot it) and the Minister of the Interior, Arye Deri (see partial CV edited from Wikipedia entry: Deri). 

However, let’s suppose that Ms. Alqasem is a BDS mole and has come to Israel just to learn more about the “enemy” at first hand and cause trouble.  Wouldn’t a year in Israel be an opportunity and a long enough period of time to perhaps convince her to change her mind? And were she to engage in activities that the state considered hostile during the period of time she was in Israel, wouldn’t it then be easier and more “moral” to deport her.  But politicians can be stupid and stubborn and anyway, as 2019 is an election year, no right-wing politician can afford to run the risk of being labelled “soft” so what’s to lose if they erode democratic practices to suit their own ends if all this will eventually blow over and people will have forgotten it in a few weeks or months.  

Ms. Alqasem appealed the decision to deny her entry in the district court, which upheld this decision.  She (with the aid of some well-meaning lawyers) then appealed to the Supreme Court, which froze the detention order. The Hebrew University had joined the appeal to admit her to the country and issued a statement regretting  the court’s decision to bar entry stating that “[she] came to Israel to pursue a master’s degree at Hebrew University. Further, she has openly declared her opposition to the BDS movement.  We believe the Ministry of Strategic Affairs’ and the Interior Ministry’s decision to expel Alqasemis a wrong one. This course of action does not contribute to the battle against BDS and harms efforts by the academic community to encourage students and scholars from around the world to visit Israel and to study here.  The State of Israel has invested much money and effort to promote international academic collaboration and scholarly exchanges. The decision to expel Alqasem undermines these very efforts.”.  All of this seemed to surprise the government an only proved once more that the institutions of higher education, the judiciary and media which reported it all are all run by a bunch of duplicitous  “leftists”.

This whole story left me thinking that if she really wasn’t a BDS activist before she landed at Ben-Gurion Airport a couple of weeks ago, then she as sure as anything might become one when she gets back to Fort Lauderdale or Tallahassee or wherever.

Getting away from these news items, the Friday morning Farmers’ Market at Tel Aviv Port provided me with its usual selection of shapes and colours …

 

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… while one day last week allowed me to observe a hydrant in full flow while the water company tested the waters … 

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… Later on in the day, I came across the result of someone who decided to test whether the maximum height for entry was, indeed, 3.10m and discovered that it was…

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And then there was the keyhole to our front door, which I must have looked at hundreds of times over the past 12½ years but never noticed before that it was smiling at me in a funny sort of way. 

On the door

Therewas also a tree trunk that provided me with the material to be a little artistically creative.

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And while walking to the sea the other day,  as I mentioned earlier, we are stumbling from summer towards autumn.  If nothing else, the light in the park and the port gave the game away.

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Finally, let’s end up with a smile with something that has absolutely nothing to do with anything that has come earlier in this post.

 

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Another week, another year

Well, another week has passed by quickly and it’s time to start thinking about the next post again.  While sitting on a bench the other day awaiting a taxi, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye and I didn’t have my camera with me.  As it turned out, it was just as well that I didn’t because if I had, I probably wouldn’t have taken this photograph.  However, I remembered that the phone has a camera (this is a feature I usually forget) and as it was too good to miss, out it came and I silently and surreptitiously took a photograph of the thigh that was positioned on the other side of my better half.  We live in an age of tattoos and piercings, neither of which I can comprehend—not even partially—and I often wonder what will happen when these people will mature.  But then again, I don’t think about it too hard as many of these children seem well into their maturity, some of them perhaps as old or even older than me.

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All thighed up.  Reines Street, Tel Aviv

It seems like we’ve finally emerged from a tunnel now that the various festivals that fall during the Hebrew month of Tishrei have finally come to an end.  As we approached the end of what had been over three weeks of on and off, open and closed, etc., I was at my wits’ end.  Were it up to me, and for the sake of convenience, I would abandon the lunar calendar and declare September 15 each year to be Jewish New Year, followed 10 days later by the Day of Atonement and perhaps October 1 as the Feast of the Last Fruits to be renamed, perhaps, the Autumn Holiday and that would be it.  It’s perfectly logical and mentally less taxing than what exists at present but the odds on that (or anything like it) ever happening are about a million times longer than the winner of the Grand National  Steeplechase shaking hands with the Man in the Moon.  Which, of course, reminds me of one of the old “lightbulb” jokes which asks “How many rabbis do you need to change a lightbulb?”, to which, of course, the answer is: “None—because rabbis never change anything.”  Now that it’s over and we’ve all survived another year, I have no need to call the Irish Mental Health Hotline for advice on what to do although had I done so, my level of frustration right only have risen further.

  

So let’s start this week’s ramble on a bright spot.  On Wednesday afternoon, we had the pleasure of looking after our youngest granddaughter for a few hours at home while her mother rested following an exhausting morning rehearsal with her quartet.  Lily was 6 last week and is already a rather practical young person with a mind quite of her own.  She likes climbing, tumbling, swimming, and puzzles; she’s very dexterous and a dab hand in the kitchen. Her questions—and there are many—are usually some variant of “How does it work?”, all of which I summarise by saying that she possesses an engineer’s brain.

 

 

So on Wednesday she announced that she wanted to take some photographs—but not with a smartphone. She wanted to use my camera.  Now, there’s nothing terribly complicated about using a camera but nevertheless, I had to find a way to explain to her the concept of focus and focussing and of pressing the shutter button halfway down to work the autofocus on the camera. I gave her the camera and put on it the smallest and lightest lens I have. (For those interested, this was a 27mm f/2.8 “pancake” lens and the one I use when I want to minimise the likelihood that someone will notice that I’m carrying a camera at all.)   She caught on to the technique after a single attempt and then we watched her get to work.  

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Lily then decided to take photographs of her grandparents in the living room and it was interesting to watch her try to compose the picture, arrange the “props” and seek out an angle that gave her what she wanted by moving around the room, crouching and such like.  They were typical photographer movements but all done quite naturally. And then she snapped away to her heart’s content.  I was rather impressed by how she went about doing all this and next time we’re together, I think I’ll take her out to the park and let her loose there and see what she sees that I don’t.

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Taking her home a couple of hours later, there was a traffic jam at one of the junctions caused, it seemed, by a collision between two cars.  The traffic lights in the direction in which we were travelling were showing red for a much longer time than usual and this being Israel, the noise from the horns in the cars behind us began hooting.  Lily wanted to know what all the kerfuffle was about and I explained to her that as the lights were red, we couldn’t proceed and that some of the other drivers were frustrated.  To which her ever practical response was: “Well, it won’t do them any good hooting but why don’t they call for a policeman to sort the mess out?”  And when I asked he if she’d like to be a policewoman when she grows up she said that she wasn’t in the slightest bit interested because she wanted to be a dog trainer.

Last week, I was complaining about the fact that Chinese rental bikes have appeared on the Tel Aviv urban landscape.  These are bikes that are locked and unlocked by an app on a mobile phone, allowing the renter/riders to pick them up anywhere and not at a fixed location and by the same token leave them anywhere.  And people do leave them anywhere as often as not blocking a footpath.  When I mentioned to our upstairs neighbour that these things were already an urban nuisance, his response was that worse was to come in the near future in the form of rental scooters.  Well, the near future was closer than we imagined because they are already here and they now add to the long list on unwarranted irritants that seem to be everywhere.

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Meanwhile, the Municipality has added a new feature to the streetscape by providing new-fangled benches that look as it they’re designed to facilitate coffee drinkers and croissant eaters but in reality just offer a larger surface area for the pigeons and crows to leave their deposits on.

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Also in last week’s post, I included a picture of a Bird of Paradise flower that had not yet opened.  I went back three days later to see what had happened and here we are:

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People keep on talking about the impending arrival of autumn.  Yes, there have been one or two hints that something might be about to change—sometime—but nothing lasting more than a day.  Prayers have changed from asking for dew (the summer supplication) to requesting that the winds blow and the rain fall (the winter wish).  However, so far, nothing doing  up there with the Holy One Blessed Be He and as far as I’m concerned, it’s still summer.

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A recent arrival during Tel Aviv summers — a non-stinging parasitic wasp (apparently)

And certainly, when you step out into the park, it still looks as if jogging remains a hot (and hungry) experience.

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Out in the warm weather in the park (it’s 27 or 28 degrees by the time I get out at 7.15—7.30 a.m.), there’s a lot of activity on the water.

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Elegant

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Not so elegant—water line lower lower than normal

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Two-way traffic

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Quasi-synchronized two-way traffic

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Keep your head down! Geese above

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What some people will only do to attract attention

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Multi-tasking

And while in the interface between Yarqon Park and Tel Aviv Port, these containers have recently been converted into public toilets.  I often have difficulty in interpreting the meaning behind signs and when I first encountered these ones, my immediate reaction was to ask where the women went.  It was only when I looked back having passed it that I saw that the other side of the container was for women.  So that part of the conundrum was solved.  But what do the three graphics on either side of the box indicate?  I can understand the graphic on the first one: man in wheelchair preceded by man desperate followed by relief.  But the ladies?  Something doesn’t quite fit — unless my interpretation is incorrect.

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For all these photos taken over the past week, I’ve been using a lens that I bought years ago when I acquired my first Fuji camera.  This is a 56mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.2.  It’s fantastic in low light conditions but I seldom take photos in low-light conditions and the angle of view at 28.5º is really too narrow to be useful in town unless you stand far back, for at 56mm, it’s not really a telephoto lens. It’s also quite heavy to lug about. Essentially, it’s a portrait lens but my grandchildren generally don’t sit still for long enough for it to be used for that purpose.  The upshot is that I seldom use it.  So why have it, then? I suppose it’s because it produces very sharp images and when you set the aperture at f/5.6 or f/8, you get a really sharp pictures with a lot in focus.  So decided last week to take it out of the bag and use it for an extended period and have been walking around with it for the past week.  It’s a revelation, really.

And below is an example of what it does as a portrait lens.  This picture was taken on the spur of the moment after the “model” had asked me to photograph a feather he was holding in his hand (which I did but don’t bother to reproduce here).  I decided that he was much more interesting than his feather and I had maybe 2 seconds to aim, focus and click.

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Charlie, an ambulant Park & Port landmark.  (56mm, ISO400, f/5.6, 1/420 s)

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Pomegranates, Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

 

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Israeli Yellow pitaya or dragon fruit, Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

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Stuffed Olives, Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

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Aubergines, Friday Farmers’ Market, Tel Aviv Port

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Eye wish, Eye wish.  Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

Below is a common enough urban scene.  A car is parked where it shouldn’t be; the Municipality’s contractor comes along and lifts the car on to the back of a trailer and off it goes to the pound.  As I say, nothing unusual about this—except that in this case, it incurred the wrath of one person from the neighbourhood.  No, she wasn’t the owner of the car nor did she have a clue who it belonged to.  What irked her and what she let the traffic policewoman understand what irked her was that what she thought that the authorities were doing something illegal.  The car was had been parked on the side of the street on which it is permitted to park from the previous evening until 09.00 hrs — and the time at which I took the photo was 08.57!  The fact that the traffic was backed up behind this little street performance for over five minutes didn’t seem to bother anyone.  But I suppose that commission must be earned somehow or perhaps watches were set 5 minutes fast on purpose.  Who knows? 

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Nordau Boulevard, Tel Aviv.  08.57 Friday morning

Finally, can I manage to end this post without mentioning the show of the week on television—the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings of Judge Kavanaugh?  No I can’t.  It was better entertainment than any fiction you could dream up and without commenting on the relative merits of Ms. Ford’s and Mr. Kavanaugh’s testimonies, it was the rage—staged or otherwise—of the once and (I presume future) judge that stood out.  I cannot imagine a judge in any other country spouting such politically charged venom and I suppose it shows as well as anything could show the depth of the chasm that divides the sides in America’s culture wars.  (By the way, kavanáh, in Hebrew means “intent” and it was Mr. Kavanaugh’s intent to become a justice of the Supreme Court.)  

The colour of his visage when he had been thoroughly infuriated by the idea that some body even those politicians who are members of the U.S. Senate might relieve him of what he considered to be his “right” to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court almost resembled the crimson of the pomegranates pictured above and I presume that his tears were as salty as the Great Salt Lake (remember: Make America Great Again). (Incidentally, he needs to spend money having some cosmetic work done on his teeth.)  

I actually thought that the millions of people watching these proceedings live might be lucky enough to experience their first on-screen death by stroke …

 

… which immediately reminded me of a video clip of Mel Brooks being interviewed by Alan Yentob for BBC television a while ago, a clip that has appeared in this blog before but which in this context is well worth another view.  The funny part starts about 25 seconds in and FYI, my home censoress doesn’t think it’s appropriate. 

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