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Roger L. Simon

Blogging from Tel Aviv — The Pursuit of the Normal

June 1st, 2013 - 8:28 pm

In case you didn’t know it, Tel Aviv can get hot. I was sitting in the courtyard of this place called Sonya’s, having lunch with the Rubin family, when the sun moved around to my side of the table and in a few minutes I felt as if I were Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia in those scenes where he was limping across the desert like a scorched rat. And I’m from L.A., where once in a while — during Santa Ana winds — it can get a bit warm.

So I have learned in a few days here not to be a mad dog or an Englishman and go out in the noonday sun. Many of the locals clearly follow suit, making this a terrific night city, which is fine by me because I don’t know what time it is anyway. I am up at 4:30 a.m. jogging on the beach front. It’s an interesting experience because you get to see the action at various hours.

One commenter on my previous post noted that I should look for a surprising comity between Jews and Arabs. That was evident last night when we walked over to Jaffa, the old largely Arab port, for dinner and saw both groups mingling casually. The Arab women had some pretty exotic and trendy head scarves, but they’re living in the city recently branded number one in the world for “gay travelers.” You get some pretty amusing culture clashes, even some sense of live and let live. (I hope I’m not projecting on that. Perhaps some Israelis reading this will chime in.)

What strikes me most of all is the pursuit of normalcy here. Syria may be disintegrating, Hezbollah may be out for Jewish, Sunni, or whatever blood, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood may be on the loose from Mali to Egypt, even Turkey now has demonstrations, but the people of Tel Aviv want a normal life. Who wouldn’t?

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All Comments   (31)
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I was in Israel in 1984 and absolutely loved it. While I always carried a gun in the states for business reasons, I was surprised when I landed at the airport on my flight from Egypt and the driver I had arranged failed to show up. The guy at the counter said he had a safe cab for me to take, I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but it meant that the driver wouldn't kill or kidnap me. We went to the cab and he pulled an automatic from the trunk and put it between the seats, it was late at night and he never drove next to or stopped next to another car the whole way into Tel Aviv. After that, everyone I ran into was very interested and cautious about my personal security. There were always heavily armed hitchhiking soldiers on the tour buses. I went into an electronics store in Eilat and there were a bunch of tech nerds working there and every one of them had a pistol holstered in the back of their pants. I loved it. In spite of the fact that even back then the Israeli's lived with danger lurking, they were wonderful, fun loving people and the country is beautiful. I wish I could afford to go back and stay there. Your stories are great, as always.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Roger: although Tel Aviv sounds like your kind of city, I heartily recommend that you spend some time in Jerusalem. (Tip: it can get hot in Jerusalem too, but it cools down at night. Tel Aviv is sea level; Jerusalem is not.)
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I envy you your journey - Israel is a magical place to visit. I, too, eschewed the shabbat elevator when I was there. I do it at the Jewish General Hospital here at home too. I think those little sins are forgiven, though - and if not, see ya in the afterlife!

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Does anyone else get the feeling that Roger is moving slowly but inexorably toward some compromise or accommodation with the ancient faith that is his legacy?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
A Holy Land Psalm when King David sit on his Throne in Jerusalem I believe

Psalm 139

The Message (MSG)
A David Psalm

139 1-6 God, investigate my life;
get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!

7-12 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

17-22 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
all the men and women who belittle you, God,
infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, God,
see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Your enemies are my enemies!

23-24 Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm pretty certain that the creator of the universe, couldn't care less which days of the week you press a button. Especially since a day and a week are entirely arbitrary measurements of the rotation and orbit of the Earth in relation to the sun in a 365 1/4 day orbit.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder whether personal or cultural, is still a disorder.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you read Genesis carefully, the idea is that you're supposed to rest (and re-create) on the Sabbath. Those who go overboard with the "no work" prohibitions are rather missing the point. I rather imagine God kicking back on the seventh-day with a large brew and playing darts with the asteroid belt and Jupiter (what else is the Great Red Spot for?).
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I am on the 21st floor of our hotel and will not use the sabbath elevator that stops on every floor so you don’t have to disobey the injunction against work and push a button."

Commonalities Judaism & Islam, the niggling little rules might drive you crazy. (ASIF pushing an elevator button was work)

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah - I don't "get" that either. I recently saw an article on little "tricks" Jewish women use to apply make up (i.e. prmanate marker for eyeliner) to they don't have to put make up on the Sabbath.

To me, bathing and getting dressed isn't work. Neither is driving a car. However, I can see how cooking, housework and laundery could be considered work.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Did you notice that at Rabin square, where the locations are marked with the names of Rabin and his bodyguards with brass circles and a map on the wall that his killer is marked without a name. It says only "Rotzeach". - murderer.

That summs up the difference in attitude between Israelis and Palestinians. On the other side such killers are celebrated and streets and stadiums are named after them.

Please ask your editors to stop calling Israel the 51st state. That is something Israel haters use as a slur. Tel Aviv is wonderful. I hope that as you get to more areas of Israel you will find much more. You have only seen a small piece of what there is.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
spindok, this is my fourth trip to ISrael, so I've seen a fair amount of it. More to come. Of the 51st state, as I said earlier, was being used ironically.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
It´s funny that 51st state is used as a slur. Given the disproportionately large contribution of Jewish Americans to American greatness, we could do a lot worse than to have Israel as part of the US.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
We wouldn't mind it - but God probably would.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's really hot here right now. I usually walk up from the junction to the moshav without a problem. Today I had to stop in the shade.

Tel Aviv in the summer can be a sauna. Humidity is going to be 15-20% higher than LA. The temperatures here right now, plus the TA humidity....it's enough to make a strong man wilt.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is it like in the winter?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have lived on this ridge/mountain for two years, Lolly. I can say that in the winter it is a bit tough - much wind, fog and rain. I have some arthritis, and it gets into my bones. It is not that humid here because it is above the Jordan Valley (the wind drives the water out of the air to an extent), but it is cold enough. It is beautiful up here - one of the most beautiful spots in Israel - but I don't want to do another winter on this ridge.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Reading this here in deepest Central Maryland, I perked up at this wonderfully terse and evocative sentence:

" mzk
BTW, if you ARE carrying weapons, you are asked for your permit. There are few "gun-free zones" here (the airport is an exception), thank heaven..."

This tells me that the common sense required of daily necessity prevails in Israel concerning firearms, and that the shrill alarmists here in America wailing about the evils of "concealed carry" advocating strict gun control to the point of confiscation in the face of the literally millions [probably] of guns in our homes throughout America, ought to be bundled together for a trip to an Israeli shopping mall.

Regarding the good manners of Israeli soldiers, brought to mind just now is my memory [in 1995 immediately after Rabin's murder] of sitting alone at a table in a large mall in Tel Aviv, five or so very heavily armed and very young soldiers sat down at the next table next to me and smiled warmly at me while they leaned their very formidable looking weapons against one of the chairs and looked at their menus.

I will never forget the casual warmth of their smiles contrasted with all of that firepower practically within my own arm's reach. [no pun intended]

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Almost as if it were.... normal. No big deal.


Which, of course, it is.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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