I was going to begin this post with a deep philosophical issue but then I received a copy of the photo above the day before yesterday and thought it might be better to start with something positive before I move on to an issue that has been bugging me on and off these days before I return to the issue of springtime later on in this post.
The big question is this: Why do I appear to be more cynical as I age? In order to try to answer this and enlighten you on what is for me a serious matter, I thought you might like to share in my frustrations of one day last week! However, before I enter that saga, let me say that releasing my frustrations through being sardonic about things has a distinctly cathartic effect, which can be magnified by screaming and/or weeping.
So the story is thus. In early September 2020, before travelling to London, I filed Vivien’s will with the Ministry of Justice in Tel Aviv. It had been written 11 years earlier and was a holographic will (one handwritten without witnesses) and was in English, with wording based on a formulation recommended to us at the time by our lawyer.
The Ministry of Justice granted probate on January 23 2021 and a copy of the will appears on my personal area on the Israel Government website. However, last week, I needed to renew the car’s vehicle licence prior to bringing it for its annual road test. In the course of trying to accomplish this task online, something which is supposed to make life more efficient and less troublesome by absolving one from the requirement of going to to a bank or post office to make payment, I discovered that this proved impossible. My ID number was unacceptable and Vivien’s ID number was no longer recognized (that’s efficiency!). So it turned out that before I could renew the vehicle licence, I needed to transfer ownership of the vehicle and although the Ministry of Transport suggests that this can also be accomplished online, it also proved impossible, for same reason that I seemingly couldn’t renew the vehicle licence. (Although I was listed as the second owner of the car, it had been registered in Vivien’s name so that over the past decad we could pay a reduced rate for the annual vehicle renewal because of her physical disabilities.
This being the case, I called the Ministry of Transport several times at the number that their website had provided and left my details. After two days of trying to reach a human being with brain and voice attached in order to hear what I was supposed to do next, I was called one evening by an employee of the Ministry and informed that someone would call me on February 23 at 11.05 [exactly] to arrange transfer of ownership. “It’s a simple procedure”, the guy said, “it’ll only take a couple of minutes.” When I rang again last week to confirm, I was informed that I might have to wait up to three hours from the appointed time of 11.05. And so it turned out. Eventually, at 12.40 on the appointed day, I heard a woman’s voice on the phone and in the course of conversation after I had explained why I was calling, she asked me if there was a will. I responded that there was and then she said “Oh, I see it on the screen in front of me.” (as I could also for I was looking at my personal area on the http://www.gov.il website in front of me). It all seemed so efficient — until the next utterance from the Ministry of Transport bureaucrat,
She said “But the will is written in English”, to which I responded “Probate was approved by the Ministry of Justice over a month ago and they didn’t see any problem!” Her response? “We (the Ministry of Transport) need the will to be translated into Hebrew because we don’t deal with documents written in a foreign language.” [Hebrew is the only official language of the Jewish and democratic state in which I live]. Then she said: “I’ll do you a favour and grant you temporary ownership for this year so that you can renew the vehicle licence and the car can have its test. After that, you’ll have to go to the Licensing Office in Holon (once it opens again physically!) with the translated will so that you won’t have this problem again next year. I’m sending you the proof of transfer now in the post.” I asked her if she could perhaps send it to my email address as the post in this part of the world is irregular at best but her response was quite definitely negative.
However, by the following day, I managed to renew the vehicle licence (using Vivien’s defunct ID!) although there was nothing doing with on the transfer of ownership, which, apparently, will have to be done physically, whenever and if the licensing authority should reopen its office.
That took the best part of the morning and then the afternoon was taken up mainly (and unsuccessfully) trying to download an app to my iPhone. Apparently, this particular app, the “Green Passport”, is something that I will need to show in order to prove that that I have been vaccinated. It seems as if the certificate from the Ministry of Health that I downloaded a few weeks ago is susceptible to forgery so an app, on which the images move, has been designed instead. I tried repeatedly for over an hour but kept receiving a notice that no such app existed, at which point I surrendered to Google and discovered two things.
The first was that the two numbers which appear on the Ministry of Health website and to which one is directed if having difficulties downloading the app do not lead anywhere, least of all to a human who might (or might not) be able to assist. The second thing I learned is that each country or region in the world has a different App Store and my iPhone used the UK one (as that is where I purchased my first iPhone several years ago) and I had not had a problem until this one arose, because the Ministry of Health had decided to make the app available only on the Israeli App Store but, I read, that if there was sufficient demand, they might consider making it more widely available. I googled again to find out how to migrate my App Store to the Promised Land; I followed the instructions to the letter but up to this point, it all turns out to have been in vain.
Several days later, I discovered that hidden on the Ministry of Health website is a means of down loading what is called the Green Passport, which you then print out, which IO did. So let’s wait and see what happens when I’m asked to produce it!
(Even the birds were screaming!)
However, not everything last week was as black as I have painted it here. On Thursday mornings, for the past few weeks, I spend an hour and a bit on Zoom with my two London grandchildren. Normally, it’s English comprehension, grammar, punctuation and the like but last week I was asked if I would spend some time talking to Tal (who will be 11 next month) about “something political”.
That something was a piece of work in which he was required to present the arguments for and against lowering the voting age to 16. I was impressed by what he had prepared and by what he knew about voting and suffrage. Towards the end of our half hour together, I decided to present a slightly different argument from what we’d been talking about just to see his reaction. So I mentioned to Tal that if he was considering lowering the voting age to 16, perhaps he might also consider taking away voting rights from people who reach perhaps 80 or maybe 85. “Why?”, he asked. “Because most of them don’t work but take money from the state in the form of pensions, &c.”, said I. “But they’ve got experience; they understand things “, he said, “something that lots of 16-year olds don’t have”.
“OK”, I said, “but lots of them are in care homes”. His response to this comment was that people in care homes sit on armchairs around the TV sets and listen to the news and read newspapers, so can they follow events. Sensible argument. When I mentioned this exchange to my almost 86-year old cousin later that day, I was told that I should have mentioned to Tal that 15 minutes after hearing or reading the news, many of these these older folks will probably have forgotten that they did so anyway.
At any rate, when I compared what Tal understood with what I remembered on a similar topic 65 years ago, all I knew about politics was the headmaster at the primary school I attended, Zion School, on Bloomfield Avenue in Dublin, Joseph Barron, was a city councillor and a member of a political party called Clann na Poblachta, a Republican Party led my Seán MacBride, the son of Maud Gonne, a woman with whom the poet W.B. Yeats was infatuated . Mind you, when I was 10 or 11, I didn’t know any of this. Joe Barron stood unsuccessfully for election to the Dáil in 1948 for the Dublin South-Central constituency and unsuccessfully again in 1951, 1954 and 1957. But he was persistent, if nothing else. He was finally elected a member of parliament in 1961 and as the only member of his party and (Seán MacBride had lost his seat at that election), Joe became the party’s leader. However, t his political career ended in 1965 when he lost again and three years later, he died. End of story.
I’m writing this on Sunday morning as Israel emerges from [yet another] mini-lockdown, which marked the festival of Purim, which fell this year on Friday. As a consequence, the government instituted a night curfew (from 20.30 until 05.00 the following morning) in order to prevent undue, unseemly and unwanted gatherings over the holiday (which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman the Agagite, an official in the Persian Empire, who was planning to kill all the Jews, as recounted in the Book of Esther until his plans were foiled by Mordechai (Morduk?) and his cousin Esther (Astarte?), who had been inveigled into becoming Queen of Persia. This day of deliverance (whether it’s true or not is hardly relevant) became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
In normal years, Jews celebrate Purim by exchanging gifts of food and drink, donating charity to the poor, eating a celebratory meal, reading of the “Scroll of Esther” publicly (usually in synagogues). It is also generally a fun day, marked by dressing up and having a little too much to drink. This year was somewhat different (and it’s the second year things have been like this at Purim. However, it didn’t turn out quite as the health authorities and the government planned, with the two great offenders being Chassidic sects, many of which insisted on carrying out their expansive public gathering indoors and at high density as is their wont and, not to be outdone, a vast number of teenagers and twenty-somethings congregating over the Purim holiday and generally having fun on the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere in even greater numbers than usual. Jerusalem (as a walled city— or at least parts of it are) doesn’t celebrate Purim on the same day as the rest of the country but [usually] on the day following except that the day following Purim this year was a Shabbat and Shushan Purim, as it is known, was celebrated on Sunday, instead—all of which meant that police were kept busy trying to shut Jerusalem off from the rest of the country for all of Sunday for reasons that should be quite obvious to everyone by now.
So I return to my initial question—why am I becoming more cynical in my old age?
I’d better put up some photos before I go completely bats (I suppose I’m not supposed to write “bats” in these Corona times so “bonkers” will have to do.). (The images bear little in common with the text that has preceded them!)
It’s time to bet back to walking around the city — but meanwhile, the park birds provide photo opportunities galore.
Purim means parties and parties mean people and people mean discarded matter — lots of it …
… but the other side of Purim is fancy dress and Tel Aviv Port did its damnedest to get in on the act.
And as I stated at the outset, there’s spring in the air, to be experienced all over the park. What a difference a week makes!
And spring time means more exercisers than have been seen in the past four months — and people take exercise in many different ways.
Finally, the image below is a photo that I took at the the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv four years ago. I’d forgotten all about it until it turned up one day last week as a “memory” on Facebook. I quite liked it after I took it and four years on, it looks even better.
And that’s it for now. Many people in Israel are expecting the next lockdown to coincide with the Passover holiday in four weeks’ time. Before that, we are due our fourth General Election in less than two years and I’m wondering whether the only people who will be permitted to vote will be those who can produce a Green Passport. I wouldn’t rule it out. The government is meeting today to discuss whether or not to permit the return to Israel of an estimated 25,000 Israeli citizens currently abroad and who have expressed a desire to exercise their democratic right to vote! It really is time to enter the 21st century and to institute into the Israeli political system an absentee or postal ballot! Just a thought.
Have a great day and an even greater week!