Categories
Books Israel

Worlds Apart

My world and your world. Their world and our world. Where am I? Where are you? Where are they?

Somewhere, further down in this post, I will talk about tomorrow’s book launch. If you don’t want to read my prattle, you can go there now.

Things used to be easier in the old days. Worlds kept themselves separate. Facebook brings them all together. It’s hard.

One minute I’m reading about the topic that’s uppermost in the mind of all Israelis. Three teenagers were kidnapped by terrorists. Parents look at their children, knowing it could have been them. How can a sixteen-year-old cope with being held by people who want us all dead?

The next minute, without even scrolling or clicking, I see a joke and I try to laugh. Then there’s a beep and I have to read and comment on a totally unrelated topic. Yes, have to, because it’s part of my job of being a writer. I have to look away from my world and become part of yours for a while.

Yes, I know it’s happened to you, to. There was 9/11, 7/7 and all the rest. But when those things happened, all the worlds were feeling similarly shocked. Now, it’s just us. For everyone else it’s business as usual. Who cares about three boys?

Then there’s their world: the world of those who are euphoric over the news. I see that, too, when people post their pictures and comments, before I look away in disgust.

But I really wanted to talk about another world, one that is right here in Jerusalem. The other day, I walked into the haredi world to take pictures. But when I was there, I didn’t feel good about photographing them, even though no one took any notice of me at all.

Signs that make me feel unwelcome, Mea Shearim
Signs that make me feel unwelcome, Mea Shearim

I hurriedly snapped a few photos and escaped from another world where I don’t belong.

A street in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem
A street in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem

Esty, the heroine of Neither Here Nor There, did belong there. She grew up there. Her family and friends and everyone who knew her expected her to remain in that world for the rest of her life.

And they expected her to meet her future husband two or three times, sitting far apart from him so as not to touch him by mistake, before making a decision about whether to spend the rest of her life with him.

If you look carefully below the Old City walls that are lit for the Jerusalem Festival of Lights, you can make out the man on the left and the girl on the right
If you look carefully below the Old City walls that are lit for the Jerusalem Festival of Lights, you can make out the man on the left and the girl on the right of the bench

In my novel, I don’t make any judgements. My characters make judgements occasionally, but mostly this is a novel of discovery. The characters find out about the other world on their doorstep.

I’ve said enough for now. If you want to join in tomorrow’s festivities, which will include a competition, go to this Facebook page. You can join it now.

Categories
Israel

Exterminate!

No, this post is not about daleks. It’s about something real and serious. It’s about what the Israeli government is doing to a part of its population.

There. I said it. All those things you heard on the news are true.

NO!

But that’s what the sign said. I read it. I needed to walk along the String Bridge on my way from one errand to the next, this morning. I looked down at the area where yesterday a sea of black hats swayed in prayer and demonstration and there it was: EXTERMINATION.

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OK, so they don’t actually mean they’re being exterminated. They mean that what the government is planning to do to them will cause them to cease to exist as they do now.

And what is this evil government plan? The government wants to conscript all young people, including those who belong to the Haredi community. That doesn’t necessarily mean conscription to the army. It can also be for what’s called here National Service or what you might call Community Service. All the government is saying is that one law should apply to all. All young people should give two years of their time to serve the community or the country.

And probably, if those young people from the Haredi community are conscripted in this way, it will change the whole community in certain ways. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

Categories
Books Israel

Places in NHNT

My novel, Neither Here Nor There, due to be published later this year, describes several places in Jerusalem that I’ve mentioned before on this blog. Like the market, Machane Yehuda.

Machane Yehuda market
Machane Yehuda market

Jaffa Road and the light railway (which has been going for two and a half years).

Jerusalem Light Railway at night
Jerusalem Light Railway at night

The German Colony, which I mentioned here.

House in German Colony
House in German Colony

Yemin Moshe, where I used to live, and which I described here and here and here.

Yemin Moshe windmill
Yemin Moshe windmill

There are some other places in Jerusalem that get a mention in the novel. I’ll have to photograph them, too.

There are also places in London that feature in the novel. I haven’t taken photos of them and they’re a bit far away from me for a quick snapping session.

Place can often drive a novel. It certainly drives mine.

A lane in Yemin Moshe
A lane in Yemin Moshe

Nothing can happen nowhere. The locale of the happening always colours the happening, and often, to a degree, shapes it.

~ Elizabeth Bowen

Categories
Israel

My First Demo

I’ve always kept away from demonstrations before, but I decided to give this one my support.

Our local supermarket has been charging too much for years. It’s part of a chain, but they manage to charge higher prices by using different names. So the prices in Supersal Deal in a neighbourhood not so far away are much lower than the prices in our Supersal Sheli.

The management give reasons for these differences, but it’s clear that the real reason is that our Supersal has no competition. Also the population of our neighbourhood includes a lot of old people, who are unable to travel far to buy food.

Several of them came to the demonstration.

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So did groups of young people who shouted out the slogans.

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Placards were displayed.

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Someone stood outside the supermarket telling people not to go in, or to buy the bare minimum.

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The Arab woman sold her wares as usual, unperturbed.

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And Michael & Shimrit Greilsammer, a well-known duo, sang and played.

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I hope Supersal agree to lower their prices.

Categories
Israel

New Year’s Day…

… is today!

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Yes, it’s Tu B’Shvat – the new year for trees. The name means the 15th of Shvat, which is today’s Hebrew date. In Israel, this is traditionally an ecological awareness day. People plant trees on this day. Schoolchildren are taken on trips to plant trees and learn about nature.

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The weather today, here in Jerusalem, is cool and sunny, an excellent day for planting trees.

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I decided it would be appropriate to take some photos of our garden.

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But the typical photo to take on this day is of the almond tree. Somehow almond trees always blossom on this day. We don’t have one in our garden, so I went out in search of one. Where we lived before, in Yemin Moshe, there were always almond trees.

I couldn’t see an almond tree in any of these:

IMG_0558This didn’t look like an almond tree:

IMG_0560and neither did this:

IMG_0561nor this (I think):

IMG_0562This certainly didn’t look like one:

IMG_0563And so I returned home without seeing any almond blossom. Next year, I’ll have to visit Yemin Moshe.

Happy New Year to all trees!

Categories
Israel

I’m not offended…

…when someone wishes me merry Christmas or happy holidays or season’s greetings. I’m just amused.

Because, while we have plenty of holidays here, only the Christians celebrate Christmas, and not all of those celebrate it on 25th December. The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th according to our calendar, the Armenian Church on January 19th.

When I lived in England, the day was special for us because it was a day off for most people. We used to spend it with my uncle and aunt and cousins in their house, and we always enjoyed it.

But here in Israel it’s a non-holiday for us, a normal day. If I went to the Old City, I expect I’d see signs of celebration in the Christian Quarter, but elsewhere there are no signs at all. What amuses me is the assumption by some people that the whole world celebrates Christmas in some way. So if I send greetings, I usually get the same back.

People who think about it a bit more might say, “Happy Chanuka.” Most years that would be suitable, but Chanuka came early this year.

Only one person replied in the same way as I usually do when people wish me a happy whatever: “Thank you.”

Today I went into town to get a new battery for my watch and do some shopping at the market. I took some photographs to show how normal everything was. Well, almost.

The train was crowded, as usual.

Light railway train into town
Light railway train into town

More so on the way back when it would have been hard to take out my camera.

All the shops were open, including the watch shop that I needed.

Ben Hillel Street
Ben Hillel Street

Ben Yehuda Street looked as usual,

Ben Yehuda Street
Ben Yehuda Street

except for the piles of snow, still there eleven days after the last snowfall.

Pile of snow
Pile of snow

All over the Machane Yehuda market, it was business as usual,

Machane Yehuda market
Machane Yehuda market

including my favourite sweet shop.

Sweet shop
Sweet shop

Back at the end of the light rail line, a bus weaved between

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Har Herzl light railway station

the mounds of snow.

Har Herzl light railway station
Har Herzl light railway station

And I carried my shopping home.

Categories
Israel

A White Christmas

No, I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas. We’ve had quite enough snow for this year, thank you. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if I never saw another snowstorm like the one we had last week, beautiful as it was.

But as we did have a snowstorm so close to that holiday that’s somehow connected with it, I thought I’d post some links to posts about one or the other.

I also saw pictures on Facebook of a snow bride, a snowman wearing a skullcap by the Western Wall and a snow toilet and basin.

It’s a good thing Chanuka was early this year and over well before the storm began.

Snow at night

To all those of you who are celebrating Christmas, I hope it turns out exactly as you want it to and you have a lovely time.

Categories
Israel

Exciting Times

The excitement in these parts knows no bounds. Pictures are all over Facebook. Schools are closed. Workplaces, too. News broadcasts are almost entirely about this.

“What happened?” you might ask.

“It’s snowing.”

“So what?”

“So what! This is Jerusalem. The whole city has closed down. People come from all over the country to see the city covered in white – if they can manage to get here. And you say, so what!”

Besides, how many people can say they’ve seen oranges growing in snow?

Oranges in snow

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Categories
Israel

Train Talk

The first thing I noticed was the youngish man who stood up and said, “I’ll tell the driver.”

Tell the driver? Was he crazy? He sounded like the old woman the other day who called out “Rega!” as she made for the open door, causing me to smile. Rega, literally moment, is what an Israeli passenger calls to the bus driver to warn him not to close the door because the passenger wants to get off. Despite eighteen months of living with the light railway, Jerusalemites are still not completely used to this mode of transport. Some of them, for instance, still think they should be able to buy the ticket on the train.

But this man, it turned out, wasn’t crazy. He knocked on the glass that separated our front carriage from the driver’s compartment. When the driver turned round, the man spoke to him.

“Someone’s dropped a Rav Kav between the train and the platform. I’ll try and get it. Don’t move the train.” A Rav Kav, I should explain, is Jerusalem’s version of London’s Oyster card. You can fill it up and use it to travel on trains and buses within the city.

The man reached down, retrieved the card and handed it to the grateful old man who had dropped it. The younger man returned to his seat and the older man touched his card on the machine and sat down, too. The train doors closed and the train pulled away from the station. I glanced at my watch. Almost one o’clock. A popular time for old people to travel, I thought, looking around.

Suddenly an old man with a knitted yarmulke stood up. There is a dress code here as far as men’s headgear goes. A knitted yarmulke means orthodox. A black one means more orthodox. A black hat  means ultra-orthodox. The old man with the knitted yarmulke said, “I lost my Rav Kav.” He took a pile of papers out of his pocket and started to go through them.

Another old man, with white curly hair and no yarmulke, said, “So it’s yours?”

There followed a convoluted conversation between Knitted Yarmulke and No Yarmulke, during which each tried to make sense of the other’s words. All the while Knitted Yarmulke went through the same pile of papers over and over, opening and refolding pages of newspaper and searching inside a wallet.

“Was it a Rav Kav?”

“What?”

“What sort of card did you lose?”

“A card for the train.”

“A single ticket or a whole card?”

“A card – a Rav Kav.”

“Someone over there found a Rav Kav. Maybe it’s yours.”

Knitted Yarmulke went to ask. “I heard someone found a Rav Kav and I just lost one. Maybe it’s mine.”

“No,” said the lucky old man whose Rav Kav had been retrieved for him by the younger man. “I dropped my Rav Kav and this man picked it up for me. But it’s mine, I promise.”

“I believe you. I’m not accusing you.”

They parted amicably and Knitted Yarmulke returned to his seat minus a Rav Kav.

“You can get another one,” said No Yarmulke.

“I know, I’ve lost it before,” said Knitted Yarmulke. “But I’m going home now, in the other direction.”

“Right, but another time you can buy a single ticket and go to get a new Rav Kav.”

“Right.”

I was glad that was all finally cleared up.

Categories
100-word stories Israel

100 Word Challenge – Week #74

100 Word Challenge
Click to join in the fun

The challenge: 104 words including:

the extreme weather meant

I’m throwing fiction to the elements this week. We had our extreme weather about a week before most of you.

So near and yet so different

In Tel-Aviv, the extreme weather meant flooding, road closures and terrible traffic jams.

In Modi’in, a shopping centre was flooded, giving rise to the picture of a restaurant, the diners with their feet in water, that appeared on Facebook. Another interesting picture compared the shopping mall to Venice. They did look rather similar.

In Jerusalem, the extreme weather meant a traffic shutdown, a welcome holiday, snowmen, snowballs and beautiful, silent whiteness. What a difference a few kilometres and a few hundred metres make!

A week later, we sat lazing on the grass in warm sunshine, not a trace of extreme weather in sight.

Frozen pond
Frozen pond