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.
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.
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.
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. …
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.
And there were these two who seemed as if they were a synchronised sparring team.
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?
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 …
… while one day last week allowed me to observe a hydrant in full flow while the water company tested the waters …
… 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…
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.
Therewas also a tree trunk that provided me with the material to be a little artistically creative.
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.
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.