We had a brief visit from our London grandchildren and their parents last week. It was just a very short trip for a family celebration of the “other side” but we consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to see them several times at the start of the week and, then again, once more when they popped in on their way to the airport at the weekend. It was lovely to see all four kids together and to experience all of them getting along so well although I must add that saying goodbye to them was a bit more emotional than it had been on previous occasions.
I met up with Tal and Maya (and their parents!) in Jaffa last Tuesday afternoon and as we were sitting in Jaffa Port, and the children sitting there having eating their ice creams, I noticed what I thought was a familiar face coming out of one of the galleries.
Now, either he was who I thought he might be or it was his doppelgänger. Dressed in jeans and a black short-sleeved shirt with a vest or tee-shirt hanging out at the back, he strolled across to a kiosk and bought himself what looked from the distance to be a glass of grapefruit juice. As he turned around to return whence he had emerged, he was immediately surrounded my people with cameras taking selfies with him and asking for his autograph, to all of which he responded with a broad smile. He hardly looked like the man who would be charged the following day by the State President with the almost impossible task of forming a coalition government. But there he was and when he was joined by another former army Chief of Staff and political neophyte, Gabi Ashkenazi, it confirmed what I had already perceived and that the person in question was none other than Benny Gantz, the Leader of the Opposition, although it’s a moot point as to whether there can actually be an opposition when there isn’t really a government (well, there is, sort of, an interim government but it’s been that way for a year already and of all the ridiculousnesses that beset Israel, being without a real government for a year is the most absurd of all!)
Tal, who is 9½, was following the action and wanted to know what was going on and why all the people were milling around this single individual so I explained to him as best I could that the man at the centre of all the attention, Mr. Gantz, might be the next Prime Minister of Israel. So then the questions began. Was he better than Bibi? Was he better than Ben-Gurion? I had to explain that the man in question has not yet been elected or appointed Prime Minister, just that he’s been asked to try and patch together a coalition government. Consequently, there was no way of telling whether he would be better or as good as or worse…
… Then Tal had another good look at him and with remarkable intuition, concluded that it seemed improbable that he—Mr. Gantz—could ever become Prime Minister. “And why not?” asked I. The response was the ultimate put-down of a 9½ year old. “Because he’s just an ordinary person!” And come to think of it, I couldn’t for a second conjure up an image of Mr. Netanyahu in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt let alone vest hanging out at the back. However, should Mr. Gantz succeed in his onerous task, he will cease to be an ordinary person.
And with that short foray into politics, it’s a sign that the “Festival Season” in Israel is over until next year and it’s back to normal, which means machiavellianism returns as the order of the day.
As people who keep up-to-date with Israeli political machinations are probably aware, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) is in a spot (or several spots—probably ‘blots’ is a more appropriate word) of bother and is painting himself more and more deeply into a corner. It’s quite some time now since we heard his mantra of several years, referring to the investigations by the police and prosecution service into alleged bribery, corruption and breach of trust: “Lo hayah klum ki ayn klum” (“There was nothing because there is nothing [there]”), mainly I guess, because the public—even those who will support him to the bitter end—know that there is something there, otherwise the Attorney-General would hardly have recommended indictments.
This week, Bibi and his acolytes let loose on the police again, this time for confiscating the mobile phones of two of his advisers as part of an inquiry into suspicions that they had harried another former Bibi aide who had turned state’s evidence and who has provided testimony in one of the three criminal cases against him. On Twitter, Netanyahu denounced this as “a terror attack on Israeli democracy and the right to privacy that every citizen should enjoy”, accusing the police of trying to threaten his immediate environment, thus stopping him from reacting to the aggressive criminal leaks against him that has been going on incessantly.
Given that an investigative journalist had got access to the recordings of conversations between the Prime Minister and a newspaper owner in which Bibi threatened retaliation with all the forces he can muster should the paper be held responsible for taking him down, even for Bibi, this is a bit rich and it shows up the extent of his paranoias. But then, if he loses, he loses everything so from his point of view, why not fight to the bitter end?
So all I’ll say is what I’ve said before on many occasions and that is that in any normal country, a Prime Minister being investigated by the police on suspicion of having carried out criminal acts would have resigned years ago and certainly would have taken leave of office when the Attorney-General decided to press charges (subject to hearings of course, which have already been heard and are now being assessed). But there is no law to compel a Prime Minister to resign and this is possibly because nobody ever thought that such a situation might ever arise. So, from this, I must conclude that Israel is not a normal country—apparently.
And briefly to return to Mr. Gantz’s task—I further conclude that it could be made so much easier were Mr. Netanyahu to be deleted from the picture (my domestic censoress has forbidden me use that macabre euphemism, “neutralised”).
And now for some photos, totally unrelated to what I’ve written above.
The urban landscapes of North Tel Aviv yield wonderful images day by day, even when my time is curtailed and I’m not in the mood for taking photographs.
For a start, there are birds and flowers, and plants. In fact, even before I left the house, there was something there to photograph in the form of a cockroach in the stairwell.
Outside, I learned that the object below is Aristolochia gigantea, or “Dutchman’s Pipe” (n.b. Herman!), an ornamental plant native to Brazil, something I’d never seen before but there it was, less than 200m from home!
The bird of paradise flower continues to fascinate me. I never fail to be amazed by its sheer beauty …
… as indeed, the Night Heron
And then there was a pigeon of mixed ethnic origin, which caused me to wonder whether s/he would be welcome in Trump’s America.
There was also this image of the Tel Aviv lighthouse, which I have posted before but somehow, it looks different with each viewing …
… as does the chimney of the Reading Power Station, this time as a reflection in the Yarqon river.
And while on the subject of the Yarqon, I noticed this mermaid paddling along at 8 o’clock one morning.
Seventy-five minutes later, the mermaid emerged from the river to put her paddle to bed …
… and when I got home and looked at the photo—critically, as a photographer, I mean—I simply wondered whether or not I should have given her a little more exposure!
All of which reminds me that I received an email from and old friend in Dublin earlier today. It was one of these things that circulate around the Internet and which are mildly amusing. She was trying to wind me up and the email read as follows:
The Dilemma: A moral test for you….
This test only has one question, but it’s a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally.
The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.
Please scroll down slowly and give due consideration to each line.
You are in England, York to be specific.
There is chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with severe flooding.
This is a flood of biblical proportions.
You are a photo-journalist working for a major newspaper, and you’re caught in the middle of this epic disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless.
You’re trying to shoot career-making photos.
There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing into the water.
Nature is unleashing all its destructive fury.
Suddenly, you see a man in the water.
He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken down with the debris.
You move closer… Somehow, the man looks familiar…
You suddenly realise who it is… It’s Jeremy Corbyn.
You notice that the raging waters are about to take him under forever.
You have two options:
You can save the life of Jeremy Corbyn or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, documenting the death of one of the country’s most well-known men.
Here’s the question, and please give an honest answer…
Would you select high contrast colour, or would you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?
Did I take the bait? No way. I replied: “It’s a no-brainer! B&W, for sure!” The thought of winning a Pulitzer Trumps all!
And then, returning to the Yarqon Park, I was reminded that the “trans” issue is not simply a human dilemma. You know what I mean, a girl who would prefer to be a boy, a man who would prefer to be a woman; a Mexican who would prefer to be an American, an Alsatian who would prefer to be a dog. Here’s a dog that prefers to think of itself as a cat!
And almost in conclusion. This pair needed eyes in the backs of their heads, oblivious too what was happening around them, didn’t know what they were missing!
In Jaffa with the family, I came cross Mr. & Mrs. Fire Hydrant outside their ladies’ clothing shop.
And then then there was the man who passed by this morning with the original doggy-bag on his back.
Finally, fire hydrants have been somewhat absent from this blog in recent months. However, yesterday, I passed by this one that I have photographed several times before. Its character varies with the arrangement (coiffure?) of the bush that grows around it. This time around, I reckoned that it was Afro so I took a photo and walked on.
I hadn’t walked more than 200 metres when I came across this lovely young woman. The truth is that I had photographed her before but from a distance and I wondered whether I would be able to summon up the courage to ask her (if I happened to pass by) whether she minded me taking her photograph, which is why I could never contemplate being a professional photographer or even a good street photographer. So I passed by and I asked her. In response, she asked me why and I told her that she had an unusual face (actually, I think it is out of the ordinary) and then she asked me what I was going to do with it and I said “Nothing. It’s just that photography is my hobby”, which was a slightly off-white lie because here it is. However, it did strike me that in the 200 metres between the hydrant and the lady, there was more than a slight resemblance and even though I have a soft spot for hydrants, I know which picture I prefer!