Sunday, October 29, 2006

hardcore at the Rosa

I started going there in my second year in university, usually after finishing long Programing assignments. For draught beer, they had the Palestinian Taybeh, and the Israeli Goldstar, both good lagers, but their draught Goldstar was divine, especially rich and tasty. Or maybe it was the pleasure of finally submitting those wretched c++ assignments.

It's there I learnt to appreciate Turmusim; heard Lee Morgan's hypnotising trumpet for the first time; and had a long conversation about Zionism in 1999, of which I remember little, except that I was still calling myself a Zionist, although I wasn't sure what it meant.

Going back was reassuring. I've changed in the last eight years, and so has the Rosa. Both of us have gone somewhat anarcho-punk, at least on a sentimental level. They were playing hardcore last week. The singer screamed and howled like a baby unhappy about its bedtime, and the guitars were soothing, melodic and precise. I looked outside to the empty streets of the Shuk and sighed. I don't find much room for optimism here but the guitarist's lyrical practicality suggested I am not looking hard enough.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

'Strategic threat'

"Lieberman vs. Ahmedinjad: cut it out now!" (from Haaretz)

The recent addition to the Israeli government is Avigdor Lieberman, who has been called 'the Israeli le-Pen'. Like many on the new European extreme-right, Liberman carefully and cleverly presents a complex face, championing 'liberal' issues like civil marriage (which does not exist here), while pursuing a deeply racist, xneophobic agenda. What makes it a bit different, in tone and language, is perhaps the fact that Lieberman, like most of constituency, is a Russian immigrant. His party is called 'Israel our Home' - clearly a point that he still feels needs making.

The newspapers say he is going to be the minister for 'Strategic Threats' which mean mainly Iran and its nuclear program. What this man knows about Iran is a good question, but not one that is asked here. Iran (here in Israel) is the ultimate bogey man, big scary headlines in black and red, with the word missiles, bomb or reactor in them. Ahmedinjad's is rapidly replacing the late Yasir Arafat as the Jewish People's ultimate nemesis, a modern-day Hitler and Pharoe. Yes we Jews need an enemy, preferably with some facial hair, that wants to destroy us all. It makes us sleep better at night.

It is fairly common here to come across ex-generals/politicians/'scholars' going on about 'Islamic tsunami' and other phrases to that effect; I think to myself why on earth should I waste time listening to these people who know nothing about Islam, let alone about Iranian society and culture. But analysis, explanation or even a carefully-presented arguments are deemed unnecessary. 'What more proofs do you need? Just listen to what he says!'

I have a feeling that Israel and the 'Zionist regime' play the same bogey-man role for Ahmedinjad and his mates, who need their own 'axis of evil'. Together the two sides tell their consitutenices horror-stories to give them nightmares.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Id al-fitr in al-Quds

Spent this afternoon walking through the "Muslim Quarter" of the Old City. The strange holiday feeling, people seem outgoing/bored/having too much family to deal with/happy all at the same time. The kids are really into their toy guns: pistols and machine guns. They're 12 year old and less. I guess a 15 year old with a toy gun can create the wrong impression, and this can have severe implications, with border-patroll police all over the city.

I was interested to find out that the road that the Ottomans called 'Gate of the tribes road', and the British 'Our lady Mary road' is now 'Lions road' (hebrew) 'holy fighters (mujahidun) road' (arabic).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Grafitti Update

Following the Lebanon War, everywhere you can find grafitti with the religious/nationalist slogan 'The Jewish nation is living' (this translation doesn't quite catch the fundamentalist spirit of the saying) in blue with the Star of David. These have been subverted sometimes, like here:

The Jewish People is living in a bad movie

Another war-related grafitti I found said:
Lebanon? That's SO eighties
I know some people might think it's bad taste, but I found it funny

Someone is spraying Tel Aviv with this combination of lightbulb + Know Hope

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tel Aviv

A sticker on a van:
Excuse me!
Do you think God is happy about the way you dress?
Hey Jewish girl, dress modestly!

+ + +

Shoe-shop scene:
Man walks into the shop.
Man: 'Wow. I absolutely adore your shoes. I can't stop buying them'.
Owner: of course
Man: [points to the Crocks sandals he's wearing] what do you think of these?
Owner: [looks to the side, her face expressing extreme contempt] PCHEEEE.
Man: I know why you say that, because everybody has them. What they call 'the common Israeli' (grimaces). [Pause] But me, I live abroad! [triumphantly]

1. The dislike of 'the common Israeli' is indeed one of the traits of the common Israeli.
2. Five years of living abroad, and I have lost my grasp on Israeli social etiquette. I can't tell what is rude and what is just the Israeli way of being friendly, 'the pushy manner which is the Israeli idea of warmth'.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Carrying On

A few years back, when I was working in the Israeli Television as a subtitles translator, one of my colleagues was called Zecharia. He was the Yiddish and Russian translator. Most of us were students, in our twenties; he was much older, and would treat work much more seriously, always showing up with a suit and tie. He had a grey moustache, golden teeth and a certain kind of an outdated central European chick.

He would always ask me: how are you?
I would say fine, and what about you Zecharia?
And he would pause for a moment, then look up, raise his head (you could tell that he cherished those moments) and say ceremoniously, emphasising the words:
We are carrying on.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

something is lost

Finally, the past is a different country

Friday, October 06, 2006

echoes of displacement

I have not been here for 18 months; much of this time was spent in reading about Jerusalem of 1917, which became more and more vivid and real as I read memoirs dairies and books. Suddenly I am in Jerusalem 2006; I feel like a refugee going back home and finding that it has all changed, while landmarks are still there, something very basic is missing. I walk the city and I feel as if something is wrong, broken, unresolved; something is left without an answer, a problem with no solution, and that the construction work (much of it here) is covering up for a fundamental gap that has not been bridged. Something seems absent from the fabric of the city, something that would glue together its different elements into one network, the uneven, interruped continuouty of history. Yet all I see is bad patchwork.

Partly, this has to do with arriving during the holidays, when normal life is suspended. And I have not been to the market yet, it always manages to console me. Today I thought of going there. Instead, I found myself sitting in a flat that looked familiar (squat like), making decoration for the tabernacle shed and smoking a spliff with people I didn't really know. I should say that it was the nicest and most relaxing time I had since arrival. The decoration scheme was simple: a three coloured chain of paper rings.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Israel always starts in the queue to the check-in at a London airport. Somehow I always go during the holidays: Passover or - this time - the High Holidays, between Yom Kippur and Tabernacle (Sukkot). The flights are packed with ultra-orthodox families, with lots of kids, even more suitcases. The check-in takes forever.

The guy sitting next to me was an ultra-orthodox property developer from Stamford Hill. I couldn't resist the temptation and told him I squatted in the East End. 'Why?' he said. 'Because the building was empty and unused and I had no money to pay rent'. He gave me thumbs up, but then said seriously: 'yes I had squatters one time... but I threw their stuff to the street'. I was reading 'Berlin Chronicle', and I told him about Walter Benjamin's Kabbala influences. He wasn't impressed.

And now here. Traffic is worst then ever. Weather is beautiful. Personal life in a mess. And the stones... they're covering everything. And I've not even begun to face life or work.