I was really going to try and make this post free of anything that could be contrived as being a political statement (and in this day and age, that requires some real effort) but events a few nights ago in the neighbourhood have prevented me from so doing.
I had just settled down to watch a recording from the previous evening of the first live concert from the 2020 BBC Proms (performed in a Royal Albert Hall free of an audience, of course) when an almighty din erupted from the street—shouting, screaming, police sirens, and more. I paused the video and went over to the living room window to discover what was happening. However, other than seeing some of my neighbours with phones attempting to record what was going on, I was not much the wiser. I could hear police sirens and the street had been blocked and there were voices uttering profanities into a microphone and loudspeakers blaring them out for all and sundry to hear. Then I noticed several members of the Israel police take up positions close to the house directly opposite. In retrospect, a police motorcycle had been parked there for an hour or so before but I didn’t put 2 and 2 together.
And then it suddenly dawned on me what must be going on. One of my neighbours who lives in the house directly opposite, Uzi Vogelman, happens to be one of the 15 justices of Israel’s Supreme Court. A couple of months ago, three people, including a prominent anti-migrant activist, had been detained briefly on suspicion of spray-painting slogans against the Supreme Court outside the home of Chief Justice, the sprayed graffiti reading “You’ve buried Zionism,” and “The Supreme Court has destroyed south Tel Aviv.”
Sheffi Paz, an anti-migrant activist, has been campaigning for years against the housing of African migrants, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, in her south Tel Aviv neighbourhood. In addition to having been arrested for that disturbance, she admitted that she had plastered stickers with the slogan “Jewish blood isn’t cheap” in and around the mailbox of Mr. Vogelman, an act that prompted him to file a complaint with the police. The slogan, “Jewish blood isn’t cheap” is commonly used by right-wing activists and was an apparent reference to a recent case in which Vogelman, who holds, it seems, liberal views, was part of a court panel that had rejected the demolition of the home of a Palestinian suspect in the killing of yeshiva student in the West Bank last year. Paz’s stickers, marked with reminders of her organization, the “South Tel Aviv Liberation Front”, apparently referred to Supreme Court rulings that had prevented the government from removing migrants from the neighborhood where local residents claim they are a source of violent crime, including rape (although a recent incident of gang rape in a hotel in the southern resort city of Eilat suggests that you don’e have to be black or living in south Tel Aviv to perpetrate rape!)
Uzi Vogelman was one of the judges involved in these rulings, which prompted Paz to say that “We have a lengthy history involving Uzi Vogelman. It took me some time to find his address, otherwise I would have done it long ago.” Whereas the almost automatic revanchist reaction of Israel’s right-wing government towards solving the migrant problem was to threaten the migrants with repatriation or just expulsion, the Supreme Court prevented this by stating that a solution must be found that is in line with international norms .
Immediately following this threatening act against Mr. Vogelman, there’s been a discreet police presence in our neighbourhood, and this became apparent and not so discreet at the first hint of trouble the other night. I don’t know how many people were involved in the demo but it was very, very noisy. However, I can only imagine that there were far fewer people than those who appear close to the Prime Minister’s residences most evenings in Jerusalem and Caesarea, so I imagine what Mr. Netanyahu and his family members must be going through nightly. My heart bleeds for them and long may it last—but it’s a shame that their unfortunate neighbours have to suffer, too.
The following morning, the footpaths and car windscreens were littered with the poster that appears above and it transpires that the demo was organized by an Israeli NGO, Im Tirtzu, whose stated mission is “to renew Zionist discourse, Zionist thinking and Zionist ideology to ensure the future of the Jewish nation and the State of Israel.” Whereas some people maintain that Im Tirtzu is an important Zionist movement, there are others who believe that it bears similarities to fascist groups. Whatever the case, Im Tirtzu has wide support within the Israeli government, which suggests the latter view is closer to the truth. Just before the demonstration and the noise faded away about 10.30 p.m., the chant taken up by the mob was “Vogelman is corrupt”, which was repeated over and again. Given that the Prime Minister of Israel is on trial in three separate cases involving corruption, that he has taken to slandering the judicial system in general, is taking aim at the Supreme Court in particular, and that the government supports Im Tirtzu, one begins to wonder …
It’s been a long hot summer and there’s still more of it to run. The flowers outside the house are showing the effects of dehydration, it seems …
… as does the house below a couple of streets away. It’s been blistering for a few years already but recently, it seems to have taken a turn for the worse and looks like it needs more than a little work on it!
Out walking in the park one day last week, I took this photograph of parakeets in flight and posted it to Facebook because I thought it was a nice picture.
I received some “likes” and comment but nobody asked how I managed to catch them all in flight. A little more astuteness might have provided the answer for it appears as if all the little green birdies are flying in the same direction, away from the photographer with his camera. And that’s because I had espied these winged creatures happily pecking away between the blades of grass as if nothing untoward might happen to them. But that didn’t make a particularly dynamic picture and then while I had the camera in hand and the focus more or less right, I decided to shout “Boo!” and four seconds later, the result that is the upper picture of the two was taken. A little cruel on my part, perhaps, but worth it nevertheless.
Walking home yesterday morning, I found myself walking behind a semi-masked man and his poodle. There were two things about them that drew me to this picture. One was the stark contrast between the man with his shaven head and his immaculately coiffured canine. The other thought that passed through the addled mind of a confirmed cynic was that this picture could easily symbolize the Israeli (or British) Prime Ministers in the company of any one of their ministers. The faux seriousness of the owner and the friskiness and willingness to obey of the faithful canine? Might I not be correct?
And then one day last week I found myself going through my collections of 42,000+ photos in a futile search for two that I was sure I had taken a couple of years ago but apparently hadn’t. (You must understand that, like everything else in my possession — papers of various kinds, books, CDs and the like—I start to classify and then usually come the conclusion sorting and filing are absolutely mind-numbing tasks. The end result is usually partial classification so that whereas I did find several photos taken around the time that I had thought I had taken the ones I was looking for, I didn’t find what I was looking for, probably because I had taken them and then junked them when I reckoned they weren’t up to scratch.
Anyway, what transpired was that I was forced to look at lots of images that I hadn’t seen for a long time and I present some of them here. The first one resulted, coincidentally, from a question posed by my almost 8-year old granddaughter, Lily, a couple of weeks ago. She wanted to know if a tuna is a larger fish than a salmon; after all, they both come out of tins that are more or less the same size but as she’s seen a side of salmon, she understood that people must do something to it to get it — and the tuna — into something as small as a tin.
Fortunately, I spent three days just over eight years ago in the fish market in Syracuse, Sicily. Whereas on the first day, the whole fish was hanging by a hook, the picture below shows the work as it progressed on the second day, on which the fish butcher has not yet got to the stage of cutting steaks, which only occurred on the third day. So Lily was able to appreciate that a tuna is, indeed, a larger fish than a salmon!
Then, while going through the photographs, my eye was drawn to this one below so I stopped and looked. In truth, I couldn’t remember taking it and couldn’t figure out what sort of animal this was …
… until I looked at some adjoining pictures and discovered that it was nothing more than a biscuit with eyes and that I’d played around with it!
And while looking though the pictures, I realized that I haven’t hung any new pictures on the walls of the flat for several years now as a result of which I’ve ordered four prints for the living room and the bedroom.
The first is “Puppy”, an installation by Jeff Koons outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Puppy comprises flowers that grow in an unequal and anarchic way and how s/he appears changes with the seasons and the flowering of the plants of which it is comprised. This is Puppy as s/he appeared in mid-May 2015.
And on that same visit to Bilbao one could not but take a photograph of the Museum itself, designed by Frank Gehry as a ship, in recognition of Bilbao’s history as a port. Although most photographs are taken from the side of the museum which faces the street, the guidebook told me that the best view was from the other side of the river. So I crossed to the other side and on the way back, I realized that the best view was actually from the bridge that straddles the river (and which, incidentally, was a physical impediment in the planning of the whole Guggenheim project.) I just thought that the office block behind the museum, which provided the “funnel” to Gehry’s “ship”, made it into a much better picture that it otherwise would have been.
The third picture that I ordered was of a sculpture of an “iron baby” by Antony Gormley in the forecourt of the Royal Academy of Arts last December. I almost missed it, it was so small there, lying on the ground. The most amazing thing about it was that so many people seemed to treat it as if it was a real baby and were on their hands and knees to stroke it and pet it. Maybe they thought it was cold; after all, it was December.
Finally, I decided to print a picture I took a couple of years ago on Hampstead Heath in London. As I walked towards the tree, I was fascinated by the spread of the bare branches so I took several pictures. However, the colours of the original seemed a little too dull to warrant printing or even posting. So I decided to spruce the tree up a little (no pun intended; it isn’t that kind of tree) and this is what resulted and it will occupy some blank wall space in the living room.
Finally, just around the corner, there’s a house where one of the residents cut through a tree in order to create sufficient width to park his/her car. I thought it was worth a picture!