A Winter Wonderland

How do I begin this post?  With a rave or with a rant?  Perhaps I’ll leave a rant [if one develops while writing this] until the end, as today we might be seeing the very beginning of a return to something resembling normality, as museums galleries, gymnasia and concert halls open to the public again — or at least to those who have received a Covid vaccination.

The thought of things returning to normality was so outlandish that she couldn’t stand the pressure. (Corner of Stricker and Shlomtzion Streets, Tel Aviv)

So, I’ll start off with two stories.  Last week, I received a gift from an old friend.  It was a book, one that I had read several years ago. Nevertheless, but it’s one of those books that if you really want just to read short items and then smile after reading most of them, this is it.  The book is entitled: Am I alone in Thinking …? — Unpublished letters to The Daily Telegraph.  To the uninitiate, The Daily Telegraph, is a conservative British daily newspaper (a broadsheet, which means that it seeks to be regarded as a “serious” newspaper, as distinct from the tabloids, which are not).  Its readership comprises mostly Conservative older folk and its one saving grace is that it publishes generally “do-able” crosswords.  The book consists of letters to the editor, which the editor[s] decided not to publish, which is just as well.  In bed one evening last week, I read the first few pages and when I got to this communication from one, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume, I laughed out aloud, something that might have frightened the neighbours had they been listening.  The letter read as follows:  SIR — I find it intensely humiliating to be asked by airport security staff if I have packed my own bag.  This forces me to admit, usually within the earshot of others, that I no longer have a manservant to do the chore for me.  Gentlemen should be able to answer such questions with a disdainful: “Of course not!  Do I look like that sort of person?”  Well, at least Mr. Ord-Hume, if he is still in the land of the living—the book was published in 2009—hasn’t had to be humiliated recently as nobody has been travelling very much in the past year.

Then, the other day, I travelled out of Tel Aviv for the first time since arriving back in this country in mid-December to visit my oldest friend (we met, aged 6, in Zion School in Dublin), who came to live in Israel in September and what with me being away and then in self-isolation, followed by a five-week lockdown, this was the first opportunity that we had  had to get together.  So off I went to the city of Ra’anana, all of 20 km away.  We nattered away for a good four hours and midway through the chatter and the tea and the lunch and the tea, and me being 76, I asked where I could find the loo (that is the bathroom, as American euphemism would have it).  Directed to the appropriate spot in the apartment, I emerged, announcing that while in there, I had decided to write a letter of complaint to the CEO of Marks and Spencer, where I have bought most of my underwear for the past half century (yes, I admit, shamefacedly, that that’s true).  “Why?”, I was asked.  “Well”, said I, “it’s because M&S have redesigned their underpants.  They used to sell Unterhosen that made it easy for older men to do what must be done quickly and without fiddling.  Not so any more — there are so many folds that what used to be a simple procedure has now turned into a minute and a half of near-absolute panic.”  Mind you, I will mention that there are other aspects of the design that might become useful as I age but it has been suggested by a very wide person to whom I sent a draft for comment that I spare my readers the details!

Anyway, perhaps by the next post I’ll have some more photographs of people in the streets.  It’s not that the streets have been entirely empty but cafés, restaurants and other places where people meet and chat have been—and still are—closed.  So, on the mornings during which the rain let up, it’s been out and about the Yarqon Park for an hour and half of exercise (what actually used to take me about an hour when I started doing this regularly about a dozen years ago).

We’ve had a few wet days, although, as is the case with a Mediterranean winter, after some days of heavy rain, the weather has now cleared up.  (It takes just about 10 minutes of heavy rain to turn in the street into a stream but once it’s over, it clears up as rapidly as it appeared.)

Shlomtzion HaMalkah Street after 20 minutes of rain

We even had a hailstorm one day last week, which provided me with one picture of a situation unusual for Tel Aviv, to say the least.  I suppose that it was just as well I took the camera out when I did because 10 minutes later, the the hailstorm has ended and the sun came out for a few minutes, it was all gone, which indicates, I guess, that it what I photographed wasn’t coarse salt.


Hailstones (or just coarse salt?)


Mud became the operative word.

The Yarqon stream. Saturday morning, 20/ii/2021


And when the storm had abated, the rowers took to the high sea where the mud that had polluted what passes for Tel Aviv’s river had migrated overnight.

Mud, mud, glorious mud (not to mention the floating garbage)

The sea was still rough on Sunday morning, two days after the end of the storm.


There was also the inevitable clearing up of the mess caused by the storm so that everything will look neat and tidy until the next squall rolls in and does its thing.

Neat and tidy does it every time


However, it’s important that one should note that people , in the absence of cafés and during a break in the rain, continued to stand in a queue for their coffee and croissants in Tel Aviv Port in the hope that they might be able to find a bench under an umbrella where they could sit and chat——and shiver.  And to what purpose?  For the most abhorrent thing of all is that the coffee they had queued for was being served in paper cups—and in gross understatement, coffee—as well as other drinks—doesn’t taste the same in paper cups; that’s because people’s smell and taste perception is affected by different features of the vessel in which the beverage is served and that’s because there are multisensory interactions between the smell and taste of the drinks and the type of vessel in which they were presented. (See Cavazzana et al., “The vessel’s shape influences the smell and taste of cola”, Food Quality and Preference, Vol. 59 (July, 2017) pp. 8-13!). (I used to be an academic, you know!)




Maybe they had run out of coffee at home and had no alternative.

And just around the corner from the where the coffee was being served in paper cups, this unfortunate pooch was left waiting patiently until its owner emerged.  However, the doggie didn’t receive any coffee—or croissants for that matter.


And talking about dogs, this mini-dogwalker crossed my tracks earlier this morning.  I mean, I’ve seen more than seven or eight dogs being walked before by a single person but this is the first time I’ve come across a population of miniatures. (Or are they toy breeds?)


And when I reached the port area, I was reminded that a year has already passed!

March 2020 (Then)


February 2021 (Now)

And so, I was left walking though the park and the port photographing (mostly) the avian population.

Night heron. Yarqon Park.  February 2021


Of mixed lineage, methinks. (An avian Dalmatian, perhaps?) Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. February 2021


An egret in waiting


And everyone’s favourite bird!


Social distancing is for the birds (or not, as the case may be)

And finally, a few images that have nothing (or very little) to do with what’s come before.

I hadn’t realized they’d been selling much lately at all.  Castro, Tel Aviv Port.  February 2021


For non-Hebrew readers, the caption reads “Private Parking”


And then walking home along Nordau Boulevard, this minibus passed and I was reminded that it’s almost election time again.  Mr. Sa’a the man whose smiling visage appears on the back of the bus, used to live just around the corner and had been Minister of Education and Minister of the Interior before taking “a break” from politics, returning to what had been this “Natural Home”, i.e., the Likud Party last year.  However, like many other advisers, underlings and lackeys who had been close, perhaps too close to Bibi, he did not find favour in Mr. Netanyahu’s eyes and was not reappointed to the [anyway overly bloated] government coalition last year, and so decided to take the make-or-break step and set up his own party, thereby adding to the plethora of rightwing options that the voters have this time on Israel’s eternally revolving election roundabout.  However, when you see a smiling face on the back of a bus, you can’t help but think that things are, perhaps, not going as well as they might be.

Gidon Sa’ar. — and th and the caption? —  Everyone’s Prime Minister

BTW from the smile and slogan, it’s easy to tell from the caption that this before an election.  Mr. Sa’ar  has also promised solemnly  that there is no way will he sit in a government headed by U-NO-HOO.  We’ll see and then judge after March 23 (or more likely, in May), by which time a coalition will have emerged (or not as the case may be).

Meanwhile, I will continue to stay warm and alert by biting hard on these until Spring arrives.


And for anyone who missed the livestream last Tuesday, here’s the link to the replay (the music starts at about 12 and a half minutes in).


Penguins, PPE and Porter

Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. Early morning

I know.  I know.  I’m late by a week or more but perhaps you didn’t notice. And if you didn’t notice, then maybe the time has come to pack it all in and find something more productive to do with my time, such as write a book (ha-ha!).  At any rate, the cause of this delay is that I upgraded the Operating System on my computer on Thursday of last week and although it seemed fine that day, the following morning all hell broke loose.  Computers are a bit like cars — when they work, they’re fine but when they decide to have an off-day, in gross understatement, they grate on the nerves.  Anyway, nothing seemed to work.  It was as if the machine had suffered a mini-stroke. I couldn’t find files or folders although I knew they were there and after consulting my family Mac guru, there was no alternative but to bring it to the Machospital in South Tel Aviv and let them figure out what went wrong.  The following day, I picked it up recovering from the mini-stroke has been limited for it seems to have affected its memory which is far from behaving normally. Perhaps the old girl is suffering from MacAlazheimer?

Anyway, this glitch probably appeared just in time, otherwise my readers would have had to endure one my occasional (or perhaps not so occasional) rants.  People have told me that I shouldn’t get upset about things over which I have no control but that’s sometimes more easily said than done, the reason being that on Sunday evening of last week, I sat down (alone again) and decided to watch a movie on TV.  But which movie?  Should I spend half an hour searching through Netflix’s offers only to find that most of what is there is rubbish.  Or perhaps I should just look at the offerings that have been on TV and which I bothered to record for I spend 10 minutes a week checking to see if there are any movies on, the names of which I recognize, and when I do recognize a name, I then try to remember whether they’re things I’ve missed or just things I’ve seen before.

So this time, I went through recorded movies and chose to view Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, a film from just over 30 years ago and which we went to see in Haifa when it was released.  I actually chose it because it’s a movie I remember that I enjoyed immensely.  However, memory sometimes only serves you partially and in this case, I had forgotten that the character played by Julia Roberts was called Vivian, so I thought to myself that I’d prefer to watch something else.  At any rate, I looked around for an alternative and chose Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren acting the role of Maria Altman, a woman who had escaped the Anschluss in 1938 and found refuge in America and then, with Arnold Schoenberg’s grandson as her lawyer, went on to sue the Austrian government to return five paintings by Gustav Klimt which had been owned by her family in Vienna.  A wonderful film — except as with Pretty Woman—  I had a forgotten a detail that appeared near the very start of the film; the opening scene was at a Los Angeles cemetery in which a coffin adorned with a Star of David was lying — a Jewish funeral.  No, not for me, the way I was feeling last Sunday evening.

After those two failures, I then did what I try to avoid each day and turned on the evening news on TV and what greeted my eyes and ears somewhat blew my mind, as that day saw the funeral processions of two aged (and probably venerable) rabbis, obviously much esteemed by their followers.  It was estimated that these processions each comprised about 10,000 individuals, all as far as I could ascertain, male.  Again, looking at this particular image below which appeared in Monday’s newspaper, I’d be generous in saying that I estimate that at most, 20% of the participants were wearing masks and of those that were, only a small proportion were wearing them covering mouth and nose.  As for social distancing, forget it.

At a time when the country is trying somehow to deal with a pandemic, this was a demonstration of people who ignore the rules that the rest of us have to observe and live as a law unto themselves.  However, it seems as if others have learned a lesson from all this in that the owners of stores in shopping malls seem to have had enough being being locked up/in/down and they, too, seem to have taken the law into their own hands, or as the TV news last night referred to them, Corona mutineers.

However, what really got my goat last week and yesterday was that none of the politicians who “matter” (actually, none of the seem to matter much at the moment) uttered a pip or a squeak of condemnation. I wonder why?  Could it have something to do with an event scheduled to take place on March 23 unless that, too, is put off because of Corona or because the numbers in the polls (generally inaccurate in Israel) prove to be unfavorable.  (Have I lapsed into cynic mode again?  Tut tut!)

In anger or desperation, I posted the picture above on Facebook and received some reactions.  One old acquaintance, who had spent some years in Antarctica more than half a century ago wrote: “…the photo looks like nothing so much as some of my photos from penguin rookeries in Antarctica.”  More to the point, a young woman living north of Tel Aviv, whose parents are friends of mine, wrote on her Facebook page: “The ticking time bomb that Israel has created is exploding. The charedim have no science education so they don’t understand Corona. They don’t serve in the army or do national service so they have no sense of duty to the state or experience of integration. They do not consume our news in any format so they don’t know what is going on outside of their world. The men do not work so are not forced to encounter people outside their spheres. They are encouraged by state financing to continue fanatical cults of personalities amongst their rabbis. Some communities only speak Yiddish. What the hell did we expect to happen? Attacking bus drivers and breaking lockdown rules seems like the tip of the iceberg.”.

I think that she just about hit the nail on the head with that one.  However, as I think we all realise, this con has gone on for so long, I can’t see an exit strategy.  They sit on their behinds all day and discuss all sorts of issues, real and hypothetical, but when it comes to making a decision, what does all this “learning” provide?  Nor very much, it seems, because they run to their rebbe or yeshivah head (individuals who suffer from and distinctly enjoy the fruits of personality cults) and do whatever they’re bid.  In this particular case, it appears that they were bidden to ignore the government, the Ministry of Health, Covid-19 and all the rest.  On the Monday evening, the day after these “events”, a senior police officer, interviewed on the evening news and asked why the police didn’t to more to stop such things happening, could only say that more penguins, wishing to enter Jerusalem from outside were prevented from doing so and without the help of others (at this point he raised his hands and indicated that he meant politicians) there was little more the police could do.  My line of thinking was that if these had been “normal” Israelis, things wouldn’t have passed so quietly and if they had been Arab Israelis, I dread to think what might have been the consequences!.

And meanwhile the authorities lock up law-abiding Israelis in Corona hotels irrespective of whether they have observed quarantines, been vaccinated or whatever!

So in order to alleviate my exasperation about events over which I have no control, I took to the streets and the park with the camera to see what I could find.

I started off with the inevitable mobile phone, this time a accompanied by a vaper.  The mask is off because I suppose it’s difficult to vape with one on and it’s not worthing making a hole in the mask to accommodate an addiction or let the vapor out, so as the song says …


However, at least some of the pansies found the whole situation rather amusing.


Meanwhile, parks create their own images.  Open-air kindergartens are now a commonplace scene, in particular in the springlike weather we are enjoying at present …


… and it’s a well known fact that the People of the Book start reading very early and in almost any situation, there’s no time to lose!


Meantime, the park continues to reveal its images in all their glory!


Easier getting up than down, it seems!


Others find other things to do in the park and one young woman just couldn’t wait to get online before starting the morning’s calisthenics



And then there are the egrets. Whereas some of these birds just sit in solitude waiting for something edible to pass by in the river before they choose to dive in …


… some others, more daring members of the tribe, fly down to the river where, on occasion, a kind angler will treat them to a slap-up breakfast!


And then, of course, there’s the Yarqon regatta.


And once more there are the inevitable hydrants.  This girl, near Tel Aviv Port has made sure that it had brought its mobile phone with her and is hooked up to the world — and moreover, she won’t go thirsty.


And once you get as far as the port, you see all sorts of wonderful things — like hungry rubbish bins (garbage cans, refuse containers, trashcans)


… Water speed boards or whatever they’re called


Finally, I came across this guy wearing his own version of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment, which, unlike the more common PPE, requires intense concentration for lengthy periods of time.  However, I seem to have been the only person around who paid him much attention!


However, the picture of the week is not mine at all but one that someone sent me of the two Jerusalem funerals juxtaposed with two images of Hamantaschen, a hamantasch being a three-cornered pastry with a filling such as poppy seeds or prunes or something else dark and mysterious, and which is traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday Purim (by some, that is, but never by yours truly).

Take your pick, as they say!

Oh, and before I forget.  On Tuesday evening (16/02/2021) at 19.00 Israel time (17.00 GMT, 18.00 CET) there’s a concert from the Jerusalem Music Center worth watching and listening to.  Not the usual sort of thing I put up here but from experience, it will be an hour well spent!



P.S.  It looks like spring is on its way (Photo: Shuli Waterman)