Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Valentines Day in Tel Aviv

Like every other holiday in Israel that tries to be commercial and follow in the footsteps of the USA, Tu B'Av is a complete bomb. Tu B'Av, meaning literally the 15th day of the month of Av, is also known as Hag Ha'Ahava (The Love Holiday). It's far calmer than Valentine's Day. Let's put it this way, no one brought chocolate to the office today and not one of my friends asked me where my boyfriend was taking me out to dinner tonight.

So, to show some love for a holiday that should be loved by all, here are a few romantic gestures.

Vintage Greetings Card

This vintage greeting card is both adorable and obscene. Who thought it was a good idea to draw a little boy pumping a large phallus dripping hearts next to a young girl? She looks like she either wants to dive into the pool below or like she's praying to God that she won't got to hell for this.

Beautifully Blossoming Bouquet

This bouquet is simply exquisite. Just looking at the picture makes me all warm inside. No, my boyfriend did NOT get my a bouquet that is this stunning. Should I tell him he is a naughty boy!?

So cute!

I absolutely love these little candies, despite the fact that they taste like chalk. But they just look so adorable in a glass bowl and they are definitely fun to have around when you're drinking.

Doodles of Love

I think my notebooks in 7th grade looked exactly like this!!! Except the pages probably had I *heart* Jared Leto scattered throughout the pink and red hearts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is the Israeli government turning Fascist?!

I thought it was a simple case of "lost in translation" when I heard that an Israeli Arab man was arrested and convicted of rape after having consensual sex with a woman. It turns out, I got the Hebrew 100% right.  The man was arrested for rape after having consensual sex.

The story goes like this.  Sabbar met an Israeli woman in downtown Jerusalem and allegedly told her that he was a "Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship".  Only minutes later they were copulating in a building nearby.  Then Sabbar left.

Somehow the woman "found out" that Sabbar was not Jewish, and when that happened the sh*t hit the fan. She took him to court, claiming rape. (No one asked him if he would be willing to convert.)

Granted, Sabbar is married with two children and did mislead the woman, this somehow wasn't a big issue in the trial.  And according to Sabbar, she was looking for some action.  He said that while he was leaving a supermarket, some woman in her 20s started to chat with him.  "I would say she set upon me," Sabbar Said, "She was interested in my motorcucle and so we talked.  I didn't pretend.  I said my name is Dudu because that's how everbody knows me.  My wife even calls me that."

Oh! So she assumed he was Jewish because of his name?! Anyway, it doesn't sound like she was that picky.  I have a feeling the conversation went something like this:

woman: "Hey hot stuff..  I like your motorcycle.  It's really sexy"
Sabbar: "Uh, You talking to me?
woman: "Yeah, that's right baby.  Vvvrrooom."
Sabbar: "--"
woman: "I'm x"
Sabbar: "I'm Dudu."
woman: " You know, I'm so lonely these days.  I haven't had sex in years."
Sabbar: "mm."
woman: " I mean, I'm just looking for a man right now who might be able to, you know, fill my needs."
Sabbar: "Hmm, is that right?"
woman: "You know it.--You don't, by any chance, happen to be a bachelor looking for a serious relationship?"

And there you have it.

According to an article posted by Haaretz, the decision was based on a precedent from 2008 in which a man was convicted for rape after he impersonated a senior official in the Housing Ministry and he would get them housing in exchange for sex.

I do see the two cases as being completely different.  I mean, this impostor sounds like a freaking rapist who specifically told them misleading information to bargain for quickie.  It's more like prostitution really- I mean the housing was supposed to be some kind of payment, no?

This Sabbar sounds like your average guy who was approached by a chic that just wanted a roll in the hay.  What, does a man have to fill out a questionnaire for a woman every time he wants to sleep with her?  If this woman really cared about Sabbar's background, she wouldn't have had sex with him only minutes after meeting him.

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein was quoted as saying that a man should be convicted of rape any time he "does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman, and as a result of misrepresentation she has sexual relations with him."

He went on to say that one should imagine whether a regular person would expect said woman to sleep with said man if he wasn't what he said he was.  

I'm wondering now what happens to men who tell women that they are good at basket ball, math, science- whatever, and then in the morning, it turns out they suck at it.  Can the women, then accuse him of rape?

What is the world coming to?

Tel Aviv Nightlife Diluted!!!!

This week, the Knesset unanimously passed a bill outlawing the sale of alcohol between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Only restaurants and pubs will not be affected by the new legislation. The bill also includes a clause banning alcohol consumption in public during these hours. Once the law is enforced, police will be allowed to confiscate and pour out the contents of any open container being consumed in a public place.

No more beer after 11pm!

The law is intented to curb incidents of drunken violence which have been breaking out with more frequency in the past several years. More specifically, however, the concern of the Knesset members has been focused on the rising number of young drinkers aged 17 and below. According to statistics, Israel's rate of underage drinking has been going up for the past 20 years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it "an epidemic".

However, according to a ynet article posted this past November, alcohol is not really a problem among adults:

"In Israel the problem isn’t grave in respect to the adult population,. There are no accurate figures about alcohol consumption, but based on various data, the annual per capita consumption is roughly about 2 liters (based on 100% alcohol consumption); the alcoholics’ rate is less the 0.5%, and “only” 2% of car accidents are attributed to driving under the influence."

And so, it is clear to me that the Knesset is going about the problem in the wrong way. Make it a requirement for stores to acquire alcohol licenses and be subject to audits and police supervision. But banning alcohol consumption in public areas, especially in a hot country like Israel where not everyone has air conditioning and drinking outdoors is part of the culture, is like banning fun altogether.
Florentine in Southern Tel Aviv: famous for it's street parties

Let me put it this way: my rights as a citizen are being restricted due to poor budgetary decision-making. If course I believe that it is important to combat street violence and of course I don't condone underage drinking, especially if it is over-drinking. I also am aware of the rising number of car accidents cause by drunk driving in the Jewish State. But these accidents, violent incidents and statistics are correlated with poor education systems in Israeli suburbs, poor governmental support systems for low-income families, and poor public transportation at night.

The new bill will cost the government 27 million shekels which, in my opinion, should not be going towards an alcohol ban, but rather,should be going to education, social reform and public transport.

Why should I have to give up my right to buy a beer at a kiosk after 11:00pm for 7 shekels and be forced to drink at a bar or restaurant and pay 25 shekels? No more Tel Aviv street parties, beach parties or avenue gatherings. No more sauntering down Rothschild boulevard with a beer in hand after 12:00 midnight. And what will happen to our beloved weekly drinking game that we play outside of my friend Kristal's kiosk? Will our beers be confiscated and our weekly event be put to an end? What will happen to Tel Aviv nightlife?
No more beer on the beach after dark

Why should I have to fear policemen at night when I'm a responsible drinker who is only trying to save herself a few shekels buy buying a beer at a kiosk and drinking it outside in the fresh air as opposed to inside where I can't afford air conditioning!?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tel Aviv During Exam Time

The only thing frustrating about the semester schedule in Israel is the fact that vacation seems to come unbelievably late.  Yes, it's great having the high-holidays off in the fall, but the whole Moed Bet thing and paper extensions does make me a bit crazy. I'm a girl who needs clearly defined deadlines and lots of over the shoulder criticism in order to get me going.  This simply doesn't happen here.

What is Moed Bet, you might ask? Moed Bet is the second round of exam dates for anyone who couldn't, wouldn't or didn't make it to the real exam, or who got their grade back from the real exam and didn't like it. Being a spoiled graduate of a small liberal arts institution, I was unaware that anything like this could ever exist. Where I come from there is one date and one date only for exams.  There is no such thing as a make-up exam except for very special and particular cases which typically involve hospitalization, deaths in the family and the likes.

From what I understand, Moed Bet came about due to 1) the previous frequency of student strikes, teacher strikes and university worker strikes which made life difficult for everyone, 2) the army reserves which calls back nearly all young men who have served their three years to train with their squad every year or so, depending on the political situation, and 3) the craziness of life as a student here with most students working part time to pay rent and tuition during the school year. 

Now, I see the benefits of Moed Bet, I certainly do.  Especially since I woke up the day of my Moed Aleph (First exam date) for my Shakespeare course, with a completely stiff neck.  Unable to even get out of bed, I decided to simply lie back and relax as much as possible.  I would just take the text a month later. 

But, the month later has arrived and I realize that all the information that was fresh in my mind, all the opportunities I had to be at school and discuss relevant topics with my teachers, has simply vanished.  I've forgotten I ever took classes during the spring of 2010 - that's how distant the school year seems. 

I am left desperately struggling to find some way to muster the drive, ambition and motivation I need to write two papers and get through this exam.  The exam, at least, requires physical attendance and therefore is essentially unavoidable that I will get through it.  The papers, well, let's just say they are a bit more abstract!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just When I thought Israeli's had totally given up on reading....

Book Week
Yes, I know that the first week in June was "Book Week" (שבוע הספר) but, really, in Israel, all that means is crazy discounts on books in one of their two bookstore chains: Stiematsky and Tzomet Sfarim (Translation: book juction). There were no events in libraries, nothing too special on TV. In short, it was more commercial than anything else. Just because people buy lots of books, it doesn't mean they read them.

Why am I telling you this? Because I was already certain that Israel had completely lost interest in investing in books, libraries and education.

Tel Aviv University Library
I mean, the best library in Tel Aviv is the Tel Aviv University library,which I have to say is pretty crappy. but compared to the other libraries, which, I'd say most people haven't even heard of, it's the best.

If it is the best library in Tel Aviv, what could be so bad about it, you might ask?

First of all, in order to even use the library, you have to be a student with a student card. Secondly, even if you are a student, you aren't allowed in with a bag. Now this shouldn't be all that problematic, considering there are a number of locker-stalls down stairs. However, the locker stalls can only be operated with the insertion of a ten shekel coin. And no one ever seems to have a ten shekel coin on them. Of course, there are no change machines in the library lobby. You either have to buy a snack or beverage with a large bill (neither of which you are allowed to bring INTO the library to eat or drink) or you have to exit the library and find someone nice to change your bills.

When you finally get all of this done with, you have to figure out how to use their ridiculously complicated catalogue which makes it very clear how disorganized their books are. Their numbers make no sense. Books in the 140s are near 900.3. Books that are 800-830 are on one floor, but 830-850 are on another floor. And finally 850-900 are across the hall. You can't seem to be able to find anything.

The worst part about it is that most books are out. Those that aren't out are scattered around the library somewhere other than where they are supposed to be.

Also, the selection isn't THAT amazing. There are many books that you would expect a library to have that thy simply don't have. Plus, there are hardly any children's books. Movies and DVDs are out of the question as are interesting magazines.

And Yet!

Literary Corner in Tel Aviv Slum
Haaretz just posted an article about a group of artists and activists called ARTEAM that have put together an outdoor artinstallation/library in one of the dirtiest parks in Tel Aviv. Levinsky park is right next to the new bus station, so you can just imagine how serene the surroundings are with buses and service taxis rushing by every few seconds. Plus, the area is completely neglected by the municipality. Most of the time, the park is filled with benign migrant workers intermingled with drunkards, homeless, drug addicts, drug dealers and your neighborhood pimps.

According to Haaretz, the team catered to the multicultural community, looking for books in all different languages, including Turkish, Arabic and Nepali.

Are They Serious!?
My question is, do they really think this is going to do ANYTHING? I mean, how long do they think the books will be there before everyone comes and steals them and then goes and sells them in the Yafo flea market? There needs to be infrastructure to programs like this. The whole art-installation library thing is a nice idea and I'm sure it made the ARTEAM volunteers feel good, like they did a good deed and made an effort to raise awareness about an impoverished community, but it is clear to me that this will not last.

What do you think? Comments?

The Slums of Tel Aviv

Not everyone knows about them, but there are definitely slums in Tel Aviv. That's not to say that the entire city doesn't look a bit slummy sometimes, but there are certain areas that are significantly slummier than others. I've lived in nearly all of them. I've decided to categorize the top five slums in Tel Aviv according to the following criteria:

1) Ability to walk down street without men whistling at me
2) Ability to walk down street without cars stopping, mistaking me for a whore
3) Ability to walk down street without tripping over a drunk homeless person
4) Number of languages spoken in neighborhood that aren't Hebrew
5) Smelliness of trash +food
6) Number of shouting matches that occur during the course of 24 hours
7) Number of violent fights that break out on the street
8) Number of cats
9) Number of old ladies who feed the cats
10) Total number of friends who will not give me a ride home because they are scared of driving through the neighborhood.

After doing some rough calculations.....drum roll please.... I present you with:

Tel Aviv's Top Ten Slums!!!!
10)Neve Gan: Ok, to be quite honest with you, I really don't know anything about this area. But this guy that I work with keeps telling me how run down it is, so I'm just going to have to believe him.
9)Neve Sharet: Um, yea. Ditto.
8) Givat Hertzel: too industrial to be a slum, really, but it sits right in between three big slums- so let's just say it's a slum crossing.
7) Florentine: it's dirty and there's shit and drug addicts everywhere, but somehow it's also chic!
6) Shapira: Lots of drunk old men with no teeth, and plenty of fat, old prostitutes.
5) Neve Sha'an: The red light district of tel aviv, with some multicultural flair. The whole area smells like a mix of curry and b.o.
4) Hatikvah: high crime rate, poor families, plenty of police patrol and way way too many stray animals.
3) Yafo Alef: Just moving into Yafo. Fewer old ladies feeding cats. More old men smoking cigarettes and being nasty.
2)Schunay Chisachon: Industrial.
1)Ajami: I mean, they made a freakin movie about it. And that movie scared the crap out of me.