Monday, June 30, 2008

It's 3:30 AM, Do You Know Where Your Z Tile Is?

Scrabble was one of the most lovely elements in my past marriage. Lin and I were both scrabble fiends, the proud owners of one huge delux set (Naor's gift for our wedding) as well as a groovy little travel one featuring its own elegant case. My top score in a two-people game was 450, I don't remember hers but it may be higher still.

I didn't bring scrabble into my current relationship until yesterday. Downtown lover studied at an American university, she translates from English and in short - is quite fluent in the language. Nevertheless, whenever I brought up scrabble as a possible way to pass an hour she refused, claiming she was afraid of losing miserably to me.

Yesterday I called her in the afternoon. "what's up?" I asked, "Where are you at?"

"At the emergency room".

"What? What happened?"

"I hurt my eye. I leaned over to pick up an extention cord at the hardware store and got it pricked by one of the hangers. Now I'm waiting for the doctor to take a look. I may be stuck here a long time."

I told her I'll be rushing over, slipped on my sandals, searched for my keys, then a thought flashed through my head: Did she just say she may be stuck there a long time?

"I've got you," I said out loud to the walls of my bedroom, "Now I've got you". The little groovy travel scrabble was placed in my bag and I headed out to Ichilov hospital.

We bever ended up playing there. She was discharged quite quickly. The hanger hook did wound her eyeball, but not the cornea, so the healing should be quick and the eyelid serves as a natural patch. DL even managed to watch the cup finals (albeit with one eye shut) and then headed out happy as though never hurt to celebrate the Spanish triumph with a glass of cava. That glass led to a beer at the Riff-Raff bar on Gruzenberg street, which is where I decided to pull out pandora's little travel case.

The game began indoors with three players: DL, Flashky and myself, and two spectators: filmmaker Ari Liebsker and his date. It ended on the sidewalk way after the Riff-Raff had closed down, with only the bats in the trees to watch us. We were just having too much fun for anyone to quit, though the board was quite knotty (is that a legitimate word?) the sidewalk filthy and the dawn at hand.

DL scored 89 points by placing the word "whistler", featuring all her tiles, on a triple word square and assuring us that she isn't referring to the proper name of the renowned painter but rather to someone who habitually engages in the act of whistling. I finished at less than 200 with Flashky trotting not far behind me. The one eyed lady was declared victor. she also got to keep her beer glass, compliments of the bartender too tired to bring it in. Some wounded people get all the luck.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On Rooftops, in Streets, Underground

This is how the weekend began: with Shlomo and Rikky's wedding, which literally took place at the little Prince. The 24 hour cafe was closed for the evening and a catering service squeezed little white tables into its narrow, gravelly yard. a huppah was brought in a glass was broken for once outside the kitchen.

I don't think I've ever seen a bride this happy and the groom was too moved to pronounce his vows properly. Nevertheless, much of the happyness belongs to us, members of the "Prince" crowd. These two gave us the perfect party to mark this period in our lives, right where it's happening. Look how happy we are:

Don't you love it when a party pours out into the street,

And don't you completely adore it when the police arrives and the bride comes over and covinces them to just go away?

The following day I was guiding a very special group around Jerusalem: it featured my parents. In celebration of my mom's birthday they decided to recruit me as tourguide and take their friends along for the Yuval Jerusalem experience. I took them underground into St. Helen's cistern, through street rather overcrowded with Friday mobs and to the rooftop of the Austrian Hospice, where we took a group portrait (all three pictures by Rooti Hazroni).

That was not the last rooftop nor the last happy crowd for the weekend. Saturday happened to be the birthday of Renen Mosinzon, an urban shaker and maker. Renen is one face behind the creative commune at 70 hayarkon st, one that will be remembered in the city history.

I've only ever attended cinema nights at hayarkon 70, but knew of the weekly jam sessions, study groups and cummunally cooked feasts that made the place famous. Here was the chance to sniff the ferfumed air, sip the beer and even go onstage.

Here was a chance to stay late into the night,

and to go home feeling very lucky.

The weekend's sole memento mori was a powerful one. DL and I went to watch Ari Fulman's powerful Waltz with Bashir, possibly the most somber animation film ever made, a beautiful discussion of war, conscience and memory. I reccomend it strongly.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


There were about thirty guys at Hamooda's Nargila place tonight, all cheering for Turkey, which played beautifully against the invincibly determined Germans. In Palestinian-Israeli Jaffa it's typical to side with the team wearing red, be it Hapo'el Tel-Aviv, associated with left leaning (i.e. pro-Palestinian) Israel, or B'nei Sachnin, which is Palestinian-Israeli to begin with. Tonight too I felt that the support stemmed from a sense of cultural connection. The Arabs of Jaffa look more like the Turks then like the Germans, they share the Turks' cuisine and follow the same religion.

What most of them don't realize is that there's a deep gap in culture between them and the Turks, one that displayed itself strongly tonight. I've been to Nargila joints in turkey and they were full of women. There were religious girls wearing Hijabs exhaling white, apple scented smoke next to modern girls in jeans. In Hamooda's place girls are welcome. I've sat there with Efros, with Osnat, with downtown lover and with several feminine out-of-town guests, but I've never seen a woman there that I did not know and tonight there were indeed none.

There's no shortage of female football fans. The cameras in Basel showed bleachers full of ladies wearing both white and red, waving the German tricolor and the Turkish crescent. Angela Merkel jumped up in joy when Klose opened a 2:1 advantage on the 79th minute. At her parents home near Jerusalem, downtown lover was meanwhile biting her nails in hope for the Turks to get even. When the game ended at 3:2 for Germany, my only condolance was the notion that the biggest football fan I know, Anna Kemper, is rejoicing somewhere in Berlin.

So why was the Jaffa crowd so homogenous? Arab society in Israel and Palestine is just too patriarchal. Living so much within this society, this is one thing I find difficult to come to terms with. I remember being envious when seeing how sexually diverse Istanbul's cafes are. Though I'm sure things are far from perfect for Turkey's women, It turns out it's possible for a Middle Eastern, muslim nation to be more open towards the place of women in society. In Turkey this can't be blamed on occidental, colonialist influence. There's some form of homegrown acceptence of women being out and about there and too little of it at Hamooda's tonight. This may or may not change eventually. In the meantime it's Germany 3, Turkey 2, Jaffa 0.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How God Composes Music

The whole "Jerusalem Syndrom" concept is bogus. People don't become convinced that they're Jeremiah or Jesus by hanging around Jerusalem. they come there already convinced of that. Jerusalem is a major attraction for people who acted like Jesus back on the Michigan peninsula.

You meet a lot of original people in Jerusalem, self proclaimed prophets, self certified theologians and archeologists, Mary Magdalene and Indiana jones dress-alikes. .. The common tendency is not to listen to them, to drift by them as you drift by the vendors who call after you: Yes my friend, how may I help you?

Yesterday, having too much time on my hands, I went to the hub of false messiahs in the city: the ramshackle Petra Hostel near Jaffa gate. This used to be a finer hotel back in the day, nowadays the wooden stairs screech perilously as I head to the roof for one of the most magnifiscent views on earth, that of the entire old city rolling underneath me towards the mouth of the Kidron canyon, crowned with the dome of the rock and presented against the backdrop of the Mount of Olives. (I've described this view once before )

Behind me was the family of the hostel's chief warden, Gabriel. The members of Gabriel's family are always dressed in long blue gowns. They are members of a religion that observes Wednesday as the holy day and regards Jesus as a Satanic entity. Usually I feel uncomfortable around their unmaskable esoteric lifestyle. This time, however, I was relaxed and found myself taking to them very strongly. One of the kids was crying and Gabriel and his wife took care of him in the kindest way imaginable. Blue or not, Gabriel's cross-racial family is sweet. Their use of English rather than Arabic, Hebrew or the mother's native Czech reminds me of the 1947 U.N. decree in which Jerusalem was designated to become international territory, and a less judgmental city, probably.

Later, on another corner of the roof, I bumped into a blond, middle aged man named Robert. He was hanging the laundry next to a tent full of faded books of scripture, clearly his current residence. I asked him of his life and was told that he was born in D.C., raised in the jungles of Peru, and later came to Jerusalem to compose a research on theology.

I then asked what his research was about and was presented with a pile of information, most of it criticism of modern Christianity and Judaism as compared to a more profound ancient model of Judaism. I also recieved this gem: "You know how all human music is made up of time. It's all got rhythm, it occupies a breadth of time, but God exists outside of time. So I was asking myself, how does God compose music?

"So here is what I realized: I realized God's music must be made up of the differentiations between high and low tones. Now, what are our lives made up of? of hights and depths, of good moments and bad ones. As long as this movement between the high and low persists, we are alive. As long as the line on you hospital monitor goes up and down, you're alive."

The ups and downs of my day are God's music? I loved that. I'd never have heard this had I not fueled on patience and tolerance and climbed to that roof. I'd make a joke here about having received my calling and feeling that I must wear a tarp cape and run through the Via Dolorosa bearing the good news, but this is no joke. Jerusalem's less listened-to visitors bring it both wisdom and tenderness. Who'd have thought.

In other news: tonight my favorite piece of art on earth is to be performed before mine very eyes and ears. The opera Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky is coming to the Tel-Aviv opera house. I love this opera so much, I'd write it a love letter, but I fear being rejected. Today is also my Sister Tamar's 24th birthday, to be celebrated with sunflowers and coctails into the night, once Yevgeny and Tanya are done driving each other mad.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Juhannus in Ethiopia with Shlomo

You don't really feel that it's the shortest night of the year in Israel. It gets dark at around 20:00 and stays that way until the morning. When exactly in the morning I don't know. Being a Finnophile and a general Scandinavia enthusiast, I celebrate Midsummer every year, drinking and merry making as the northerners do. So usually I wake up late the next day, quite unaware of when dawn actually took place.

One memorable Juhannus (Finnish for Midsummer) was that of 2006. We put up a maypole and lit a bonfire on a north Tel-Aviv beach. Finland's own Susanna and Paivi were there, both very religious Christians who didn't mind at all dancing around the maypole in the best pagan tradition. There was some cheating on lovers going on in unlit reaches of the beach, and an accident that ended with a visit to the hospital. I still bear its scar on my right ring finger.

This year's June 21st was the bachelors' party for Shlomo, Tel-Aviv's #1 publisher of underground poetry. Dana Guidetti organized for all to meet at an Ethiopian restaurant on lower Allenby. A band was playing beautifully under a mock straw parasol (enfin, ca fut la fete de la music). We hit the beach and swam in the dark and drank too much Whisky and met a girl from Croatia and another from New York, and went to sleep dizzy and woke up at noon.

I'm feeling sick today. I had my first instance of hung-over vomiting since 1998, but that's better than getting a scar and besides, both Juhannus and Shlomo deserve to be taken seriously. I hope next Midsummer will be just as decent. Until then, I invite you to enjoy both a day in the Finnish countryside with the band Ultra Bra (which is enormously popular over there) and this great British campaign against binge drinking.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Four Paragraphs About L.A.

L.A. reccurs in my dreams. Why so? I walk through its downtown at night (do not try this at home) bumping into lost loves and friends. I take its light rail from Long Beach through scary, mystifying Compton to the foothills and back, I fly into LAX and out of it. L.A. L.A. L.A.

O Santa Monica roller-blading tarts, O British expatriates at an English bar, O Australian tea tree growing horizontally on the promenade, O Lonely suburban wasteland in bright technicolor, O lonely office on Wiltshire with a Muhammad Ali cardboard cut-out. O glass offices, O Mormon temple, L.A. L.A. L.A.

L.A. is my favourive forest, slender palms - such a variety, spanish rooftiles, barbed-wire fences around one story self-storage facilities, Champagne flutes on the strip, overlooking the twilighted truth. Watts towers rising over all other trees, like a cluster of General Shermans.

And at night the old cars zoom east of Venice, lusting and lonely like overworked janitors. It's not a bad place, L.A. L.A., I'd like to go back there, but then, I'd like to go back everywhere.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


An attempt to discuss the art of translation and the history of Israeli theatre with my new penpal D., ended in her assersion that she prefers to discuss beer. "In the immortal words of Philip Sidney," she wrote, "'True, and yet true that I must Stella love.' Oh – what wouldn't I give for a nice cold stella right now…. (sigh)"

Dear sighing D., I love stella so, as well as other brews, that I'll be happy do discuss the subject lengthily here in public. I've already dedicated a post to beer, specifically the wonderful Palestinian Taybeh, and another post to a night spent beer tasting, but there's news in the field and much beer adventuring to recount. Time for a third entry.

First there's Nimrod's place. I don't even know Nimrod's last name. A lot of us just call him "The older Nimrod" since Flashky is the young Nimrod and quirky poet and journalist Nimrod Kamer is the in between Nimrod. The older Nimrod popped into the Prince scene a few months ago, friendly, pennyless and speaking dreamily of opening a bar over the ruins of Tel-Aviv's closing Lesbian joint, "The Minerva". I didn't believe it was going to happen until I was indoors, but he really did open a place, and that place has beer, serious beer.

St Bernardus on tap is impressive enough. Every keg of this lambic is a bustling metropolis of yeast, and at 8% alcohol content. a quart of it would set you straight for the night, but Nimrod is aiming higher. He's got Maredsous tripel on tap, which is even stronger, (10% alcohol content), and while maintaining belgian complexity, manages to be smooth and drinkable enough to be gulped. Though it's true that I must Stella love, Stella's homeland is responsible for much better fare.

Nimrod's place "Harozenet"("the Countess"), also has great food. He recruited the chef of now defunct "Pastis" on Rothschield, who put up a menu fit for the brews he serves. She went on and devised such combinations as a glass of Cava served with a slice of camambert and seasonal fruit that has nothing to do with the place's decor (it still has the Minerva's dungeony quality). This rings more like picnic food to me, which brings me to my next favorite beer source: the Tiv Taam convenienve store on Rotcshield.

Friends and neighboors, come and picnic at night in our summery city. I promise to buy whoever takes my invitation seriously a beer from the Tiv Taam on Rothschield. We'll take it out to the boulevard to sit and shoot the shit and look at the people and the dogs and kids. Looking for rarities? Worry not. They've got France's own 1664, Italy's pleasant Peroni and several good Bavarians. More beautifully still: they've got Strongbow cider, an uncommon treat around these parts and a happy drinking experience galore.

It may sound as though I'm raving hedonistic nonesense about my town's culinary execces, both here and in my previous "Well Fed" post, but in truth I'm writing a love letter to its summertime beauty. I've lived for years in cities where you couldn't bring a beer out to the street or could only get it at 2.50% strength, and in others where anything better than a PBR was difficult to obtain except in specialty boutiques. This town's grocery stores offer malty magic and its fringy bars make no beery conpromises. Bravo.

I will wrap this up, however, with a word of nostalgia to Boston and to "The Sunset Grill and Tap", a bar that used to serve 525 different kinds of beer, 112 of them on tap. Each week its selection would change and a new drink menu, looking like a newspaper, would be published. Though it's true that I must Tel-Aviv love, it still hasn't poured me Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier that tastes like smoked ham, nor New-Mexico chilly beer that's to spicy to drink. Another one I miss is Charles Quint. The best beer I ever drank. My friend Yanki and I were served this in Brussles out of a horse drawn barrel, the size of an SUV. Here in Tel-Aviv horses still mostly draw carts loaded with old electric appliances, but we shall continue to drink and dream, till our drinks come true.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Well Fed

I get to eat terribly well these days, and I mean terribly well. First there's my gig as restaurant critic for the Haaretz website. They make me do such things as compare brands of raw tahini, but also send me to places like Orca, a gourmet restaurant on Nachalat Binyamin Street, in Tel-Aviv.

A lunch for two in that seriously designed environment cost 400 shekels (about 130 US$) and featured small crustini topped with a sublime truffle spread. Actually, anything that comes with truffle is sublime, you put it in your mouth and just can't believe it's happening to you. I once attended a bachelors' party of a beloved friend who happens to be quite affleunt. It began at another high end culinary institute: Yoezer Bar Ya'yin in Jaffa, where each dish of the dinner contained truffles. I danced hard that night.

Yesterday it was another one of my many occupations that landed me in a posh local dining room. I was guiding a group of Austrian tourists, friends of a dear friend who gradually became new friends of my own. They know Tel-Aviv well enough from past visits and wanted to see it's deep end, its undiscovered corners. I took them to Florentine and to the spice market on Levinsky Street, then later to the A'jami district in Jaffa. They all dealt quite well with the hardcore grit that marks the south side, but preffered to eat their lunch uptown, at famed, seafront Raphael.

It was there, enjoying a cured veal tongue and roasted blue squid, that I came to muse about Israeli haute cuisine and suddendly truly appreciate it. Of the three restaurants mentioned here, Raphael is the most profoundly Israeli. In the past it offered French baresserie fair with touches of the meditteranean, of North African (especially Lybian) Jewish diaspora cooking and other flavours simmering in Israel's melting pot. Its new menu shows of a coming of age. The dishes are simply local but they are Raphael local, sophisticated local, beautiful local. They don't even need truffles to be imported from the Italian Piemonte, and nor, so it seems, would many of the meals served in this country in years to come. I just hope to be asked out to taste these meals because as it is I'm best equipped to be fed on the other end of Israeli cuisine, featuring our most original and poetic manifestation of east meets west: the famed schnizel in a pita.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Four Lullabies and an Anti-Lullaby

The only night I had spent in Portree, Isle of Skye, back in 1996, was not a good one, though it kicked off well enough: I hit on a girl at the pub and she invited me to go to her place with three of her friends. All of the girls turned out to be super-young single mothers who fled to the small Inner-Heberian town from England and elsewhere in Scotland. On our way along the bay shore We were joined by a man who turned out to be their dealer. He was the filthiest person I've ever seen in my life. His hands were pitch black and his jeans seemed not to have been changed in years. When, upon reaching the house I asked if I could take a much needed traveler's bath, he put me down for believing in baths.

It was a laughable bath experience, to be sure. The water was full of peat, completely brown and opaque. In the living room the friends were chain-toking and listening to the spooky "X-Files" soundtrack. I was not a smoker then and too tired to join in the festivities, so I spread my sleeping bag in the corridor and tried to sleep despite the music and the hard floor.

This is ironic, because Scotland is exactly the place where music can put you to sleep very effectively. I was reminded of this tonight while searching for a Youtube version of "Wild Mountain Thyme" a song which I play quite energetically. This version by Dick Gaughan and friends is literally a lullaby. It's the best I've found so far, although a snippet of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez experimenting with the chorus was a joy to discover.

As a service to Insomniac "Everywhere" readers, I hereby offer you a few more beautiful Celtic lullabies. With all due respect to the X-files, they're somehow preferable. Check out Christy Moore doing "John O'dreams," he mixes up the lyrics, flops ridiculously with the guitar, and it's still lovely. This song is not precisely an Irish folksong. The tune is nicked off of Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony, but Moore's Kildare accent would make an Irish folk song out of the Marseillese.

This one is just a guy playing in his home, in front of the most disfunctional webcam ever, yet it's a treasure, a real rarity: a Manx lullaby. I visited the Isle of Man on the same 1996 trip and was blown away by the musicianship there. The Isle is also noted for several other things: the cats there have no tails, the buses are horse-drawn, and from the top of the highest mountain, every ancient kingdom of the British isles can be seen: England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland.

Well, actually, there was yet another Celtic kingdom in the isles, and that's tiny little Cornwall, at the southwesternmost corner of Great Britain. Brenda Wooten is queen of the Cornish folk song, her voice is a fantasy. this little song is an anti-lullaby. It describes a sleepy Sunday morning and is the only tune here that is sung in an actual Celtic tongue. Cornish language resembles Welsh and Breton (while Manx is more closely linked to Irish and Scotish Gaelic), it is rarely heard, which makes the clip indespensible. Nonetheless, I also recommend this one of Wooten's, sung in English. it is equally peculiar in its melody, equally haunting and slumber inducing, better than melatonin and cheeper too.

Friday, June 13, 2008

O Let Us Live in Joy

In my previous post I wrote of people running away into nature and the feeling that I've been doing the same, allegorically, for too much of my life. Today I almost did it in practice. Stepping over the fence of downtown lover's parents' home, outside Jerusalem, and heading into the hills for a walk. It was past sunset when I left, so the only photo I took looks like this:

It was a delicious twilight, though, and the further night advanced over high Judea, the more serene I was feeling. Meanwhile, DL was indoors with her dad, watching Romania and Italy tie in Zurich. It was a fine moment in which each of us indulged in what we love best. Now her cheer rises from the basement, which means France scored against the Netherlands. I'm sitting here, writing, with a bottle of beer by my side. Minutes ago DL's mom showed me photos of China, where she often goes on business, and now my mind's eye is full of Beijing highrises and of moonlit Israeli forests. So this is another such fine moment, maybe even finer.

"O let us live in joy, in peace among those who quarrel, among people who quarell, let us live in peace." These words are attributed to the Buddha. I dedicate them to whoever was shooting a machine gun in the valley earlier this evening, and to whomever he was shooting.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


It's hardly late by Tel-Avivian terms, only 0:22 at night, yet I feel late.

I spent much of the evening in a radio studio with my friend Susanna, we spoke about Arto Paasilinna's "Year of the Rabbit". It is a book about giving up. A man runs over a rabbit in a Finnish forest, walks among the trees and finds it. Tends to its wound and then drifts with it. He forsakes his Helsinki existance in favor of a drifter's lifestyle, working at odd jobs in the forests of Savo, Kainuu and Lapland, hunting a bear in the snow and drinking its blood, sleeping by a campfire at night.

At no point does Paasilinna describe what this man's feet smell like.

This week I watched a film about escaping: "Into the Wild", by Sean Penn, after the book by john Krakauer. Again a man heads into forests. This time he is young. He is disillusioned not with a family he had built but with the family that brought him life, a truly disfunctional one. He heads north- to alaska, secludes himself in the wilderness, than (spoiler warning), after several weeks of lonely partial bliss, he dies, having accidentally eaten a poisenous plant. Alexander Supertramp escaped completely, too completely.

He is described as having worn no socks for two years.

My feet smell fine but I know I'm escaping too, that I have been since I was 18. Sometimes it's just so damn dark, this whole story. Sometimes it's bright skies by the road in switzerland, examining my sorry shoes, having just crossed Lichtenstein on foot. Sometimes it's late at the little prince, Playing me, playing friend, playing lover, playing father of sorts. buying Flashky a beer because he knew who built the Seagram building.

Whoever built the seagram building wasn't escaping, not when he did it. He did beforehand, you must do for a while, but you don't build the Seagram building from a dead bus in Denali National Park, nor from a dismal Lappish landscape: a slashed forest on the swamps' edge, a screaming crow on a dead tree. you don't build the Seagram building from the back of the Little Prince nor from a studio of Israel's Government radio. I'm going to learn how to do it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Europa est Perdita

I desperately love Europe. It's where I came from, well, not really. I was born in Israel and both my parents were too, but our background is European and there's something in us that will always long there. We get out of a Metro station in Paris, look up at the Housmanian rooftops, breath in mist and big city smog and feel completely, passionately, disturbingly at home.

There's too much irony in this love-love relationship. As an outcome of WWII, Europe succesfully rid itself of Jews. Many of us came to live here, just one unbreachable step away from its outskirts, in a ghetto divised by our own dumb minds. We saw Germany and Austria, homes of Nazism, grow to become prosperous beyond belief, calm and relatively happy, while we're here suffering strife and inflicting it on others.

Our hunger for European aesthetics is unquenchable. Yesterday a bunch of friends and I all headed north for the day. We visited Nazareth, with its chapels of 19th century Catholic fluff,

and the remains of the old German templer coomunity at Alonei Aba, looking more like a quaint village in Dorset.

All the cirtue of such delights vanished as we entered the austere, grey boxy urbanscape around Rabin Square in Tel-Aviv, we love our city, granted, but it does not delight the eye in the way, say, Amsterdam does.

This week, however, there will be a lot of Europe on our table thanks to the Euro 2008 tournement. Unlike DL, who's a very serious fan, I know nearly nothing about football and tend to support teams based on countries I like. (Last night's Czech Republic's victory was a delight, but I wept for Turkey).

In the case of a Euro, I like almost every country and the championship turns into a chain of reminices. My beloved Sweden may be far from me, but all of its Euro 2008 history is still ahead of it. I'll cheer for you, Sweden, and dream of your deep forests and pretty towns and Pippi longstocking, and look for a bottle of Pripps Blå to drink with your goals, and complain about not being Swedish, and drink more Pripps Blå, and more, and not even care who wins in the end.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I'm an East Jerusalem enthusiast. I grew up in a Jewish enclave in the east, and always looked at the west as the somewhat annoying haunt of spoiled, Politically ignorant, Jewish-American teenagers. When hitting town I rush towards massive Damascus gate and then through it, to eat Knafe at Jaffar's, lose myself among the market crowds, and discover an ancient, chapel-dotted, stone passageway or two.

Today, however, I'm heading west. There's a concert to attend, as well as an alternative arts festival. I even have a television appearence scheduled. I'm to speak about Macedonia on Israeli channel 1. But first I accompany my friend Baptiste from France to the very threshold of the east. There we meet his Quebecoise friend Roxanne who lives in Ramallah.

Having met, all three of us turn our back on the magic of the east. as if in support, the east stops looking magical almost at once. This picture of Jerusalem, taken a few steps from Damascus gate, has to be the least romantic ever shot. Of all the city's fabled sights, only the magnifiscent Dome of the Rock is there, popping over the open back of a truck.

The supposedly modernist, sprawly west, on the other hand, embraces us instantly in delightful pink stone and an air of antiquity, as we walk into the 19th century Russian compound.

We stop to chill at the garden of its old pilgrims hospice.

Turn of the century Nahalt Shiv'a neighborhood, right down the street, is positively gushing with charm. Here we were joined by Flashky, that unbeatable young chap, who took the van from Tel-Aviv spontanously to join in this little Odyssey.

Having caffinated ourselves we tread further and discover a fountain, clearly a gift of the city of Paris to its little middle eastern sister. Downtown lover, who dislaike Jerusalem and rarely joins me here, is mad about Paris. Alas, no such fountains can be found in her cherished Tel-Aviv environment.

We finally arrive at our first of the three destinations. A festival for alternative and socially involved creativity brought together small presses from around the country to a basketball court, somewhere in the labyrinthine Nachla'ot quarter. A lot of our friends from Tel-Aviv are here ,and there are also many new faces and a lot to learn. Certainly this fair is the most succesful alternative the "Week of the Hebrew Book" events, often criticised for being overly commercial.


This is where we bid farewell to Baptiste and Roxanne as they head up to her Ramallah home. They intend to make it past the roadblock before dark.

Flashky and I head on, walking to the edge of the Nachlaot and into the Mahne Yehuda market area.

We stop for a beer and a snack at the cheesiest drinking hole ever seen, a "club for members only" whose members are all elderly Iraqis. One wall is entirely covered by the decorative seal of some obscure German Brewery. The brew served to us is, curiously, Indian "Cobra" brand.

We made it to the studios of Israeli public television, but are not allowed to take photos inside. In defiance we pull out the camera out in the bathroom.

I was gorgeous on T.V.

We rush across the city to its center for the performing arts. On the plaza outside there's performance art taking place. Past colorful fabric, dotted with peeping holes, dancers are moving.

And on stage ,Jordi Savall's famed Hysperion XXI ensamble is performing songs from the Sepharadic diaspora. Legendary soprano Montserrat Figueras leads in Ladino. Yair Dalal is at the Oud and Savall himself plays the unique and beautiful Viol.

Time to go out.

First we hit Gilli's bar, which is good fun. Gilli pours us the butt of every coctail he makes. We get intoxicated enough that I forget to take a souvenir photo. Later at the Sira (possibly the city's finest nighthole), I do take one and immortalize Flashky's dancing joy. He's in an advanced flirt with the girl in a white tank top, a German from Cologne. Later on he ditches her, thinking that I am interested in returning to Tel-Aviv.

Now, I may be old, from Flashky's perspective - very much so. But I'm not letting go so easily of a city that looks like this at 2 AM

And like this at 3 AM

So we go to a place whos name I can't quite remember, tucked away down a passageway.

Than back to the Sira.

Where we learn how to balance pint glasses on top of one another and nearly get in a fight with an Everton supporter in his fourties. Flashky (a true Liverpool fan) does his best to calm the man down by pointing out their similar taste in music, but gets beer poured on his shirt. He stands up for himself, standing not two inches away from the aggressor's face and calling him a fascist. The Evertonian's friends, a group of truely sweet brits, calm him down and we bid farewell in good spirits.

No, in great spirits.