Saturday, 29 March 2008

Run, Rabbit, Run

The foolishness started last year.

We visited Ein Gedi and Masada, wife, sister in law, son and I, and we decided like good tourists to immerse ourselves in the Yam HaMelach, the Dead Sea.

Except that I had left my swimming trunks at home.

So I pop into the gift shop to buy a hideously overpriced pair, and start chatting to the shopkeeper, who mistakes me for an elite east African long distance runner (these things happen...)

Anyway, once the mistake was cleared up, she asked me if I run. I said that I did, not adding that it was usually for the bus and not much else.

"So you must come to do the half marathon next year," she enthuses.

So I did.

The race was on a hottish day last month. It was hard work, but fun in an odd kind of way, and I actually enjoyed it enough to sign up the next day for the Jerusalem Half Marathon, which took place two days ago.


I've never really paid much attention to the city - for one thing, I'm usually driven about when I'm there, and for another, the white Jerusalem Stone that the whole city is clad in, thanks to some insane colonial (for this story and others about the misbegotten British Mandate, you must read Tom Segev's excellent 'One Jerusalem, Complete') tends to blind one in the bright summer sunshine.

So I didn't think very much about the route of the race until I mentioned it to my wife's brother-in-law last weekend.

He sprays me with his breakfast. "You do know that Jerusalem do you say it in English? Hilly?"

No, I didn't.

Mrs Goy studied at the University there, and knows the city quite well, so that evening I ask her for her opinion about the route. She asks me to read it out from the map.

"Well, we start at Givat Ram Stadium, pass the Knesset and the Supreme Court, round Kiryat Moshe..."

Her opinion, essentially, was that I was fucked. And I hadn't even reached the 5k point yet.

In the event, the run was a bastard. A five star, all expenses paid bastard. Jerusalem is extremely hilly (why I didn't know this, only G-d alone knows), and the creeps who designed the course clearly went out of their way to incorporate every possible hill in the course. I hated most of it.

Some bits were beautiful. The view from the Jerusalem Forest was breathtaking, and the Alexander Calder mobile beneath Yad Vashem was engaging enough to distract me from my pain and suffering for a little while.

Just a little while.

Anyway, somehow, I finished. And I felt pretty pleased with myself. Not that I'll be doing it again.

As I've mentioned before, I'm pretty indifferent to the city. I suppose it is a bit engaging 'to walk in the footsteps of biblical history' (copyright every half arsed hack steeped in cliché) for a little while, but after a bit I begin to long for the cosmopolitan squalor and decadence of Tel Aviv.

Many Jerusalemites that I know have left the city, reluctantly, over the last few years. The combination of the dominance of Ultra-Orthodox intolerance, general political unpleasantness and the sky-rocketing costs of real estate - caused, allegedly, by wealthy foreigners who buy up the stock at outrageous prices and don't even bother to live in the homes for more than three or four weeks in a year - have sent them elsewhere. Apparently, when University is not in session, parts of the city are, literally, deserted at night.

Work is going to take me there quite a bit in May, I think. maybe I'll explore more then.

In the meantime, I'll just soak my aching feet in hot water and enjoy the evening.

Night, all.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Ad Lo Yada

It's Purim this weekend.

As far as I can tell, the primary significance of the holiday here is an excuse to dress up - children as well as adults - and have a merry ol' time whilst eating the deliciously addictive Oznei Haman (Sorry, no Hebrew script today).

There are other highlights of the holiday, of course, such as:

Adults confiscating the nice chocolates that their children have received from their playmates, and scoffing them all themselves after said child has cried himself to sleep. (I write from experience, and a raging toothache).

Teenage girls wearing miniskirts, part of their Purim 'costume' that they would otherwise never be allowed to leave the house in, on grounds of common decency and good taste.

Middle aged men, old enough to know better, ogling aforementioned teenage girls without any modicum of shame or discretion. (This writer, obviously, not included. But I spotted at least two...

The traditional Purim parade - Ad Lo Yada (again, sorry for the absence of Hebrew script - the better half is out, and I can't figure it out for myself, being the technological incompetent that I am).

Hypertensive parents trying to devise ever more imaginative and outlandish costumes for their children in conjunction with said parade above - we, being the slack things that we are, wrapped a bedsheet around the small noisy one, pulled a branch from a tree and stuck it in his hands and called him a wizard. He did have his revenge though, beating me about the head with the branch all afternoon.

Orthodox Jews engaging in a good old fashioned piss-up (every year, there are stories in the press of tired and emotional Yeshiva boys rolling in the gutters of Jerusalem, pissed as newts. Personally, I am not sure why they need an excuse for having one or two or a dozen, but there you go. To each his own, etc...)

PErsonally, I like Jewish holidays. Always an excuse to eat and drink too much. That said, I've never been able to get my head around the sheer multitude of them. Channukah, Purim, Lag B'Omer, Pesach, Rosh Ha Shana, Shavuot, Succot, Tu B'Shvat...and it goes on and on and on.

The Jewish writer Shalom Auslander has one explanation:

'When I was a child, my parents and teachers told me about a man who was very strong. They told me that it was important to keep this man happy. When we didn’t obey what He had commanded the man didn’t like us at all. He hated us. Some days He hated us so much that he killed us; other days he let other people kill us. We call these days “holidays”.'

He's a very funny man, if one who skates a little too often on thin ice - check out his website here.

Ok, I've got a bit of work to do, and I need to prepare for something very foolish that I am going to do at the end of the week. More on that later.


Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Only in Israel...

I stopped smoking a a couple of years ago - not because I particularly wanted to, but it seemed the sensible thing for me to do at the time, and because the (much) better half had kicked a decade and a half habit and it really wasn't going to do to continue smoking around her...

Even so, I have a sneaky admiration for those hardy souls who have ignored public approbation and still light up - so long as they don't start suing tobacco companies later on. There is such a thing as free choice, after all...

Tel Aviv is becoming more militantly anti-smoking nowadays, which is fair enough, I guess - no point in being subjected to another persons smoke unless you actually indicate that you don't mind. That said, the no smoke evangelists have started to get on my nerves a little, doing everything but tarring and feathering recalcitrant smokers. The phrase 'get a life' comes to mind, for some reason, along with 'common courtesy' - as in, if you ask someone politely to put out his or her fag, most times they comply. There's no need to make a song and dance about it.

Then I came across this

If you don't like Joe Jackson, scroll down to the penultimate paragraph.

Mind you, I can easily believe it. I went for a run yesterday morning. As usual, there were a few early birds out on their power walks.

And a young woman, swinging her arms and pumping her legs and grimacing with the strain...with a fag in her mouth and another behind one ear.

You've got to admire her intransigence.

See ya!

oh, if you happen to have spare (free) tickets for Mr Jackson at the Zappa, or would like to pay me to write a review, you know my address ;-) hahahahaha

Sunday, 2 March 2008

A Year Today...

...not that anyone's counting.

Generally, I don't do politics here, for all sorts of reasons. For one thing, I can't vote - or rather, I can only vote in municipal elections. For another, comment is cheap (or free, as my friends at the Guardian remind me); I think there are enough armchair pundits around in the blogosphere as it is without me adding my blast of hot air. And finally, if I felt strongly enough about something, I would be best advised to actually try and do something about it, rather than ramble about it here.

That said, it's impossible to ignore what's going on in the south at the moment. So, cheerfully ignoring everything above, a couple of thoughts.

1 - Deputy Defense Minister Vilna'i cannot be so naive as to dare suggest that he chose his words badly, or that he was misquoted, or any of the other usual politician get-out clauses, following his radio interview on Friday. Under the circumstances, he can hardly blame the international media for pouncing upon his words. Sometimes, I think de Gaulle was right - Politics are too important to be left to the politicians.

2 - If martyrdom is such a desirable goal, why on earth doesn't Khaled Mashal, for example sacrifice himself? I am not being facetious - it's odd that it's always the ordinary Joes who are sent to blow themselves up or, as is allegedly the case at the moment, compelled to lend their backyards to mobile Qassam rocket units, inviting the inevitable, cataclysmic retaliation from the boys in blue. There isn't any other way to look at it - the man on the street, as far as Hamas is concerned, is just a pawn. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the last 60 years, the perpetual losers are the ordinary men and women on the street.

3 - Going one step further, it really irks me to see talkbackers cheerfully volunteering the services of the Joe Bloggs from Qalqilya in furtherance of the armed resistance. I have no views on the activities of Hamas, Al Aqsa Brigade and so on - none that I am going to share here anyway - but I get very uncomfortable when my left wing friends cheer on the struggle from the safety of their comfortable homes, many miles away from the dangers and privations of, say, Beit Hanoun. I would call this incitement, and cowardly incitement at that - what do you think?

4 - Mahmoud Abbas has broken off 'peace' talks with the Israelis - not that he had much of a choice. But, given that he had been enthusiatically pursuing Hamas supporters in the West Bank over the last six months, with the aid of US and Israeli militatry and tactical support, he may soon be in danger of eating his own tail soon.

5 - 70 dead in Gaza, at least one half civilian. I don't see how anyone, under any circumstances, can justify this. That said, the UN and the EU are as usual waffling on about the 'disproportionate' response of the IDF. This begs the question: what, given the circumstances, constitutes a 'proportionate' response? And I'm not picking sides here - I'm really curious about the answer. In this case, one would have thought that the UN (or, heaven forbid, the EU) would be in a position to offer some guidance. We may be waiting some time...

Oh, who knows...

NO answers on a postcard, please