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.



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