It’s Sunday, June 13 2021. 16.00 hrs IST and I have a dilemma. At 4 p.m. Israel time, should I turn the TV on and watch Channel 11 or Channel 61? There are two programmes that I feel I should see and they are being broadcast simultaneously, so I decide that I will record what’s on on Channel 61 and if needs be, watch it in full later in the evening. So I switched to Channel 11 and after 10 minutes decided that I would ping-pong between the two channels and still watch Channel 61 later on if I felt like it.
And what were these important events that were bringing about my dilemma? Well, on Channel 11, there was a live broadcast from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, at which the members would either vote confidence in the loosely crocheted “national unity coalition” of eight parties, headed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid or not, as the case may be, and also elect a new Speaker. At the same time, Channel 61 was showing a live broadcast of the Men’s Singles Final of the French Open Tennis Championship from Roland Garros between the 34-year-old Serb, Novak Djokovic and the 22-year-old Greek who revels under the wonderful name of Stefanos Tsitsipas.
My heart said Channel 61 whereas my head said that as a not uninterested citizen, I should watch the entertainment about to be provided on Channel 11. Channel 11 had the usual blah-blah-blah before the show got under way. Various commentators and reporters, all but a couple of whom seemed to be aged about 25-30 speculating about what we could expect over the next few hours — so I switched back to see how Novak and Stef were getting on and it seemed initially as if the former was being tormented by the latter. But after some of that, I headed back to Channel 11 and the plenum was filling up with our elected members.
Then proceedings eventually got under way. The Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett had been allocated 30 minutes to outline the incoming government’s plans. He had hardly opened his mouth to address the notables at the gathering (which included the State President, Reuven Rivlin, himself a former Speaker of the august body and the President of Supreme Court, Esther Hayuth) that all hell broke loose from the soon-to-be Opposition members of the Knesset. The Speaker, Yariv Levin, a current stalwart and intimate confidant (these have never lasted too long in the past) of Prime Minister Netanyahu (in fact, the man put in that position to do his master’s bidding and who had managed to postpone this day of reckoning for a week in the forlorn hope that Netanyahu’s Likud could manage to entice any number of “misguided” right-wing members to return to Netanyahu’s fold, thereby preventing the new coalition attaining a majority) attempted to keep order but his erstwhile colleagues from his own party and those to the right of it were having none of that.
What ensued was something that I’d never seen in years of observing politicians behaving and misbehaving. One correspondent, following the event from the comfort of her Florida home, wrote to me this morning to say “What a disgrace. I have never witnessed anything like the behavior of the Savages in the Knesset today.” As soon as I read it, I wrote back to her saying: “You’re too kind to them. I would have described them as wild animals, and far too wild to have been in the zoo in which they were seated yesterday. But there you are—Likudniks—salt of the earth.” These representatives of the “common people”—amkha, in Hebrew—continued their performance throughout Mr. Bennett’s 30 minutes and beyond with the females of the species seemingly making the most noise but maybe that’s because higher frequencies are more piercing. And it wasn’t just members of Likud and members of the fascist parties who were participating in this debacle but I also observed among the roaring animals several who were wearing large black yarmulkes and had long white beards, too! Men of God! OMG! What has the world come to? Time to Reform!
Heckling is one thing but the ill-mannered and discourteous behaviour and the noise generated by these salts of the earth made the cheering and roaring of the several thousand people on the Philip Chatrier court at Roland Garros seem like a whisper in comparison. It was literally incredible, demeaning, an acute shame and embarrassment to the State of Israel. How do you explain that kind of behaviour to children who might have been watching in order to learn our our civilized lawmakers behave in parliament. Mr. Levin was even forced to expel several members of the Knesset from the plenum after each had been given three warnings to shut up, and coming from him, it only illustrated how much hot air and interference has been generated. Moreover, the attempts of several of the expellees to re-enter the chamber were met with a chilling warning from the Speaker that it was forbidden.
Eventually, Mr. Bennett, a politician who I don’t particularly admire and his politics even less, somehow reached the conclusion of his prepared speech. He was followed by the “Alternate Prime Minister”, Mr. Lapid, the architect responsible for the construction of this seemingly fragile coalition, who rather than give his prepared piece on the need for national unity, which was to have lasted 15 minutes, simply said the following: “My mother is 86 years old and we don’t ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly, but we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment, and she would see a smooth transition of government, … When she was born, there was no State of Israel, Tel Aviv was a small town of 30,000 people, and we didn’t have a parliament. I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead, she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it is time to replace you,” and with that he left the podium.
He was followed in turn by the outgoing Prime Minister who spent 30 minutes or so lauding himself after which had the downright arrogance to say that there was nobody else in the country with sufficient experience to lead it (as if he had nothing to do with that situation). Looking at and listening to the Likud rump, it was easy to see that anyone in the party with sufficient intelligence to have been groomed to have had that experience had either left or had been forced out of the party. And it was also easy to understand how the thuggery that had erupted in some of Israel’s cities a few weeks ago was able to happen. Oh, and Mr. Netanyahu failed to mention a simple fact while decrying the emergence of what he continues to call “a dangerous left-wing government” even though about a third of the coalition’s members are further to the right than him, namely, that, yes, the voters in March 2021 indicated that they preferred a right-wing government — but one not led by him — and this is what they got, thanks to him and no-one else.
In the end, a vote was taken and the coalition given a vote of confidence by the narrowest of margins — 60-59 and one abstention. This was followed by a vote for a new Speaker who then took over proceedings. After another few minutes, the ministers were asked to leave their seats at the Cabinet table for seats on the back benches. One of the things that amused me was seeing Mr. Levin, the now ex-Speaker, explaining to Mr. Netanyahu, the now ex-Prime Minister, that, as he was no longer Prime Minister, he, too, would have to vacate the chair he had occupied for the previous 12 years and sit elsewhere while he, Mr. Levin, shepherded him directly to that place. Poor Bibi’s body language indicated that he seems to have been totally gutted by this strange situation in which he found himself.
TAnd then it was back to the court to see the end. For me, this meant the tennis on Channel 61 but in Bibi’s case, it might well be a different kind of court!
And now for some photographs.
Among the many nuisances these days are electric scooters and rental bikes. And why are they nuisances, in particular, to pedestrians like myself? For a start the authorities are busily constructing bicycle lanes everywhere. More often than not, these lanes run parallel and in the same direction as the automobile lanes but sometimes, as I found out this morning, they run up one-way streets in the opposing direction, which, to say the least can be confusing and dangerous. Even more dangerous is that the majority of cyclists and scooter maniacs seem to be unaware of these lanes, and especially of the directional arrows painted on them. In addition, both the rental bicycle and scooter companies seem to offer a pick-them-up-anywhere and drop-them-off-anywhere policy, which seems to be interpreted very literally by the users …
… especially when it always seems that there’s someone else to return them for you.
Parking has always been a problem in Tel Aviv but some people seem as if they have found a solution.
And as summer settles in for the next four months or so and we wallow in 35 degree temperatures and 90% humidity, one begins to see more and more bodies in the park at 7 in the morning (which is actually about an hour too late to be going out).
The Yarqon Park, where I go most mornings is currently undergoing renovations along the river banks,
One of the consequences of all this is that the environment of the park’s mouse population has changed and they’ve emerged from wherever they’d been hiding underground and are showing themselves to the wide, wide world.
However, that doesn’t seem to bother the most active exercisers in the early morning park.
It seems was if new neighbours have moved in down the street and it also seems that when new neighbours move in, they need to make their presence felt by installing new numbers, too, lest someone make a mistake about the address.
Every now and then, your eye comes across something that appeals not because of what it is but because of what you think you can make of it later, so this …
… becomes this.
And occasionally, I have the privilege of hearing a rehearsal for a concert to be played some time in the future, like last week when the Carmel Quartet worked with the renowned oud player, Tayseer Elias, on a composition by the Israeli composer, Oded Zehavi for a concert in Jerusalem later this week as part of the Festival of Israeli Music. Makes a nice change when it happens.