At the end of last week, while walking down a street in North Tel Aviv, I was contemplating the plight of the 3,711 people locked up (quarantined, much the same thing, except that the origin of the word “quarantine” comes from the word meaning 40 [days]) in Yokohama on a luxury cruise liner, the Diamond Princess, after an 80-year-old passenger from Hong Kong had embarked in Yokohama, sailed one segment of the itinerary, and disembarked in Hong Kong, and was hospitalised after he tested positive for corona virus COVID-19. As I write, over 600 passengers tested positive for the virus and so far, Japan’s Ministry of Health has announced that two passengers had died after contracting the virus.
Of the total, there were 15 Israelis on the ship and television interviewers had a field day (or more a field fortnight or more) here. Eleven of those were flown home last night where they will continue their dream vacation for another fortnight, this time in isolation at Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv and one of those has already been diagnosed as a carrier; four other Israeli carriers have been hospitalised in Japan, including the husband of a couple interviewed almost every evening on Israel TV Channel 11 as they enjoyed one another’s company in isolation on the cruise ship.
What caught my eye while walking down the street as I was contemplating the Diamond Princess was the sign on the café/pub across the road. Corona may have begun in China but according to the sign, it ends in Tel Aviv. (For non-Hebrew readers, the name of the place is “The End of the Road”!
Then at the end of last week, we had the [extreme] pleasure of walking a couple of hundred metres down the street to the Israel Conservatory of Music to hear the Carmel Quartet of which Tami has been the cellist for about 20 years. As the quartet’s regular violist, being an academic and doing what academics are occasionally wont to do (he’s currently on a sabbatical at UC Berkeley), Shuli substituted. There was a time when the twins performed together frequently; these days it’s an occasional thing so it was something we weren’t going to miss. It was a nice programme, too—Mozart’s String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421, the second of the quartets that Mozart dedicated to Haydn and the only one in a minor key. This was followed by Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11, composed in 1935–36. Barber arranged the second movement of the quartet for a string orchestra not long after he wrote the quartet and this movement is best known as Adagio for Strings. There was certainly nothing lacking in the Carmel Quartet’s performance, which only underlined what a live performance can offer over a recording, especially a studio recording. The concert was rounded out with Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115, with the clarinettist, Yigal Levin.
An added edge to the concert was provided by a knife. The first violinist had cut a finger (4th finger, left hand, for the really curious among you; it can be seen in the photo) earlier in the day preparing a meal for her children but after multiple applications of New Skin and plasters, it was decided that the show just had to go on. Announcing this to the audience—and it was a full house with standing room only—the Music Director of the Chamber Music Center seemed a little stressed out but as happens on such occasions, the artists make an extra effort to make things appear as if nothing had happened and what actually transpired was music of the highest quality.
Samuel Barber, String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11 performed by the Carmel Quartet, Israel Conservatory of Music, 15.02.2020
The other highlight of the week was the arrival of our London grandchildren with Dov to spend their half-term break from school with their grandparents, aunts and cousins. Despite a slight language barrier, the cousins seem to get on pretty well and it was really great (if a little noisy) having them around. It was a holiday but they had “homework” to do during their break and I was truly astonished with their abilities to put together a PowerPoint presentation in no time at all—just as I was equally amazed last week to find that 7-year old Lily is getting along fine learning to use Word for schoolwork.
Meanwhile, Daisy had arrived in the Shuli/Tami households about three months ago when they adopted her from a home for abandoned dogs and fell in love with her at once. However, it was clear from the start that she had had a troubled background and had probably experienced abuse, or as my daughters put it, she hadn’t received the love and warmth that is the entitlement of a canine pet. Her communication with other dogs had been thrown into complete disarray and taking her for walks was, apparently, a nightmare. Life for Daisy, as the saying has it, had gone to the dogs.
However, all of that was put right after a three-week stint in a doggy boot camp, where she was taught doggedly that she is not the top dog in charge of the household and has to take orders. I even doggysat for a while last week (a notable event in the Waterman family) and she was as good as gold. But enough of all this dogged doggerel.
I did manage to get out with the camera on and off during the week Dov and the kids were here and there’s more than a touch of spring in the air.
As usual, the birds in the park and along the river provide me with material for photographs, like the cormorant skimming the top of the river but never touching it until, it lands.
Or the egret looking pretty glum and serious as it contemplates who to vote for in next week’s election, the third in 11 months!
And even the gastropods on the street, which fall within my remit, are not all that slow to catch on that this might not be the last election and the situation of interim governments could continue this way for years yet!
I’ve seen all sorts of groups in the park but I really had no idea what this bunch below were doing and which specific caste of exercise groups they belonged to. Somehow, though, it reminded me of 60 years ago on a cold Saturday night in Dublin when for the first time, I went into town to see a film on my own and waiting for a bus on D’Olier Street at pub closing time, a group of people emerged into the street in the form of a circle just as if they were about to dance a hora.
Apparently, each of these individuals was contributing in part to the stability of this human circle. Then, as they were positioned on the footpath, one of them shouted that he was able to stand on his own two feet and broke away from the circle, falling backwards. At this point, the rest of this improvised circle of acquaintances collapsed on to the pavement from which a cloud of alcohol-scented steam arose. (I didn’t have a camera then but was more than relieved when I was able to board a bus home!)
As usual, the Friday morning farmers’ market at Tel Aviv Port is a source of colour and shapes. My eye is constantly attracted to artichokes. I can only imagine that it’s got something to do with the arrangement of the bracts for I really can’t stand artichokes, which I think is one of the silliest foodstuffs (along with pomegranates) that I know.
Finally, as I’ve said already, there are elections here again next week. If the egret above can’t make up its mind which party list to choose, neither can I and as I usually do, I’ll probably make up my mind as I enter the polling booth. There are nine or 10 parties with a chance of picking up enough votes to send their people into the Knesset. If I don’t know which lot I will support, I have already eliminated seven that I can’t support at all so at least my choice is now down to one out of two or three.
And while on the subject of politics …
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines chutzpah as “supreme self-confidence”. However, for the uninitiated, chutzpah is really far more than supreme self-confidence. In Yiddish, it’s the word for audacity, for guts—but it is as often as not used with a negative connotation. Leo Rosten, in his wonderful Joys of Yiddish, gives the classic definition: “Chutzpah is that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”
So here are two examples of chutzpah as they appeared in last Tuesday’s edition of Haaretz. The first appeared under the headline: “Netanyahu Corruption Trial to Begin March 17, Two Weeks After Israel Election”. It read: “The trial would thus begin the day after the new Knesset is sworn in, which occurs two weeks after an election. The timing is likely to complicate Netanyahu’s potential coalition negotiations after two failed attempts within a year to form a government. … The prime minister’s defense may request that his arraignment be postponed and demand additional evidence, which would delay trial proceedings until the request is accepted or denied. The defense team is expected to request that Netanyahu be exempt from appearing in court, arguing that requiring him to participate would intervene with his work”… (!!!).
Now that’s chutzpah!
And then, on the same page, under the headline: “Former Prime Minister Olmert Asks Rivlin to Expunge His Criminal Record” appeared the following: “Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2012, petitioned President Reuven Rivlin last week to expunge his criminal record. … Olmert submitted the request through his attorneys. … The lawyers argued for leniency based on Olmert’s contribution to the state, mainly during his tenure as prime minister. Expunging one’s criminal record removes the stain of moral turpitude placed on elected officials for seven years. … Olmert has expressed a desire to return to public life in private conversations with political figures in recent months. … .”
Now that’s Chutzpah, too!
Two-faced, both of them — not that they’re alone in the world!