Thursday, March 31, 2005

In the minibus from Tel-Aviv central bus station, the woman sitting next to me is talking French. Four others are talking Spanish, some of them not really but trying. They're talking about languages: who can speak what. The woman in the front claims she can speak Yiddish, Spanish, Arabic, even a little Turkish ("been 4 times to Istanbul"). The elderly couple at the centre of the conversation (they need some help finding a place) are from Argentina, but their families came there from Syria, 50 or a hundred years ago. They have four kids. "in Israel?" no, in Argentina. "So they should come here" says the multi-lingual woman "this is our land. Our roots are here". "But the economy is bad now" tries the Argentinian woman, "no money, no lavoro, I see no people in the shops". The multilingual denies, vehemently: "there's work for everyone. The situation is good". The woman sitting opposite, the one who talks Spaniol (old Jewish-Spanish) disagrees "she's right, there's no jobs, the recession is still here", she says to me quietly. I jump out: we've reached the corner of Allenby road.

The tel-aviv infoshop, Salon Mazal, is located off King George street, in Simta Almonit, which means Anonymous street. Quite appropriate. It's got a library, books for sale, and a little bar. It's my first time here. With the Ecover bottles, the patches for sale, and the punk cds, it looks reassuringly familiar. I think I preffer the Jerusalem one though, the one that just opened: it's called Dayla - which means "Stop the..." But I don't have much time to really go over the books at Salon Mazal. My friend is coming to pick me up.

Yuvla is taking me to a place called 24 Rupies. It offers "the first Israeli Tali", a plate of rice, rotti, Dahl and two curries, and curd. The Tali's pretty crap. But the Chai is good, and place is very cozy - a big space, all cushions and pillows, low sitting tables, and I like it even though everyone knows I'm a high sitting table person. We talk about what I've been through in the last year in London: getting evicted , getting payed to vacate, shitting in a bucket, falling into depression, going to Acupancture, life modelling. Yuvla's impressed most by the life modelling stories: so they actually see the whole hairy thing? he still can't believe it. "I bet you were the nurdiest kid in highschool. How did you get from there to here?" He tells me of his internet dating. But he's tired of it. And any way, "my mother gave me six months to get married. I'm 31 for god damnit"

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Two flats below Arbel's is the "Israeli Free Loans Association", that is, interest-free. It's a charitable organization. As a result, there's always a bunch of anxious people in the front yard, usually smoking and looking stressed.
Yesterday, as I was going out of the building, one guy came running in and shouted at me:
have they closed already?
I have no idea, I said.
What do you mean you have no idea, he protested, overtaking me and running upstairs. I could see a gun shoved in his back pocket (that's not so uncommon here).
I just live here.
Ah, I could hear him say before he disappeared.

* * *

a bike, a bike, my kingdom for a bike: and now i have one. Yuval's bike, the one I used last time I was here. Yuval said he used it five times in the last year. It's definitely too small, and could do with a bit of maintanence, but it's got two wheels, breaks and gears and that's what's important. Jerusalem is hilly - very hilly - but that's just fun; the real problem is the congested roads and drivers' attitudes. They usually ignore bikes, pretend we're not there. I find myself riding on the sidewalk very often. I should be careful about the side of the road I'm riding, sometimes I get confused after living in the UK for so long. Yesterday, when I started on the left side, a taxi driver alerted me by pulling down his windown and going: Pssst Pssst Pssst.
In Israeli terms, this is polite and affectionate. I was grateful.

I'm going to Tel-Aviv soon. To see my friend Yuvla whom I haven't seen for a year and I miss him dearly.

* * *

Monday, March 28, 2005

my balcony

I'm sitting in my new room - Arbel's balcony. Just realised that one of the neighbours has a wireless network, it popped up on my computer. Of course I became very enthusiastic.. the chances of free internet. but the signal is too low. hmfff. Go to work lazy squatter, get a job, stop living on other people's backs...

my squatting habits made it possible for me to turn this small closed balcony into something homely in about two hours. A bit of cleaning, clearing, and then putting a rag, improvising something to hang clothes from, and putting my books on a shelf. Now this space is mine. Arbel was impressed. But am I comfortable here? I'm not sure. The balcony has huge windwos on two sides, and It's not very weatherproof, and in this time of year it can get too cold at night, and too hot during the day.

I have two other options in Jerusalem. One is my cousin's - she's hardly at home, the second is my grandmother's house, which is empty since she died last year. I prefer living with Arbel; I stayed with her last year and it was good for us both. It would have been much more difficult for me to be on my own. I felt like it's an emotional rollercoaster being here. I can be so happy here sometimes – this is, after all, home; but it can also be devastating. I remember one night from last year especially. I went to visit my aunt, and she showed me pictures of my grandmother’s family in Poland, before the war. I’d never seen these pictures. There was nothing dramatic about the pictures, just families, posing, some holiday pictures. My aunt knew only some of them by name; most of them didn't make it out of Poland in time. My grandmother never really talked about it. I came back home feeling undone. I didn’t know to how to explain it.

oh for fuck sake. There’s absolutely no escape here. I can hear the loudspeakers from settlers' demonstration from the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), about a mile from here. The speeches are about the prime minister's betrayal. "We will not give up our homes. You think you can kick us out..." They want a referendum on the Gaza pull-out, there's a vote tonight on a special referendum law. How about including the people of Gaza in the referendum, more than one million people? and how about all the people who had to leave their homes in the last four years without compensaion, without 6 months notice?
tonight the settlers will lose. The referendum will not pass, and the budget will go through (nothing to be especially happy about, it's the most right-wing budget Israel ever had). So the goverment stays in power and in June or July Gaza will be free of settlers. And then what..

Sunday, March 27, 2005

living without my chamber pot is not easy. Especially when you have to go in the middle of the night. Why did people stop using them? probably the thought of spilling.

* * *
it's so green here at the moment... coming from London, where the trees are still bare, it's quite a shock. the spring is well under way here, and everything's blossoming. Yesterday morning I went to Beyt-Zayit, with a couple of friends and their dogs, to walk the hills around. So many flowers... (rakafot, irusim, kalaniot.. dunno the English names). I collected some wild oregano and thyme, and pinecones. I love the word for pinecone in Hebrew: ITSRUBAL. and I love pine-cones. There's something so beautiful about their shape, the way the open up from the neat closed cone and become so peculiar,bloated and fragmented. There's quite a lot of pine trees around Jerusalem: they were planted in massive forestation projects, decades ago. Shrouded with Zionist pathos and ideology about revitalizing the land; I guess they mainly wanted it to look like Europe, as quickly as possible. It's now common knowledge that big pine forests are not good for the local flora, the smaller holy and oak trees. But at least they give pine nuts.. and pinecones.

* * *

walking through the streets of town centre last night, I was disappointed to see that my bunny costume was not so original. In fact, there were so many of them: bunnies, kitties etc. Admittedly, most were girls. The centre was as disgusting as it can get on holiday weekends.
I was coming back home from a gig, a band called Algiers. They played rock, tinged with a faint Arab feel, and with a Jewish religious turn. God came up quite frequently in the lyrics. They played well but i'm not so keen on rock anyway, and I felt slightly uncomfortable there on my own. The crowd was mostly religious kids; not ultra-orthodox, but the religious-nationist brand, the social base behind the settlement movement. Not my social scene. I tried not to assume anything about them, and not to be judgmential. They were crazy about the music, smoking joints, dancing and singing: like any kids, any gig. But politics comes to mind here often, too often. I couldn't help it. So what do they think about the coming pull-out from Gaza, I found myself thinking. And would it be wrong to guess that most of these kids are against it, and totally supportive of the settlements there? the thought was unpleasant.
The pull-out from Gaza, Sharon's so called 'disengagement' initiative, is the main issue on public agenda here. Especially that this week is crucial for the government survival (the budget vote). Jerusalem being a right-wing religious city, you can read everywhere slogans condeming Sharon and swearing their allegiance to the settlers of Gaza. They are becoming more and more desperate: metaphors of pogrom and holocaust abound. The tone of text is high-pitched, crazed. When it's not surreal, it's scary.

I should really start my day. I'm not sure why i'm here. It feels as home feels, and it's very natural, like a direct continuation of my visit last year. But why am here? ostensibly, to do my research. But I've come unprepared. And I'm not sure how much I'm up for it. That focussed determination on bibliographic lists is totally lacking in my spirit. Why did I come then? this is not a holiday, either. It doesn't feel like a holiday. Confused, confusing, confusing... I have a few weeks to get it together, whatever it is. A good start would be to move out of my parents house.

alovera plants everywhere; some with crazy red phallic flowers.


Been walking everywhere since I arrived. The centre of West Jerusalem is quite manageable by foot, even though it's hilly. It's fun to walk, I never walk in London. But it is tiring as well as my leg muscles are not used to it. I have to get a bike soon.

i'm moving to my friend's balcony tomorrow. It's overlooking the Israel Museum (a building I quite like).


In the year since I've last been here, they changed the system of numbering for mobile phones. Which basically means that all the numbers I have in my Israeli sim card are useless. This is a good enough excuse why I hardly called anybody so far - not many of my old friends know I'm in the country. It kind of suits me at the moment.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

being back

eleven at night. i'm dead tired. i planned to go to a Purim party (it's the dress-up festival right now), even brought my bunny ears especially, and my fuck-me t-shirt, but i think i'm not up for it. didn't get much sleep on the flight.

It didn't take me more than a few hours and I found myself walking to the Shuk, the West Jerusalem Fruit and Veg market. it was very busy, as usual on Fridays. Some observations:

1. The suicide-bombing anxiety is pretty much over. It felt so much relieved and relaxed comparing to last year. You can read it on people's faces.

2. They started selling Knafeh (an Arab sweet cheese pastry, orange colour) everywhere in the market.

3. David from the Fish stall looks older.

4. More eating joints - selling comfort food, cooked on old oil stoves. A couple of trendy places as well. Is the Shuk getting gentrified? nooooo, no chance. not yet.
5. at the Russian deli, the one with the big in-your-face "NOT KOSHER" sign (quite unusal for this market) I found they sell Zubrovska, Polish Bison vodka -1.75l for less than 8 quid, not bad.

walking from the market towards my old flat, i passed an old guy. He always sits there. Beautiful flowers he said, referring to the fresias I was holding. And they smell good as well I said. Come give us a whiff, he said. I did and he wished me happy festival.
Four years ago, I remember passing him with a half-watermelon in my hand. He giggled and pointed at the watermelon: 'we Sepharadie (middle eastern) Jews never buy a half. We always buy a whole one!' i remember feeling irate. Yes everyone knows being ashkenazie (European) is lame and uncool but why rub it in.

there's already tension between my father and me. not very surprising. He came to pick me up at the airport, although i asked him not to. We didn't embrace, or touch, nothing. as usual. I was cold. Hardly said thankyou. Is this unfair? I know it is. But so easily I find myself losing my patience: his lecturing, his meddling with my business.


fuck it. i'm going to that party. Good night