Marching On

28 Sep

Last night he said to me that he hates this country. “Three years of my life and then nothing in return”?  I can hardly breathe when I think of the ‘nothing’ – a silenced aching emptiness where his friends used to be. But still he’d do it all again.

For his friends, his family – but not the country – anything but the country, and not the government – “The government never die. We die, but the government never die.” Fighting puppets on golden strings, given a small stake in the profits.

So when I go to ask you, how you got so strong, and so angry, I already know the answer. It’s the same reason that means you know exactly how to upset me, even though when I look in your eyes, they tell the truth unwaveringly.

But weren’t you trained to be like that? To stand bold in the face of an enemy, to stare them down. To kill. And to protect.

“I got the call last night. Can you handle a soldier?”

And I just wish you were just saying “Can you handle me?” But here, they’re one and the same.

See this post on my Times of Israel blog here: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/marching-on/

Time Travel at 32 Degrees

22 Sep

Time travel – it doesn’t exist apparently. But here in the swamp-like sticky melting pot of Tel Aviv, the heat blends old memories together with new, fusing holidays, day trips and long term stays into one long never-ending story with an ever-changing ending.

It sticks to the stray cats mincing across roofs, and melds itself to sweaty faces, winning its battle again and again with the omnipresent bottle of water. It weaves its way into Tel Aviv’s far from tuneful singing voice, sending the Shuk stall owners crazy as they wipe hot foreheads and play Eyal Golan again and again, from sunrise right up until the street cleaners arrive at closing time, with their loaded buckets of soapy water, soon to be sent spinning from Allenby down to the beach, drenching everyone in its path.

As the song starts again for the fortieth time, I know with utter certainty that should I ever hear this song again, in a different place, a different life, I’ll be instantly transported right back to right here, this very spot in the hot, hot heart of the city. It’s cheating time, this method of present day nostalgia – time travelling to the very moment you’re in. One of these days today will just be a sweet memory – and here in Tel Aviv, it might as well be today.

 

You can also see this post here, on my blog on Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/time-travel-at-32-degrees/

Ch Ch Ch Changes….

7 Sep

The below was also published on my Times of Israel blog in August (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ch-ch-ch-changes/) – but it’s only fair to share it with Nish Nush too!:

The other day in Ulpan we were talking about the verb ‘to change oneself’ – Lehishtannot. “Have you changed yourself to fit in here?”, our teacher asked. “Do you want to change yourself  – to become more Israeli?”. “Take on the good parts of Israelis, not the bad” she instructed us – the medley of nations spread before her – Spain, Russia, American, England.  She smiled and strode purposefully across the class, to write another verb on the board. Onwards. But her words left a more permanent mark than those on the white board.

When I walk through Tel Aviv all the parts of me from before and after meet at that moment, joining me as I walk down the road. By their side walks everything that’s ever happened here, intermingling and intertwining with their playmates – plaiting a French braid, making a stylish meander around me. A comforting presence, it’s what creates this frenzy of olim moving here in droves – airy proof that we are not alone. Not as tangible as the openness and friendliness of the party people drinking in the bars, or the elderly lady who detailed the route to Jabotinsky, but still there nonetheless. But then it’s true of course that those voices, images, speeches can become stifling  – and so olim are leaving too – gone, but changed – unavoidably so – because one part of them will always be on Allenby, joining the other spirits of ‘back then’, a thirty degree hum of voices of the past, reaching on towards the future.

I don’t want to think about leaving – and I don’t want to think about staying either – but then perhaps that makes me more ‘Tel Aviv’, more changed than I realize. In London it’s all about  “What’s next? What’s the next career move, where’s the next apartment you’ll live in, and who’s the next boyfriend you’ll have?” Olim often complain about the pace of life here – it’s slower, and “everything takes so long…” But that’s because each moment is longer when you turn it over, admire it, polish it  – and maybe argue over it too. There’s so much space inside each moment that there’s no need to think about the next one, just yet. And just like that, in the space of 60 seconds, I’ve changed. And the best part – I did it without even noticing.

Me Vs. You

27 Jul

“Alone Vs. Lonely”. That was what she wrote in her notepad. Crouched outside a gently buzzing little bar in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite neighbourhood of Kerem, her eyes flitted between the two words, and her mind between two worlds. The city felt heavy, oppressive. Inside the bar, shadowy figures sat sipping pink beers at high tables, relishing the heat and the cooling fizz of the alcohol as it slid down throats, or missed mouths and fell unceremoniously onto tables. She’d never seen it before, this glamorous little local bar, which had risen like a party-seeking vampire as the night fell slowly onto the city’s shoulder. “Alone Vs. Lonely.” She debated a drink, a solitary one, or perhaps one which would become two, or three, aided by the easy manner of the winking bar man, out for his tips and perhaps something more. But then she looked down at those words again, those two worlds she had etched into her note pad, and shook her head, no, not tonight. Tonight she would leave those happy people within to their gin, and their vodka and their beer, and their fearless existence living inside the ‘Versus’, that little word which she had bypassed, shortened into two little letters that her eyes skimmed over as she read back her own words. Because you don’t have to be alone, or lonely – you don’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils. A good friend told me that there’s  always a third way, and there is – the ‘Versus’ – fight back against the things that make you feel unloved, dive into the bar and raise a glass to your joy instead of drowning  your sorrows. I took a sip and watched her pack up her notepad and wander off into the night. “Next time”, she thought, “Next time I’ll join them.”

Feasting and Fasting

16 Jul

For the past few years I‘ve fasted on Tisha B Av, marking the days of bad luck – when chance became a pattern.  Last year, in London, my caffine addiction had reached new levels, so I made an exception for black coffee. I was wired all day, and by the afternoon wasn’t hungry at all. So that’s how the models do it. My flat mates and I would usually make an occasion of breaking the fast – we would have people over, prepare some food, make some tea – by the time everyone arrived it would be around 11pm and the starvation levels had reached new bounds, but it would always be worth the wait. Two years ago year we made an occasion of it despite the riots. It was day two, and a widespread sense of panic meant that the streets of Gospel Oak were empty. I think someone had tried to set fire to a bin earlier down the road, but that was as far as it went. All was silent, apart from our busy little hive of activity, marking something which had been marked on that day indelibly. That mark is still there this year – when tragedies happen they don’t just go away – their colour may wane slightly, but you never forget it – and some years the mark is harsher than ever…Which is why I found it strange this year to be chilling out in Israel, in Tel Aviv, the city of sin, clutching a beer, on a night when I really…shouldn’t… I walked past full restaurants which seemed anything but shrouded with guilt. But the atmosphere didn’t buzz as loudly as usual. I don’t think it was just me that was on edge. Friday nights out are a given here – so why was tonight any different?

On Shenkin Street most of the restaurants and bars were silent, keeping shtum for just one night. The traffic still hummed – the city that never sleeps still needs transportation.  And the air was thick with waiting, with frozen anticipation, chilly despite the heat. Even the coolest cat quakes on Halloween, even a ghost shivers when someone steps across their grave, and even trendy Tel Avivians get frightened that a habit, an affinity for misery, could rear its ugly head again. And so they eat, drink, smoke and be merry. Old habits may die hard, but new ones are much harder.

broken-coffee-mug

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

2 Jul

Sitting still, calmly, and in a room on my own, for what seems like the first time in forever. Really its only been five days – but what a five days they have been. I do love to keep myself busy – but this week the level of schlepping has reached epic proportions. Soon it will be time to chill out in the best possible way – eat some sushi, drink some vodka and head out on to the town. But for now I’ve got my feet up in suitcase (makeshift furniture), in my new apartment, nestled just above the Shuk. Yes THE shuk, that crazy snake weaving its way from the beach up to Allenby, courageous in its colours and noise, and pausing only for Shabbat.  You can hear it’s hiss from the spacious flat, although it’s more of a quiet undertone of Mizrachi beats, and the odd shout of “Hamesh Shekel!!!” In typical fashion here, the first time I met our neighbour, she was shouting at me in Hebrew, having had to come and let me in – our always professional landlord had forgotten to tell her not to put the double lock on. My emergency Hebrew kicked in and the heated debate was off to a rollicking start, before lapsing into smiles all round. Chancing on her this morning, ha kol besader (it’s all okay), and she imparted some invaluable advise for the day: “Don’t worry, Be happy!” If there’s anyone’s advice you can trust, it’s old lady sipping a beer in the middle of a market, done up to the nines, and beaming at the world.

"All that glitters is not gold..."

“All that glitters is not gold…”

NB: This was written last week, before I had internet, a bed, a wardrobe etc etc etc

 

Flying High – You Know How I Feel

8 Jun

Clearing out my room pre-Aliyah has not been an easy task – one that’s constantly interrupted by joyous exclamation at the discovery of old club night tickets (Eclectricity, Drop Beats Not Bombs and a grunger special one from way back in 2002 – The Lost Weekend).

Please note this link leads...nowhere...

Please note this link leads…nowhere…

I’ve also chanced upon wallet after wallet of photographs – from back in the day when I used to actually get my disposable cameras developed. I have to admit I was late in entering the new world of the digital camera, holding on to the £7 rip-offs for as long as possible, only indulging in a digital one in February – and now there’s no more freeze frames cluttering up drawers, just Facebook, if I scroll back far enough – I can’t decide option which I prefer, although the past couple of days have shown which is easier to tidy up!

But aside from the scraps of rectangular past, it turns out I’m a notebook hoarder too. Little pads of paper filled with outpouring of feelings, before that particular concertina of pages was discarded in favour of one with a shinier cover. The equivalent of someone starting blog after blog, not settling on one in which to make their home – a room of one’s own.

In a small paper notepad, bound with string, I came across this particular wisdom, from a 17 year old me (approx.) There’s no-one like yourself, to give advice to yourself:

“I used to wonder, why don’t birds fly all the time? Why do they bother walking when they can soar? But then I realised that no one can fly high forever – you always come crashing down in the end”

Okay, a little bit dramatic – a little bit 17 year old angst (just emerging from that teenage emo-angst stage) – but there is something in it. They say don’t run before you can walk – but like my 17 year old self I say run as fast as you can, fly as high as you can reach – soar for as long as possible – because at some point you going to have to alight  back down gracefully (or not) on earth. Ten years later (oh my god!!!) I can ask is that such a bad thing though? To appreciate the magic of the everyday, the small beautiful things – whether it’s an old ticket that stirs a thousand memories, or a text from a good friend that raises a smile. There’s plenty of going on down here to keep you amused until next time you’re flying high…