A cuddle, a pigeon and a public shelter

Pigeons 3

I’ve been very well behaved in recent posts in the sense that I’ve avoided writing anything that remotely reminds readers of my warped views of politics and politicians.  However, several things have happened recently that have not exactly contributed positively to my already negative views about politics, politicians and crass opportunism.  So if you prefer not to read any of my jaundiced views, which are possibly familiar to you anyway, just scroll down to the pics.

It started with the news that the British Ambassador to the United States, one Sir Kim Darroch, an experienced professional diplomat and civil servant was forced to resign for having done no more than doing what he was being paid to do, i.e., reporting his views candidly to his government.  His ill luck was that one or more of his diplomatic reports was leaked to The Mail on Sunday, a paper that seems to have inherited its role from the News of the World, which was forced to fold eight years ago when it was alleged to have hacked into the phones of families of British service personnel killed in action and senior figures on the newspaper were held for questioning by police investigating the phone hacking and corruption allegations.  In one message, Sir Kim was reported to have written his superiors that “we don’t really believe [Trump’s] Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”  Which is something we’ve been reading in the newspapers for the past three years anyway, so what was all the fuss about? True or not, this was definitely a case of something that an arch-narcissist like Trump might not have wanted to read or have others read about him.  Poor Sir Kim was declared persona non grata in D.C., then treated as such and resigned within two days.

As for political opportunism, the leading U.K. Conservative party candidate for Prime Minister, one Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, (who might have been Boris Ali Kemal had not his paternal grandfather had the foresight to change his name to Johnson) did not exactly come out in support of poor Sir Kim.  Perhaps this was because dePfeff preferred not to antagonise the Americans unduly.  After all, he has dual nationality and some years ago had faced a demand from the US authorities to pay capital gains tax on the profit from the sale of his house in North London, as American law requires all citizens to pay US taxes even if they live abroad and even if they had not lived in the US since they were children.   (Really!)

Ah, Trumpelina!

Trumpelina, Trumpelina tiny little thing
Trumpelina dance, Trumpelina sing
Trumpelina what’s the difference if you’re very small?
When your heart is full of love you’re nine feet tall
Though you’re no bigger than my toe
Than my toe, than my toe
Sweet Trumpelina keep that glow
And you’ll grow and you’ll grow and you’ll grow.
(based on lyrics by Frank Loesser)

But that was only the beginning of the week’s news about politicians.  What really incensed me was a report in Sunday morning’s (14/7/2019) Haaretz newspaper concerning an interview given by the newly appointed interim Minister of Education, one Rafi Peretz (although one friend never stops reminding me that that’s the price I pay if I shell out good money for the lies that that newspaper prints when I can get another set of lies for free if I pick up a copy of the freebie that supports the the Prime Minister).

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Bibi’s freebie on a street bench.  Just take one … please

Mr. Peretz is a former Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defence Forces and is currently a member of Knesset and leader of The Jewish Home party.  In an interview on Israel Channel 12 TV, Mr. Peretz was reported to have said that it is “possible” to perform “conversion therapy” and that he himself had done so in the past.  Mr. Peretz was not referring to conversion to Judaism, which possibly he is qualified to do, but conversion from a state of having GLBT tendencies to a state of “normalcy”.  When quizzed further how he had advised students (presumably all of them male) who had told him about their sexual inclinations, Peretz said: “First of all, I hugged them and said very warm things …”.  Really?  (So I wonder if at cabinet meetings, he keeps his distance from another of Mr. Netanyahu’s interim appointments, the Justice Minister, Amir Ohana, the first openly gay cabinet minister in Israel.  Or perhaps he chooses to sit beside him so that he can hug him, as well.)

Then, when asked about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he reportedly said that he wants to “extend Israeli sovereignty to all of Judea and Samaria,” vowing to secure Palestinians’ rights, but “they won’t have a right to vote.”  Asked whether this does not constitute apartheid, his response was that  “We live in a very complex reality in Israeli society and in the State of Israel, and we’ll have to find the solutions — where sovereignty will be, whether it applies to people or land.”  And earlier last week, he had condemned intermarriage among Diaspora Jews with the comment that “assimilation is like a second Holocaust.”, and this after warning that Israel was becoming “too secular”.  

Really? And this is the Minister of Education, albeit an interim one.  Even Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be taken aback somewhat and distanced himself from Mr. Peretz’ statements.  Mr. Peretz seems to have distanced himself from his own statements, too, having seen the results of his own cack-handedness, telling us later in the week that he had never converted anyone.  So which Mr. Peretz are we to believe?  The cuddling one or the fuddling one? Looks like the learned rabbi is having to learn politics and about being in the public eye the hard way—and if he keeps up cuddling and muddling, it will be a persistent lesson without a break.

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If he was the only cuckoo in the cabinet, it would be worrying enough, but the newly appointed interim Transportation Minister, Peretz’ colleague Bezalel Smotrich, is a man who was arrested during protests against the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and was held in jail for three weeks but not charged.  The following year, he helped organize the “Beast Parade” a protest against a gay pride parade in Jerusalem and is a co-founder of an NGO that monitors and pursues legal action in the Israeli court system against any construction lacking Israeli permits undertaken by Palestinians in the West Bank or Bedouins and other Arabs in Israel.  Mr. Smotrich believes that Israel should be governed under halakhah, Jewish law that has evolved since biblical times to regulate religious observances and the daily life and conduct of the Jewish people.  Just what Israel needs in the 21st century—a theocracy?!

The Prime Minister has also appointed one Dudi Amsalem, a trusted lackey, as Minister of Communication.  Mr. Amsalem bears deep grudges against the media, the police and judiciary, so he’s obviously well suited to the job.  All of these join around the Cabinet table assorted bouncers and former student thugs as well as Aryeh Deri, a man convicted 19 years ago of taking $155,000 in bribes while serving as Minister of the Interior and given a three-year jail sentence. As his prison behaviour was commendable, he was released from prison after serving only 22 months and then after taking seven years out of public life, he returned to active politics—but not before he had been castigated by his erstwhile spiritual mentor, the late Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, as “a wicked man and a thief”.  Notwithstanding all of this, he was further rewarded for his good behaviour when he was appointed in January 2016—yes, you can guess—Minister of the Interior.  And so it goes.

I was reminded of such politicians the other day while re-reading Bill Bryson’s 1996 book Notes from a Small Island, which he wrote when he had decided to move back to the United States for a while but wanted to take one final trip around Great Britain, where he had lived for over 20 years.  Finding himself in Exeter and waiting for a train to Barnstaple, he went to the requisite platform  and “passed the time watching the station pigeons”.  Bryson was of the opinion that they really are “the most amazingly panicky and dopey creatures”, and that he couldn’t imagine and emptier, less satisfying life.  

He then wrote:

Here are instructions for being a pigeon:

(1) Walk around aimlessly for a while, pecking at cigarette butts and other          inappropriate items.

Pigeons 2

(2) Take fright at someone walking along the platform and fly off to a girder.

Pigeons 1

(3) Have a shit.


(4) REPEAT.  

On this basis, pigeons seem to me potentially to be politicians in the making—though on second thoughts perhaps they are more akin to voters.


Pigeon shit can be artistic if they get the angle and the distance—and thus the splat—right!

Mind you, crows do similar things except that the crows occasionally turn on you and work in groups.  They might swoop down and try to remove your headgear mid-swoop or they may drop a pigeon (or a rat or a bat) they’ve just murdered a few centimetres from you as as you mind your own business walking along the street and you hear the loud plop as it hits the ground.  

Crow and pigeonCrow and crowCrows and rat

Crow & bat.jpg

I didn’t wait to witness the murder. The bat was attempting to defend itself and fight back but the crow was unimpressed by its show of valour and was quite determined to have his (or her) way. (BTW, I didn’t bother to check the gender of either combatant!)

And it’s not just the pigeons and crows that muck up life in Tel Aviv.  The owner of the car below had presumably gone away for a few days and left their car on Nordau Boulevard under the trees.



In fact, everywhere you go these days, there seems to be the scrunch of fallen berries under foot.


Berries 1.jpg

Meanwhile, back in the park, other avians are busy doing different things, thinking that nobody will spot them having a snog while under camouflage.

Love in acmouflage

The rub of the green

And last week, Tel Aviv (and Israel) bade farewell to Zubin Mehta after five decades as he leaves the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra—50 years as Music Director of a major orchestra is a bit unusual in this day and age.

Bye=bye, Zubin


… and while in Tel Aviv Port, in honour of Wimbledon, I suppose.

Wimbledon fortnight

50 heads are better than one


Park maintenance

Maintenance work in the Port 

… and in the park, Friday mornings are tandem mornings … up front a seeing rider and behind, the second rider visually (and sometimes otherwise) impaired  …

Tandem day

On the street, in full gear, camera at the ready … 

Be prepared

Be prepared!

Working hydrant

A working hydrant


But this is Israel and one is often-time reminded of the dangers of living in this region of the world.

Public shelter

Public Shelter 415, Gan Meir, Tel Aviv

Finally, taking a bus back home one day during the week, I was impressed with the amount and the quality of the digital information that was being beamed across the front of the bus.  It tells me where the next bus stop is and how far it is to the next stop (in the case, The Great Synagogue on Allenby Street, 338 metres away from the point at which I photographed it).  The only thing that seemed not quite right was the time, which was showing early afternoon rather than the 08.42 that it really was as I sat there.  And then I looked around and checked on my phone.  Of course, I should have known!  It was 13.42 in Manila and so my obvious conclusion was that this was an attempt by the Dan Bus Company to make the many Filipina caregivers in Tel Aviv feel as if they’re at home!

Manila time

And with that, time to change character before the next [apolitical] post!

I told you it was funny!


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