Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Charles Clore Park Embankment Haiku #4

I've been writing less recently. nothing the matter, I've simply been writing more recently - working on a literary project, that is. So far, this one works like it should: it drains me to the bone. I empty myself on the page (okay, file) each day, and so there's relatively little left to bring here.

However, since I love my blog readers and they are always on my mind, here's the full set of Charles Clore Park embnakment haikus, including the latest addition: springtime.

Looking over dark,
Warm waves at two in the morn -
One sad pious Jew.

Migrating sparrows,
a sliver moon and a kite
look down at the sun.

Wearing long, dark coats
A disharmonic choir of
Drunk Palestinians.

Walking back at morn
From my lover's downtown flat
To Jaffa's poppies.

I'll soon return to full form with more astounding tales, irreversible exposures of my political nature, musings on disposable pieces of 18th century recorder music and the occasional photographed mountain. See ya'll!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Letter from Lotta

If you don't believe me that Åland exists, I've got proof.

and If you don't believe that it's one hell of a beautiful place, I've got proof.

These pictures were taken over a year ago, while I researched for an article about islands in the Baltic. Then last night I got the loveliest reminder of their existance and of the existance of the island's themselves, for that matter.

It was an email from Lotta, an Ålander I met very briefly on the street in Hebron about as long ago. Lotta left all the calm of the islands to come protect Palestinian schoolgirls who are being beat up regularly by the settlers on their way to school, under the soldiers' indifferent (or at least uninterfering) eyes. She was also involved in other humanitarian and educational work in that cursed city. She could hardly believe I've just come back from her tiny cluster of islands and raved about its smoked salmon. Our unlikely conversation was made difficult by settlers who were using a megaphone to intimidate her, calling her and her friends Nazis and antisemites.

Antisemite? Don't get me started. Over a year following our meeting, Lotta ran into my email address and sent me a warm word from the chilly baltic, signing it with a wish for peace "be'esrat hashem". It's not so difficult to simply exchange kindness, care and goodness across continents and lives. It's just a matter of choice, or of course we may choose otherwise.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Full Bloom

According to common wisdom, the Israeli year is made up of two seasons only: summer and non-summer (another version states a different pair: summer and a disagreable, hot summer). It makes no sense to argue about the weather, but what's happening right now can only be described as springtime, printemps, primavera, rabi'a, aviv.

It's in the blossoms: Tel-Aviv's mundane, residential Bloch street is full of hazy purple ones, a dream! it's in the dresses that make me want to compliment every woman I see (accidently bumping into a complete stranger today, I found myself saying: "pardon me, beautiful"). It's in the enormous inflated duck that appeared overnight atop our city hall, the first step in late cartoon legend Dudu Geva's plan for duckyfication of Tel-Aviv.

It's in the rebellious spirit: tomorrow a grand poetry event is planned outside a closed textile factory in the south, to protest the erosion of workers' rights in Israel. Friday the brave at heart will come to show solidarity with the Hebronites (contact me for details). Springtime has always been good for revolutions, duck-like or duck-irrelevant. Let's blossom with it.

Friday, April 18, 2008


In the Passover Haggadah it is written: "In each generation people must regard themselves as though they escaped from Egypt personally." I hold this to be very signifeicant. The story of the exodus is not idle, the lessons must be relearned. The symbols are ever-significant. Passover is the Jewish celebration of liberty, as long as there's someone waiting to be liberated, it is a political holiday.

Currently the entire population of the Gaza strip is still under siege with no chance of anyone parting the waters and allowing them out. This unique blog is written by two friends, one a Gaza Palestinian (identifying himself as "Peace Man") one an Israeli from the often bombarded town of Sderot (Hope Man). Over this holiday, Sderot is expecting a shower of rockets from the Gaza strip. Hope Man did what any sensible person would do, while not literally abandoning vessel, he took his family on a two-week-long trip abroad. While he's away, Gaza is being bombarded every night (I saw jet planes with their lights turned off, returning from mission last night). However, only people in dire medical conditions are allowed out of the strip. Peace Man can't even give his family a short break across the border in Egypt.

And how ironic that Egypt would play the part of a promised land.

Others are deprived of their liberty too on this holiday eve. Forty years ago a group of radical right-wing Israelis conducted a passover seder at a hotel in the newly conquered city of Hebron. They then refused to leave the hotel, an act that led little by little to the creation of the current Jewish community of Hebron. Now make no mistake, I respect the ancient Jewish community of Hebron, I know about the massacre of 1929. I'm certainly in favor of Jewish people living in Hebron. Nevertheless, the dynamics of the occupation turned the old city of Hebron into a bubble of sadism where only intense zealots choose to live. There they are allowed to wreak havoc on their Palestinian neighbors, throw feces into their yards, ravage their homes (holidays such as passover are prime time for joyous mass acts of mass violence in Hebron), beat their children up regularly, all while being supported and protected by Israeli soldiers.

The liberty of Jews in Hebron's H2 sector is absolute. They live in a state of anarchy, in which any crime is pardonable as long as it is commited against Palestinians. The liberty of the Palestinians is zero. They are not allowed to drive through the heart of town. Throgh many streets they are not even allowed to walk. Several Palestinian families live along streets where they are forbidden to tread. They must leave their homes through the rooftops. No one protects their rights, their safety or their dignity.

This has been going on for forty years, the same amount of time the Biblical Israelites wandered the desert. It's time we put an end to this continuous tenth plague and break out of our slavery to bad politics. Happy holiday to everybody.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Interstellar Overdrive

For no real concrete reason, today's post belongs to Syd Barrett

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Macedonia is nice and diverse. It's got Gypsies,


Orthodox monks

and tourists

Being at the heart of the Blakans, it's a mishmash of languages. Besides Macedonian one may hear Vlach, Albanian, Turkish and Romani. Not too long ago, Ladino and Hebrew were spoken here too. But the entire community of 7000 was carted off in 1943 by the Germans to Treblinka in northern Poland and massacered. The only Hebrew left is to be found on broken tombstones in the ancient city of Bitola.

The one thing that unites all of these groups can only be defined as Balkanness. It's in the mildness of manner, in the jug of kefir served with dinner. It's in the painful memory of wars, the ruggedness and simplicity of day to day life, the apple tree in the yard and the beat up post-communist state of most things. Today's little gallery is dedicated to this unique quality. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


A few days ago downtown lover wondered aloud whether peacocks could be found in the wild. I answered positively but in truth wasn't quite sure.

Here in Macedonia, they can be found on the money

and on trees

and just plain out and about.

If you play them right, they will spread for you

If you're really gentle they let you come very close.

But in reality this is a very unpeacocky country. Modest, warm and mind nubmingly beautfiul, it wins the heart effortlessly. I'll do it a favor and spread a little fan for it right here. All these photos were taken over the course of two days with foul photo-weather.


Monday, April 7, 2008


Tonight I'm flying to Macedonia for work. I've actually been to that country before, but I have no recollection of it. I was 19 years old, hitch-hiking from Paris to Athens, and did my best to rush through war-torn former Yugoslavia. This wasn't too easy in Serbia, which was under an international trade embargo and short on gasolene. The highway south was literally empty, so when I finally caught a ride that went directly from southern Serbia to Thessalonika, I didn't argue.

We passed through Macedonia in two hours or so, without breaking. I slept through much of that. I only recall a ridge of mountains in the moonlight, some bushes near the road that reminded me of the hills around Jerusalem, oh, and the money. I had to buy a certain sum of Macedonian currency in order to be allowed past the border checkpoint by a a local mustache.

The following day I showed those bills to a Greek youth on Thessalonika's waterfront. "I'm gonna kill them!" he exclaimed. the year was 1995 and Greece was still furious with Macedonia for taking the name of Alexander's historic homeland as its formal name. I heard that the biggest demonstration in history was held in Thessalinoka over that question.

The Greek kid's remark was harmless. He wasn't actually going to kill anyone, but I found myself instantly siding with the Macedonians. For some reason, I loved their country, a country that was nothing but a siluhuette and a short snore in the back seat. Macedonia was the epitomy of minimalism in travel. it was a round spot on the map where anything could be and nothing has yet been. Maybe I traveled through my natural place in the universe without having noticed. I could always hold on to such comforting a thought, as long as I never got to see that place in daylight.

Tomorrow I'll see it in daylight. I picture a Balkan country with all that's entailed: airport, commyblocks, newspapers in Cyrilic type and German confiture brands at the store, Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques and gas stations, gushing springtime rivers and hotel bars. Never mind that, it'll always remain in some way the dark place I went thorugh on that night, that place that is empty, that place where there's room for me.

Friday, April 4, 2008

My Horrible Job

My horrible job demanded that I compare different international makes of beer for an article.

Thankfully, I had help,

and time for a smoke break.

Intense beer tasting creates appetite. In fact, alcohol makes us oblivious to how unhungry we are after consuming tons of carbs. Beer munchies are a prime cause of beer bellies, but how can we fight them when Zika's wonderful Kebab house is down the street?

Stuffed and content we head home through sleepy, dirty jaffa, for one last sip of the winner: the rare and delightful Leff Triple.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

City Poetics

On Yeffet Street, an ambulance is caught in a traffic jam. It is on its way to a car crash site, the same crash that caused the traffic jam.

Up the street, a kiosk offers cheap Mexican Tecate beer. I never saw it on sale in Israel before.

Haifa as Life

Coming in on the Athens-Rhodes-Limassol-Haifa ferry, it always looked like a promise. The promised land happens to grow vertically out of the sea and sport two chubby skyscrapers.

I once stood on the deck by a middle-aged Englishman who one day got up and left his home in london, walked on foot to Portsmouth, sailed to La Havre, then walked on foot all the way to Rome. There he could no longer stand the leg pains, took a train to Brindisi, a boat to Patras, another train to Athens and hopped on our boat. Jerusalem was his destination, and Haifa was on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

"It looks so clean," he said.

"It isn't," I warned him.

Arriving to Haifa by sea is like waking up. Anything can happen on this day and everything will: all the magic - Persian gardens with fresh water flawing twixt marble staircases and impeccable lawns, and all the shit - forests of distillary smokestacks appearing between a Georgian sandwich joint and a moldy shop for knitting goods on Hahalutz street.

Last night I attended a concert of Haifa's symphony orchestra. I took Israel's only subway line (really a subterranean funicular) to the top of Mt. Carmel. There's something about emerging from a subway station that defines the urban experience. Haifa lets you out nicely: city lights glow, hotel revolving doors revolve, the park looks serene in the dark. It's a city, it's beautiful, and while the orchestra isn't exactly top notch, I had the pleasure of venturing backstage during the intermission to interview the conductor. the musicians were standing there in tuxes and dark gowns, smoking and chatting before a window open to the gentle night.

Then today I get a phone call from Alon the photographer. He's in Haifa and by his depressed tone I knew exactly at what end of its spectrum. "Where are you?"

"On the street in Haddar. there's this junky lady here, sitting on the sidewalk playing the flute. She's just playing the same note incessently."

"Dude, I know how that feels."

There's one territory, though, where Haifa's grit and grace meet and mix beautifully, and that is its port taverns. I have a rule of frequernting the Habanera bar on Ha'azmaut Blvd. whenever I hit town and having a pint with its silent, pipe smoking propriator Cha'im, who has a confederate flag hanging behind the bar (he used to sail to New Orleans). The place is located in a dump of a neighborhood as part of a defunct gas station, it's named after an Antwerp bordello, it's full of aging ship mechanics, ex-prostiututes and scary, tattooed seafaring hulks. It's heaven if you ask me, which means that Haifa, in a way, is too and that heaven is more diverse than previously assumed.