Sturm und Drang: DC, UK, TLV

Yes, I know it’s been a little longer than usual between posts and the past fortnight has been full of news.  However, although all of those events those that occurred constituted news at the time at which they took place, it was little more than background static as we experienced a bereavement in the immediate family. Nevertheless, the racket was so continuously raucous that whatever the extenuating circumstances, one couldn’t but take notice of it.

In the United States, there was a government shutdown that continued for 35 days until the President eventually caved in.  This all had to do with the House of Representatives, newly controlled by the Democrats, refusing the President $5.7 bn to build a wall along the border with Mexico, an issue which had been one of the cornerstone promises of his campaign two and a half years ago, but at of the start of 2019 remained unfulfilled macho bravado.   However, if memory serves me correctly, the same candidate also promised that Mexico and not the American taxpayer would pay for his wall.  Notwithstanding, he warned that if he does not get a fair deal from Congress, he will shut down the government again on 15 February or declare a national emergency to get the funds from elsewhere. I’m sure that that’s solace to the thousands of federal government workers missing pay cheques, dealing with mortgage defaults and queueing at food banks.

In Britain, the ghastly farce that is Brexit came to a head yet again when Parliament voted not to sanction the agreement Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with the European Union, thereby presenting her with the heaviest defeat for a Prime Minister in living memory.  So muddled, muddied and mixed up is the thinking in the House of Commons that the day after inflicting this debâcle upon the poor woman (most of which, from my listening post far away from Britain, I would say is of her own doing) her spirits were lifted somewhat when on the day following, the Leader of the Opposition tabled his vote of no confidence in the government, a move that also failed. So once more, to my untrained mind, it seemed as if there’s a clear lack of leadership qualities on both sides of the House of Commons.

The Tories are divided in three but are unwilling (probably wisely from their perspective) to risk a general election whereas the Leader of the Opposition is pulling his parliamentary party in a direction that many of them might prefer not to follow.  What happens next is anyone’s and everyone’s guess—a free fall into “No-deal-land”, an extension of the two-year period in which the side leaving (the UK) and the rest of the EU were supposed to have agreed on the terms of the exit; such an extension might allow a period of reflection and discussion, free of the outright lies that were dealt out liberally prior to the referendum held two years ago, so that people might reconsider where Britain is at before making up their minds again at a “People’s Vote” (a euphemism for a second referendum)?  Who knows? It seems as if common[s] sense is severely lacking in the House of Commons, so much so that it was reported that Her Majesty herself uttered things about the necessity of seeking “common ground” (coming from a Royal, that’s saying something) and “never losing sight of the bigger picture”.  Indeed!

screen shot 2019-01-26 at 10.11.26

My husband has crashed his Land Rover and my Prime Minister is crashing the country

Meanwhile, in Israel, the election campaign, with another 10 weeks to run is starting to get nasty and will, without a shadow of doubt, become nastier still as time goes on.  The Prime/Foreign/Defence Minister (a sort of latter-day Holy Trinity for some people), aided by his lackeys, sidekicks and other flunkeys, is turning the campaign into a personal vendetta not only against the treacherous left-wing media who are out to bring him down but also against the police who have interrogated him (unfairly, of course), the prosecution service, which has recommended his indictment for bribery, corruption and breach of trust in three different cases (also controlled by leftists, of course), and now the Attorney-General and former Cabinet Secretary who he himself appointed.  

However, the Attorney-General appears to be doing the job that he was appointed to do and has announced that he will arrive at his decision on the police and prosecution’s recommendations in a professional manner and when he’s ready (i.e., sooner rather than later).  For this, he was immediately set upon by the Prime Minister’s attack dogs as interfering in the political process (i.e., the election campaign), as if bringing forward the date of the election by seven months so as to coincide with the A-G’s decision was not interference by the politicians in the judicial process.  (An additional snippet of information came the other day in the form of a poll that found out, among other things, that if the A-G were to announce that he was indicting the PM—subject to a hearing—before the election, his Likud party would lose between 4 and 5 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.  So I thought to myself with the usual degree of sardonicism with which I regard politicians: “So that’s what he’s really worth?  Between 3 and 4 percent of the electorate?  That’s all??? I thought so all along!”

As if all this was not messy enough, some spice has been added to this already unpalatable mixture in the form of the [now ex-] President of the Israel Bar Association. A close associate of the aggressively right-wing Minister of Justice, he has been instrumental both before and during his election to the job as Israel’s top lawyer in helping her appoint right-wing judges to the bench at various levels in the judicial system over the past four years.  However, he ran into a spot of bother a couple of months ago when we was caught attempting to “smuggle” his girlfriend into the country after having a taken a trip abroad with her.  In order not to complicate his “already complicated” divorce proceedings and let his wife know about such things, he managed to get the lady friend out of the country without showing her passport but an alert security person on his return to Israel spoiled the scheme.  As if that wasn’t scandalous enough (remember, this wasn’t an “ordinary” citizen but the head of the lawyers’ union) he now stands accused of helping various members of the fairer sex further their legal careers in return for sexual favours and what could be fairer than that?  Again, of course, it’s the duplicitous police and untrustworthy media who have made up the stories just to defame him.  Yes, Israel is a nice place to be now—never a dull moment.

Speaking of elections, the campaign has just got under way so it’s a little early yet for walls and buses to be plastered with images of the leading candidates or of their perceived enemies.  Anyway, that’s not necessarily the most efficient means of turning the voters on or off.  I’ve already had several text messages asking me how I might describe my political leanings and how I might choose to vote under different circumstances and criteria.  I have no idea who these messages have come from and have no intention of  revealing my political opinions to strangers although I do make an exception for readers of this blog – but then again, [most of] you are not strangers! In response to the text messages, instead of choosing one of the options that have been preselected for my prompt response, I simply answer with: “Mind your own business”, a rejoinder that will probably become more strongly stated as the weeks until April 9 pass.


The other morning on the way to the Carmel Market, while walking along King George Street, I had the dubious pleasure of passing by the headquarters of the Likud party, which is, of course, headed by Mr. Netanyahu.  Actually, it’s neither dubious nor a pleasure for the building is a nondescript multi-storey monstrosity that wouldn’t attract much attention if you weren’t aware of what was lurking inside.  However, last Monday morning, I found that the façade of the building had been decorated with a large portrait of the Holy Trinity himself with the caption “Netanyahu: Guardian of Israel”.  Umm.  Really?

likud hq - 1

Looking more closely at these two tapestries it seemed to my eyes that they had been carefully folded and put in a drawer for the past four years ready to be taken out again at the appropriate time.  Mind you, I would have thought that somebody might have seen fit to iron the material before putting them on display.  

likud hq

My immediate and lasting reaction to this mural was that it reminded me of something else from another age and another place.

screen shot 2019-01-26 at 10.13.18

And while walking home, I came across something else that reminded me strongly of our Prime Minister.

just try!

Remove me from my perch at your peril.  Ashtori HaFarhi St., Tel Aviv

The walk along King George V Street whereupon I set eyes on the Bibi mural took me to the Carmel Market, ostensibly to purchase a month’s supply of coffee beans but also to take stock of what was photographable, as there’s always something colourful and otherwise interesting there.

halva loaf

Halva loaf is better than no loaf at all! Carmel Market, Tel Aviv


En route to becoming vichyssoise.  Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

Rather than walk the 5 km back, much of which is slight incline, I cheated and took the bus, from the Carmelit Terminal.  This was a brand new bus, far too sophisticated for a living fossil like me and it took me a little longer than normal to figure out where I should insert or touch in my bus pass as there were so many electronic devices on the vehicle that I felt distinctly comfortable.  However, when I sat down, I also discovered that the self-same bus had seats that were [theoretically] reserved for the likes of me so I wondered whether I should say something in a suitably curmudgeonly tone of voice to the teenager who parked himself on it, and plonked his knapsack and camera bag on the adjacent seat.


In theory, this bus seat’s reserved for the likes of me!

Over the last few days,  for some peculiar reason, there seemed to be an abundance of canines and felines that called out to be photographed, so I did.

hindu hound

Hindu hound


Sorry, I just got off a red-eye flight

the eyes have it

Yes, the eyes have it!

The weather has alternated between winter (heavy rain, strong wind, loud thunder) to being almost springlike.  One night of heavy rain and the river fills up so that by morning, it’s almost overflowing its banks.  One of the stranger phenomena to observe when there’s been a lot of rain and the wind blows off the sea from the west is that as the river is so shallow, it appears as if it’s flowing upstream.

almost overflowing

Field day for gulls at the Tel Aviv Rowing Club

once a tree, once a wall

Yesterday there was a tree and a wall

after the storm

The storm’s over.  Nordau Boulevard.

Yet the day following the storm, the place is hardly recognizable as the same place.  Sun’s come out and it may be a bit chilly but it looks as if spring can’t be far away.

cold but comfortable

Chilly but comfortable.  Rabin Square, Tel Aviv

a working breakfast

It’s even pleasant enough to eat a working breakfast.  Yarqon Park


Tel Aviv Marina, the day after the storm had passed


press-ups in the park

Press-ups in the park, phones at the ready. Yarqon Park

in the shade

Preparing for summer? Yarqon Park.


More signs of Spring




I came across this man about a year ago  as I was walking down Ibn Gvirol Street and suggested to him that he pay a visit to one of the many manicure salons in the area. Last week, I came across him again while walking down King George Street.  It seemed as if he hadn’t listened to my advice.

to the manicurist

And just as one can never be sure opposite whom one will sit on a bus or a train and what they might be doing during the few minutes you glance at one another on and off, one can never quite me sure what might cross one’s path as one walks along the street. The other day, crossing Pinkas Street at the junction with Ibn Gvirol Street, this young rider came to rest when confronted by a red traffic light.  I am no longer surprised at the informality of dress in Israel but this one might be a candidate for a top prize.  Given the helmet, the mask and the sunglasses, she must forever remain anonymous.

legs 11

Finally, as I write this, the date is January 27.  I am reminded that quite a few years back, when reading Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’, I was shocked when I read that Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by the Red Army early on the morning of Saturday January 27 1945. I had never paid much attention to the date before so it wasn’t just reading about the opening of the gates that startled me as much as the fact of the small coincidence that at exactly the same time, just over 2,000 km west of Auschwitz, in Hatch Street Nursing Home in Dublin, I entered this world. The hairs on the back of my neck literally stood up straight. And here we are 74 years on with and antisemitism on the rise again. 

Just a thought for the day.

Have a wonderful day everyone and a great year!


Thunder & Lightning, Mud & Filth

The weather is well and truly wintry these days. For those of you who might be used to winter meaning subzero temperatures accompanied by lots of snow and ice or seemingly endless cold grey days, winter in the part of the world from which I am writing is something entirely different. Along the eastern littoral of the Mediterranean, if the thermometer falls below 10ºC, it’s considered to be very cold and you feel cold, too, when daytime temperatures fall much under 15º.  So it transpires that cold is not just an objective index measured in degrees Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin; it’s also very much a subjective thing.  

One part of this hibernal quandary lies in the fact that for most of the year, the Coastal Plain in which Tel Aviv sits is stiflingly hot although there are a few weeks at either end during which there’s no need for air-conditioning or heating, and then it’s quite pleasant. However, another part of the problem lies in the simple fact that most buildings are simply not built for the cold (and the damp).  The exterior walls become soaked when the rain buckets down and when it stops, evaporation gets down to work, cooling the buildings and you feel it inside.  But that’s life.  There are winter days when the weather seems Gene Kelly-like …


… and there are other days when it appears to be the way Tom Lehrer described it

placid yarqon 1

In addition to my natural indolence, I have an aversion to walking out in the rain when it’s not absolutely necessary.  My rule of thumb seems to be that if it’s not raining but just threatening, I will probably go out; however, if it’s already bucketing down, there seems little point in getting drenched.  As a consequence, I may miss many wonderful photo opportunities—but not all.  The rain can be so intense that the drainage system in the city has difficulty in dealing with it, as the photo below from a year ago from just outside the house illustrates.  However, once the rain ceases, things clear up quite rapidly.

IMG_1805 05.01.2018

There are plenty other signs that it’s winter time around here.  The dogs, especially the smaller ones, seem to have requested that their owners attire them accordingly.  What I couldn’t decide when I took this picture was whether or not the outfit was a cast-off that had been previously owned by a midget or whether it was a bespoke canine jerkin.  You help me decide — not that it’s really an earth-shattering decision. 

winter's here

And it’s not just the dogs that feel the hold.  Tel Aviv’s hydrant population also feels a little chilly on top.  (And for those among you who may be muttering that this image was staged by the photographer, let me remind you that with a single exception, over a decade ago, during the first week in which I had started to photograph hydrants, all the images have been recorded in situ without any interference on my part.

winter's here (1)

And while on the subject of hats, here’s a cute way of carrying your headgear around with you and making sure that it is dry when you take your crash helmet off and replace it.

The Mad Hatter.jpg

Mind you, not all hydrants solve their cold problem in the same way.  Some, such as the pair below, don’t bother with hats and have rigged up their own external heating system to keep them warm, especially at night!

Hydrant heating system.jpg

Other hydrants find other ways of being useful to hydrant society, like this garlanded spittoon, looking quite happy about it all.

Fag-end hydrant.jpg

I suppose there are other ways of keeping warm.  This couple, photographed as I strolled along Nordau Boulevard minding my own business (what else?) couldn’t seem to tear themselves way from one another.  It was a chilly day, even in the sun, and I guess they needed some mutual body heat.  It went on for a couple of minutes and I took several but family censorship rules said only a single pic and with faces hidden.

long goodbye

Nordau Boulevard, 4/1/2019, 08:48:17

Nevertheless, there are signs that spring can’t be all that far away as evidenced by the bee going about its business, buzzing purposefully around the lemon blossom in the park.

Lemon blossom.jpg

Walking along one of the streets near the house the other day, I noticed this driveway leading to the underground car park of a block of flats.  I had noticed it before—actually I was told about it by a friend who thought it might be worth my while having a look— but this time, I had the camera with me and I decided to take the photo.  Rather an original way of displaying an artistic bent, I thought  However, what I didn’t notice at the time—and in fact what I didn’t notice until this very moment, was the empty perfume bottle, so I suppose that means that I’ll have to record the image once more if I remember!

grim garage

There’s a lot of building going on in the neighbourhood.  Most of it is not new building but extensions to existing ones.  The ostensible reason for one or two floors being added to buildings is to strengthen the structures and that allows not only extra floors but things like balconies and extra rooms to be added on to each of the existing flats, which is a boon to the owners, if you’re prepared to move out temporarily for two or three years and stay in and suffer the noise and the dust.  The local ladies’ hairdresser has somehow managed to keep his ground-floor business going through two years or more of reconstruction work, but just how is beyond my ken.

Hairdresser open.jpg

The rest of the week was rather prosaic.  I thought the shoelaces hanging outside a shoe repair shop on Ibn Gvirol Street were colourful enough to warrant a picture …


… as was this clown who regularly “performs” at the junction of Ibn Gvirol Street and Rokach Boulevard.  He waits until the traffic coming from the east into town is stopped by a red traffic light, then he moves his perch into the middle of the road, does his act and then walks along the first few cars in the line in the hope of remuneration.  I hope, for his sake, that he doesn’t depend on the proceeds of his juggling act to make a living.  Some people I know think it’s great fun; I just regard him as a traffic hazard …


… as is this unfortunate who wanders around the neighbourhood with an ever-increasing load on his borrowed supermarket trolley.


And what about these three from outer space who I encountered one morning, having emerged from the sea at Tel Aviv Port, apparently in search of signs of a fourth who had seemingly gone missing?

three from the deep

And then there was this original framed poster in the offices of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (replete with with misspellings in English) from 1953, on the same day that I was quietly celebrating my 8th birthday in Dublin and practising piano for my next lesson with Cissy Garber—just to put things in perspective!


But enough of this anodyne nonsense.  To end this post, let me return to the weather and what happens as a result of it.  For a start, the Yarqon stream fills up rapidly after a few hours of rain so that it looks like a thick lentil soup threatening to spill over its banks.

Mud & Eruv.jpg

However, within a day or so, everything returns to a placid normal.

Placid Yarqon.jpg

Nevertheless, the filth thrown up by the sea during an Eastern Mediterranean storm is something to behold indeed.


picturephotograph Tel Aviv

And so it might be in Israel after April 9, the day in which our politicians ask us what we think of them and which of the parties, if any, we prefer—and then go off and do whatever they want, which may or may not be what we thought they might do at the time we voted for them.

This election campaign is only just over a fortnight old and already it’s shaping up to be the filthiest, muddiest election campaign ever.  Strangely, it brought me back to a topic that interested me soon after I arrived in Haifa over 40 years ago and on which I published several academic papers.  Looking then at the electoral system in Israel, it struck me that the fluidity with which political parties split and realign was an unhealthy situation and that with few exceptions, the politicians seemed to represent nobody except themselves and party activists.  For in order for Israeli politicians to be elected, they need to be placed high enough on the [national] party list and this means that the common or garden voter like me has no member of parliament to whom s/he can turn if s/he wishes to raise an issue.  

All those years ago, I ran several simulations of what might, theoretically, affect the results of Israeli elections if they were run on a constituency-based system and the outcome of almost every simulation, in which I altered the size and the boundaries of the hypothetical constituencies, was that the main beneficiary would have been Likud.  

However, when I participated in several residential seminars organized by the Israel Democracy Institute in which we discussed this very issue, I discovered that most of the Israeli politicians who participated in these seminars had little idea of what electoral reform might entail.  Moreover they were reluctant—if not actually fearful—to contemplate how a change in the system might affect them and their cronies (sorry: colleagues).  I even had a two-hour session, one-on-one, at the end of the 1980s, with the man who was then the Deputy Foreign Minister (in which capacity he had nothing “official” to do—as evidenced by the fact that he had two hours to spend with me— except to plan how to become Prime Minister (which he eventually did and in which capacity he still operates).  He was apparently not convinced of what I was saying to him (possibly because he thought that I might just be a member of the treacherous left out to deceive him).  At any rate, we still have the same system with one or two minor changes and it works the same way.  (I abandoned this topic when I eventually came to understand that at least as far as Israel is concerned, it’s an academic subject par excellence.)

So what has happened in this 2019 election campaign so far (and there are still three months of this to go)?  We have seen a right-wing party headed by two of Netanyahu’s former “minders” split off and found a new party, “The New Right”; if the world was flat, with this move they might well fall off the starboard side into the deep.  But the world isn’t flat, their ship is pretty much watertight and they have little interest in rescuing the shipwrecks they had just thrown overboard. On the other side of the political spectrum, the leader of the Labour Party (a man who four years ago was a minister appointed by the leader of a different—centre-right—party abandoned ship shortly after, reappearing a short while later as leader of a party of which he had not previously been a member) dumped his erstwhile partner (and Leader of the Opposition) without her prior knowledge (or so it appeared) on live TV, leaving her stranded in the ocean without a lifeboat.  

There are currently three former military Chiefs of Staff running under their own flags. One was fired as Defence Minister two years ago as a scapegoat when the Prime Minister decided that he needed to broaden his coalition and is now attempting to re-enter parliament flying his own flag but it would seem with few soldiers to wave it; another has not yet uttered a word as to what he thinks about anything in the world other than to inform us of the name of the new party but as he’s already appearing in the polls as second favourite to become Prime Minister, he might as well remain tongue-tied.  There is also a third who has already been Prime Minister and is looking for a way back into politics but is finding it hard to find followers.  

In addition, there’s also a fourth general, currently a minister (one who started his political career four years ago directly as a minister and had been appointed by the same man who appointed the current Leader of the Labour Party, (Verstehst du?)) and who, too, has since bolted his party and gone rightward into Likud.  He feels that he should have been appointed Chief of Staff way back when but wasn’t; consequently, it appears that he carries a grudge against the silent general who did get the job, so I expect we’ll hear more about the bitterness he carries in coming weeks.  

In addition, there is also the usual list of parties representing the Arab minority (which, as of yesterday, looks about as fluid as the Jewish mainstream), socially minded egalitarians and strictly Orthodox parties, all out to garner their share of the next parliament and make life as difficult as possible for whomsoever is called upon to form the next governing coalition.  Oh, and I almost forget, the Prime Minister’s “dramatic” speech carried on live TV the other evening, in which he suggested—demanded—that a face-to-face confrontation between him and several former aides who have testified against him in the several criminal cases that the police have been investigating for quite some time now be broadcast live on television just so that we, the voters, can ascertain who is telling the truth!  Reality TV gone mad! Or, in the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln (albeit three decades after he is purported to have said them: “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.”

All of this reminds me of a Scottish tragedy, a play in which a soldier whose overriding ambition and thirst for power cause him to abandon his morals and bring about the near destruction of the kingdom he seeks to rule. Initially, the conflict is between the soldier and himself as he debates whether or not to seize power through violence, it metamorphoses into dissension between him and his wife, as she encourages him in a direction he is reluctant to take. However, once he ends his struggle against his own ambition, the conflict shifts to one between him and those who challenge his authority. In that play, Macbeth often acts against his own best interests, as well as the best interests of the play’s other characters as well as the best interests of his country. The characters who opposed Macbeth and eventually defeated him do so in order to restore order and justice.  Were it that Israeli politics were so straightforward.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

&c., &c., &c.

So I leave you with some random images that summarize the state of the Israeli election campaign up until now.  You may recognize several of them for most of them have appeared in this blog before—but under different guises.


Yes, my friends, I am who you think I might be!

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 16.20.11

Right you are!

Left .v. Right
Hard of hearing

I lost it because they thought I was too left-wing!


I’m looking for a potential running partner

So nice to make your acquaintance

You smell compatible!


I submit.  I’ll run with you but you can be top dog!

Ménage à trois

The ideal coalition — inseparable partners

Can this be true?

Running to the polls in their droves before they close so as to change the election result

LON 07 2012 99 Wolf in Sheep's clothing

I think I’d make a popular Prime Minister, don’t you?


Too much coverage on TV might make the voter see through me!


Russian interference in this election?  In a Western state?  Never!

Crows and rat

This is what we do to Leftist traitors!

Crow and pigeon

And this is what WE do to Rightist totalitarians

Crow and crow

You dared to change your mind after you swore you’d support me?!

T-A 04 2012 70 Piss on the world

The Minister of Culture expresses her opinion (unsubtly as usual) about “élitist” culture

Hump oiff, Europe, I'm voting

A voter casting her secret ballot while telling the politicians to hump off—twice!

And remember, politicians are but birds on a wing!  They’re here today and gone tomorrow.