It’s Clorox time

The other morning for some peculiar reason I turned on the computer and contrary to my normal practice of looking to see if I had any emails of value (i.e., some that I might scan or even read before consigning them to the trash) I logged on to the BBC website.  I’m not quite sure exactly why I did this but the first thing to hit the screen when I did was this:

I watched it through to the end but couldn’t quite comprehend what my eyes and ears were relaying to my brain—so I watched it through for a second time. Here was the President of the United States “suggesting”, only “suggesting”, mind you, that injecting or ingesting disinfectants or somehow blasting people with ultra-violet light, preferably after some machine for doing so first be inserted into their innards before the blasting begins, might cure some people of Covid-19.  Not enough that more than 50,000 have already died from the disease in the United States, here is man apparently suggesting—just suggesting—a “cure” that would be worse than the disease itself, a “cure” guaranteed to ensure death and a very painful one at that.

One of the reporters at the briefing had the temerity to suggest that people tune into the President’s daily Covid-19 briefing to get information and guidance rather than hear rumours, a remark that was met with, how best to put it, an angry outburst from Mr. Trump, in which the reporter was accused of being a proliferator of “fake news” and that what had we had just heard (from Trump himself) ” was just a “suggestion” from “a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant man”.  As nobody else had been mentioned in Trump’s immodest little diatribe, one can only assume that this was a reference to himself, especially has he has informed the world on more than one occasion of his brilliance and genius. The following day, Mr Trump’s spokesperson explained that his comments during the coronavirus task force briefing had been made “sarcastically”.

Although the situation is really too serious to laugh at, if you can’t laugh at stupidity, what’s the point of being stupid, stupid?


The scariest thing about all this is that according to a poll published last week by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago that “just” 23% of Americans consider Trump a trustworthy source of information on the virus—that’s 75 million Americans.  That’s a statistic I would like to think is untrue but which, unfortunately for America, not to mention the rest of the world, is.  It’s doubly scary because I am doubtful that the majority of diehard Trump supporters who must make up the vast bulk of these 75,000,000 are sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate such “sarcasm”.


The other news of the week — almost forgotten for a while — concerns the agreement signed by Messrs. Netanyahu and Gantz to coalesce — or at least to get together and form a coalition government.  For me and undoubtedly for many hundreds of thousands of other voters who actually believed Mr. Gantz over the past year and a half when he repeatedly promised never to sit in a government led by a man indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, his defection rightward is little more than a misappropriation of the votes cast for him last month.  The ostensible reason for this about turn is that the country needs a unity government to fight the Coronavirus, which is patently blather and rings almost as true as Trump’s exhortation to “drink a pinta bleach a day”.

Not only have I given up believing what politicians tell me, I am also prepared not to believe a lot of what’s written in newspapers.  Long ago, I learned that if correspondents are supposed to write 800 or 1,200 or 2,000 words of copy every other day, once a week or once a fortnight and that’s what they get paid for, then they will write that number of words even if there’s nothing to write; the same applies to the nightly hour-long newscasts.  So consider the notifications below, from two English-language dailies, which arrived within four hours of one another.  The first came from The Jerusalem Post and informed me at 3.22 p.m. that there was no agreement and that Gantz, in his [temporary] role as Speaker would “allow the advancement of anti-Netanyahu bills in the Knesset”.  Four hours later, HaAretz announced that the deal had been done and dusted.

Although I still don’t understand quite what motivated Gantz to smash the amalgamation of parties he had worked hard to put together over a year ago and fought three elections with, part of it can be explained by the Israeli electoral system, which allows individual members to break away with ease and nonchalance from the party under whose banner they were elected.  The reason, to my mind, is that individual Knesset members represent nobody but themselves and don’t have to answer as individuals to any set of voters.

One could, I suppose, describe the Israeli electoral environment as fluid.  This time, the flow moved both leftwards (a little) and rightwards.  What is more significant is that much of that flow anyway can be described as the movement of political sewage, and sewage tends to carry a stench.  Centre parties in Israel have traditionally come and gone after about three election cycles before their voters disperse leftward and rightward.  What makes things different this time is that the three elections fell within the space of 11 months and there’s no Left left.

E  N  O  U  G  H !!!

Yesterday, the six-minute morning news bulletin contained a positive piece of news that I had been awaiting for some time.  Hairdressers and beauty parlours have been permitted to reopen, although I have no particular interest in the latter.  Consequently, I changed direction when I entered the park and went to investigate whether or not my barber was open for business.  And lo and behold, he was and I was #2 in the line (waiting was outside).  On being admitted, I think I am beginning to learn that when this plague has finished its journey, the new normal will differ in several ways to the normal normal.

The first thing that happened was that Yair, the hairdresser who has been looking after my mane for the past dozen years or so, pointed something that looked like a gun at my forehead and read my temperature.  Only then could I enter and be seated.

At the barber

Contrary to what had been pre-Corona practice, Yair was wearing a mask, a visor and rubber gloves all of which he said interfered with his artistry.  Not only that but instead of being covered by a cloth apron to catch the locks shorn from my pate, I was provided with a large sheet of plastic, which, he assured me was not the piece that had been worn by the previous client.  Fifteen minutes later and 80 shekels lighter, I was on my way home.

We’ve had visits from Shuli and Gali and from Tami and Lily (separately) over the past week.  These meetings with grandchildren and their parents took place, as seems to be the style these days in the neighbourhood, beside the cars in the small car park under the flat, where we were seated (more or less), masked (more or less), and 2 metres apart (more or less).

Meeting at the carpark - 1

Meeting in the Carpark

Brief and weird as these meetings were, we all agreed that half an hour beside the cars — without a hug except for a “virtual hug”—was far, far better than any amount of time talking via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and all the rest.

This interesting webinar/talk by Dr. Brendan Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin (worth spending an hour with) answered my questions about missing a hug thus: … “I know that the questioner … undoubtedly their logical brain understands what they’re describing … but our emotional brain is lagging way behind our logical brain and that’s simply how it is.”  Yep, that’s it in a nutshell.

Although the Ministry of Health has issued a directive about wearing masks when outside, when I’m in the park in the mornings, I would estimate that the walkers/cyclists/joggers, etc. divide approximately 20-60-20.  In other words, approximately 20% are wearing a mask in the correct way, about 20% are without a mask at all and the remainder have a mask at the ready.  One day last week, I witnessed (and participated) in an exercise of synchronized masking-up when a police car (below) drove slowly through the park and those with masks at the ready donned them simultaneously as if choreographed to do so.

Police in the park

(BTW, “mask” in Hebrew is “masekhah” and I’ve decided that anything to do with donning and undonning masks is a form of “masekhism”.

Relaxation in the time of Corona

Some people are at ease with the situation such as the young woman above whom I photographed in the park this morning. She personifies relaxation in the time of Corona. Here, her smartphone and fag are both in use; the headphones are on for effective self-isolation; her mask is at the ready just in case it needs to be used should some officious official, like the one below, demand so.

Egret, Park HaYarqon.jpg

Keeping an eye on “the people” before reporting to the authorities. Yarqon Park, April 2020

Meanwhile, spring is happening notwithstanding, even as we listen to news about Coronavirus.  Springtime is pretty even though it won’t last long …

In the street.jpg

Ussishkin Street, Tel Aviv.  April 2020

… and people, like these roses, are beginning to feel the effects of more than a month of lockdown.

A month of lockdown 2.jpg

Nevertheless, there are some signs of normalcy reappearing and these rowers at the Tel Aviv Rowing Club have been out and about over the past week.

Normalcy begins to return.jpg

So let’s end on a musical note (or two).  Shuli has been keeping herself busy over the past couple of weeks preparing illustrations for next year’s programme of the Israel Chamber Orchestra’s children’s concerts.

Shuli's Mozart.jpg

And the Carmel Quartet, with Tami as cellist, kindly put up part of a concert from last year, which we particularly enjoyed.




Partial release

Signs of the times

Lockdown/Lockup/Lock-in/Cockup continues.  Brandeis Street, Tel Aviv

We’re in the second half of April already and this morning, after an extended session last night, the Israeli government has decided to relax slightly the restrictions on the movements of the populace.  According to this morning’s news bulletins and newspapers, the relaxation seems designed mainly to affect businesses in the IT and electronics industries and not the self-employed and lower paid workers who are unemployed and receiving little help from anyone. However, the relaxation is incomplete. People with pre-existing medical conditions and those in employment but who are over 67 are still encouraged to work from at home and not to come to their workplace.

Obviously, this does not apply to the Prime Minister who is employed by the government (or is it by “the people”, as he keeps on trying to remind us?).  He is 70 years old and overweight but no doubt he’s claiming that in order to avoid rule by the mob (which as mobster-in-chief he can seemingly organize), it is essential that he stay at work as he tries to find a majority for a coalition government (led by him, of course, for who else is there in the country who is capable of or has the right to govern?) that will keep him out of the hands of the judges who are to due to hear the serious charges against him on three criminal cases unless he can put a stop to it.  (It’s interesting how this has become a mute point in recent weeks!

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 17.06.18

The nightly evening “report” on the progress of the plague has become a one-man show — or at least a two-man show as the Director-General of the Ministry of Health also shows up and it is he who will undoubtedly take the flak if and when the time comes when things go sour. The Minister of Health, last heard of in isolation of covid-19 a few weeks ago, has vanished from the scene entirely.

Litzman Extra Extra Plastic Watercolour

As of today, all stores that operate in an open space, rather than shopping centres or markets, will also be allowed to open with two customers allowed inside at the same time, one per cashier, or four clients if the store is larger than 100 square meters.  It also means that you can buy thing like lightbulbs or corkscrews without having to pay a fee for home delivery!

Up to three families can now help each other look after respective children and a maximum of 20 people may pray together outside, but they must keep a distance of at least 2 meters and the wearing of masks will still be obligatory.  (This, of course, doesn’t apply to certain strictly Orthodox (Haredi) sects who have, apparently, been praying together indoors in their tens and hundreds because they are—again apparently—protected from the effects of the Coronavirus by God and the Messiah, through the diplomatic efforts of their rabbis and their senior minions.)


Even the pandas in the park are locked in


It was also reported that the Minister for Public Security also suggested limiting the number of people permitted to participate in protests, but the Prime Minister objected, stating that it would be an infringement on the right to demonstrate.  Given that his younger son has already expressed his view, following a demonstration in Tel Aviv last week that it was his hope that all of the elderly who die following the protest would only be from those who support the left-wing that’s a bit rich. The Prime Minister seemingly dissociated himself from his son’s views but obviously has as much control over the outbursts of his son as he has over those of his spouse. The younger Netanyahu also added, before deleting the tweet, that he believed that last week’s protest was a form of mass gathering in order to help the coronavirus to spread!

Outdoor sports can also now be played by up to two people, but only within 500 metres of home so if you have to walk a little further to the nearest tennis court or pingpong table, hard luck. However, it rules out cricket, football, doubles tennis and tugs-of-war, too. However, we can now throw darts in pairs at targets featuring the personages of whichever politicians we detest most.

Oh, and people not wearing masks in public space will be fined 200 shekels, after receiving a caution the first time they are apprehended.  One newspaper featured a headline reading “Fine for not wearing a mask”.  Consequently, having an Irish upbringing, I interpreted that as meaning that not wearing a mask is indeed OK!  Just as I was writing this, I noticed a headline that had come up in a notification from The Jerusalem Post:  “29-year-old Israeli dies of coronavirus as gov’t loosens restrictions”, as if there’s any connection between the two.  But how I really do love the media! Who can shout loudest?  Who can create the most public panic?  Five minutes at 7 in the morning is sufficient to find out if anything serious has happened overnight and another 5-10 minutes in the evening to see if anything serious has happened during the day.

However, notwithstanding my skepticism about the efficacy of wearing masks, I decided that it was probably better not to take chances.  I pay enough taxes to the Israeli government without having to shell out 200 shekels each time I go outside for a walk! Nevertheless, I was also of the opinion that it might be better to wear a disguise just in case the Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, which the government is looking to further employ in the fight against Coronavirus using cellphone tracking and in preparation for the coming of the future dictatorship, should choose to photograph me, even though I am wearing a mask.

And now that I’m wearing one when I go out, I’m beginning to think that it Corona doesn’t get you, asphyxiation will!


Big Brother is watching you.  Yehuda HaMaccabi Street, Tel Aviv

Disguise - 1

I’ve only just noticed that I’ve provided my name!  Wasn’t that silly of me?!

Walking through the park the other day (in the section closest to home) I came to the conclusion that social distancing is not for the birds — at least when they’re on the ground where, although Israeli birds they may be, they are obviously speaking in pidgin English.  If they got this close in the air, there might be a mighty crash.

No social distancing here

Or maybe they might take to the air because they were trying to avoid this guy and his friends.


Other birds, however, do other things.

Holy shit

Holy shit!  I’ve gone and done it again!

As I said above, social distancing is definitely not for the birds at all, as the titillating illustration on a lamppost in the park opposite the Embassy of the Philippines clearly shows!

Bust-up at the nunnery

Other than poisoning pigeons, spring does bring other things. Ten days of spring weather caused the changes on the wall behind the gate next door.

And the pansies?



But to return to the issue of wearing masks.  Masks come in all shapes and sizes.  A visit to the local bread shop the morning after the end of the unleavened Passover festival yielded the following scene …


… whereas this guy seemed to be playing it safe by carrying his mask on his arm

Mask on his arm

And it that wasn’t enough, this morning I passed a guy on Basel Street in Tel Aviv.  Yes, he’s “wearing” a mask, though it might well be just a repository for crumbs while he ate his croissant, and yes, he’s wearing gloves so that he manages not to come into contact with any contaminated surface, but I reluctantly arrived at the conclusion that somehow he was missing the point of the whole exercise!

All covered

Others have just given the whole masquerade up entirely (it’s not mine; mine is blue if you paid attention).

Enough already!

Meanwhile, in the park, different people somehow manage different means of exercising.


And our Lily (age 7 and a half) has decided that she’s had enough of lockdown and that it’s time for us all to take a break and go away for a week or so.  She’s just waiting for someone to come and lug the case for her!

Summer holiday - 1


Lockdown continues

HaPoel Door.jpg

This morning, I went out for a walk before my stair exercises.  It was about 8 a.m. when I got outside. The silence was deafening.  It reminded me of something of a cross between early on the morning of Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv and a street in a Presbyterian area of Belfast on a Sunday afternoon (or at least the way it used to be more than 60 years ago when I would accompany my father there a couple of times a year).

The cooing of the pigeons, the cawing of the crows and the chirping, chirruping, cheeping, tweeting, trilling, and singing of the smaller birdies are enough to drive one to insanity if the lockdown itself doesn’t.  The birds themselves are possibly as fed up as we humans are because as we’re absent to a large degree from the streets and parks, they don’t have anything specific to aim at.  Add in the barking of the frustrated dogs whose owners are technically limited to taking them on short walks in the neighbourhood and the sounds of the city have changed somewhat.

For the past fortnight or so following my discharge from isolation and with nowhere specific to go once I had been discharged, I’ve been walking around the streets of far North Tel Aviv before participating in my daily regime of ascending and descending the stairs in the stairwell.  Notionally, we are restricted to a 100-metre radius from the house but like many of these regulations that have been announced, this one is self-contradictory.  This is because you’re allowed to extend this limit if you’re shopping for food so without any official guidance, I have interpreted this to mean that I can walk around in search of a some really tasty morsel but as I don’t know what this is or where exactly I might find it, I’m beyond the 100-metre limit fairly often!

The Yarqon Park, the entrance to which is less than 200m from the house is officially out of bounds but at 8 o’clock on a Friday morning during the intermediate days of the Passover holiday, there wasn’t a soul there except for some people walking their dogs (There are several dog enclosures within the park and it appears that dog-owners are permitted to bring their dogs there.) Consequently, I thought that if I got down on all fours, applied something that resembled a leash to my neck, then stood on my hind legs and said bow-wow to the dogs and their owners as I passed by, I might be able to get away with it as my hair has grown long enough so that I might be mistaken for a canine and will only get longer, as barbers and hairdressers are not considered essential to people in Corona times. But then I thought that perhaps I might look a little ridiculous (I don’t possess a tail and people might laugh at me, so I desisted).  The upshot was that I walked 2 kms through the park along the river, the only others in sight were about half a dozen dog-walkers and a couple of poochless humans at least 100 metres from one another.

But back to self-conflicting regulations.  It appears that the government sat late on Monday night and one of the decisions reached and which was announced on the news the following morning was an order from the Health Ministry that wearing masks will become compulsory while on the streets — but only from 07.00 hrs next Sunday, April 12.  What I needed was an explanation as to why, if the wearing of masks is so important, this order wasn’t made effective immediately? Was it simply designed to make us feel that the government ministers are actually doing something meaningful or am I simply being more cynical than usual? Then, almost immediately, the police announced that they are unable to enforce this order though whether this is because of some legal reason or whether they simply haven’t the manpower is not at all clear.

However, the issue of wearing masks is one that engenders debate. This week’s issue of The Economist newspaper has an article on masks in which it presents the case for and against forcing people to wear masks. 
Thee World Health Organization says not to bother with them and the British government agrees. America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention initially discouraged it but by last week it had changed course.  Since the start of the outbreak, The Economist writes, the WHO and the CDC have advised people to avoid the use of masks unless they are in direct contact with symptomatic Covid-19 patients but this is because masks are scarce and are needed by health workers.  But as I wrote, things have changed a little and people are now encouraged to wear homemade coverings for their mouths and noses. 

Though it might seem obvious that having people cover their noses and mouths in public would be useful, the science behind mask-wearing is not clear. Extrapolating to the laity the research which shows that masks and respirators are effective for those who work in health care is actually problematic, says the paper, because doctors and nurses are better-trained than others in how to wear them. This is because surgical masks work less well when they become moist, and so need to be replaced regularly throughout the day something that health-care workers do routinely whereas members of the public might not.

More sophisticated respirators are difficult to fit in a way that seals them properly to a user’s face and not fitting them correctly can negate their benefits—as can touching the front of a mask, or taking it off in the wrong way thereby contaminating your hands.  Moreover, people might feel a false sense of security when wearing masks, and thus pay less attention to other important behaviours such as social distancing and hand washing.  The bottom line of the article (literally) is that washing hands and maintaining social distance are the most important means of keeping transmission down. Wearing masks in public does no harm, and may do some good—but that is always providing it does not reduce the supply available to local doctors and nurses.

Regular working attire, Brandeis Street April 6

Home-made mask-wearer (with gloves).  Brandeis Street, Tel Aviv.  April 2020

My problem is that when I don a mask I can’t see all that well because one of the side effects is that my glasses get fogged up.  However, if I remove my spectacles, then I really can’t see at all, as a result of which I might do myself some physical injury.  What I want to know is if I self-inflict while outside in the street (within 100 metres from my home, of course) while not in self-isolation, would my insurance policy cover me for any injuries incurred?

So I think that come Sunday, I will carry a mask and if some officious official or member of the public insists that I wear it, I’ll put it on and then once out of sight, take it off again.  Anyway, I’m washing my hands so often that I think my skin has worn thin and I can see bones underneath — but that might just be old age playing its part. And so it goes. 

Keeping an eye on things, across the street

Keeping an eye on the public??? (50 metres from home)

And now for some photos. 

The BBC website published some pictures of one of my favourite places, Primrose Hill in Northwest London.  I found these pictures with police vehicles on the ready to disperse those violators of the social-distancing regulations rather disturbing although I knew that the police were only doing their job.

Primrose Hill - 2Primrose Hill - 1


Rush hour Brandeis Street April 6

Rush hour, Brandeis Street, Tel Aviv. April 6 2020

Some people have things other than Coronavirus on their minds, like their missing dog and their missing cat.  However, neither pet has a name nor does it have a collar; moreover there are no rewards on offer.

And even the doggies suffer during lockdown.

Unfilled during lockdown

Doggy-poo baggies not replaced and renewed until post-Corona.

Young and innocent

Young and innocent.  Stricker Street, Tel Aviv.  April 2020

Not so young and not so innocent

Not so young and not so innocent.  Stricker Street, Tel Aviv.  April 2020

Glassware distancing

Social distancing.  Jars below, lids above.  Bnei Dan St., Tel Aviv.  April 2020

Keep your distance

Outside the greengrocery.  Keep your distance—wait here. Yehuda HaMaccabi St., Tel Aviv.  April 2020

In the park, it seems that the jackals have sensed the absence of humans resulting in a warning in the park to the humans (who are not supposed to be there) not to leave food and rubbish lying around.

Don't feed the jackals

And while walking along Brandeis Street (about 100m from the house), I noticed that somebody probably didn’t make it home the night before!

Didn't make it home

And still on Stricker Street …

Don't mess with me, photographer

I wouldn’t fool around with me if I were you, Mr.Photographer!

DSCF5082 1 crack

On the wall of the house next door, behind the gate.

And inside the house …

Living room flowers

Inner & Outer cleansing

Both external and internal cleansing. (Very important in these tense times)

According to our next-door neighbours, though, it seems as if all will be over by Chanukah …


… by which time, C-19 should be totally exhausted and unable wield any further damage. (Hopefully!)

I'm so exhausted from overwork!

Brandeis Street, Tel Aviv.  April 10, 2020