Tag Archives: Rothschild Tent Protest

On yer bike: The myth of the caring Israeli society?

I have not made the most auspicious of starts to the New Year.

Perhaps I am in some way to blame, having taken my bike out on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah . . . though I don’t really believe that He would have sent those brothers – one aged 14, the other around 10 – to crash their large korkinet (electric scooter) into me, head-on, on the bicycle path near the Mandarin Hotel on the Tel Aviv/Herzliya border.

The boys were riding the korkinet (resembling the one pictured, though with larger, fatter tires) together – little brother standing in front of big one, both without helmets – on the wrong half of the path (their left), heading north; while I was on the right (in both senses) side, cycling in the opposite direction. My front wheel (photographed below) totally buckled under the impact with theirs.

Following a knee-jerk “Atem meshuga’im?!” (Are you crazy?!), I surprised even myself with the speed of my composure-recovery time: “You are just kids,” I comforted the boys, who, while unhurt, were in visible shock from the instantaneous haematoma protruding like a golf ball from my right shin.

A long walk back to Jaffa – or, indeed, to anywhere – was clearly not an option. “Just call your father, and ask him to drop me home . . . oh yes, and tell him to bring some ice!” I was thoroughly enjoying my new found civility.

“I’ll take you part of the way,” said the boys’ father, Amir, on arrival on the scene – my bike still sprawled across the path – some seven or eight minutes later, “we’ve got guests coming in an hour.”

As it was, the 40-something couldn’t fit my bike into the boot of his snazzy BMW – just when I could have done with a 4×4! – and refused to risk scratching the cream leather seats in its rear; and he eventually drove us, boot open, the few hundred metres to his plush apartment complex (the boys returning on their unscathed korkinet), where he instructed the concierge to phone for a cab.

The aftermath

As we sat and awaited the taxi’s arrival, and still revelling in my bonhomie, I reassured Amir – who seemed like a decent enough chap – that I wouldn’t make a big deal of the incident, or of my injury, but “If [he] could just replace the wheel” (I own an expensive-ish bike, and feared that a new rim could set me back 500 shekels plus).

“We’ll settle it next week,” Amir reassured me. And, after debating the chag (holiday) fare with the cabby, he handed over the reduced one – of 100 shekels – for me to be driven home. Saving my number – he preferred this to giving me his – on his phone as I got in, Amir’s parting words were: “I assure you, I will make sure this never happens again.” I repeated to him that I had done far worse as a boy, and that he shouldn’t be too harsh on either of his.

Googling his full name – which he had provided, when asked, in the course of our conversation – I discovered Amir, who had said he was “in property,” to be a senior executive and shareholder at a leading Israeli investment house.

All that was on the Thursday afternoon. I didn’t go straight to A&E because, with my mother expecting me for Yom Tov dinner, I feared that it would be seriously understaffed. I had also once suffered a similar-looking injury playing football. So, I satisfied myself with a phone call to a doctor-colleague, who informed me that there was nothing that could be done anyway, and that I should just keep the haematoma well iced (the shin is still bruised and sore, some three weeks later, and I have been sent for an X-ray and ultrasound).

I was still somewhat surprised, disappointed even, that it took Amir until the Sunday morning – three days after the incident – to call and check on the injury caused by his children, though also by his lack of adequate supervision of them (I knew that, if the boot had been on the other foot, I would have called that very evening). I was in a meeting with my boss at the time, and whispered to Amir that I would call him back, which I did every day until the Wednesday, when the clearly overworked executive finally found the time to call again. He enquired about the state of my leg, but was extremely careful to offer no apology, just assuring me that he would no longer allow the boys to ride on the korkinet together.

Seeing as the phone call was clearly going nowhere, I decided to bring up the subject of the wheel. “I walked up and down Hashmonaim [Tel Aviv’s bicycle shop street] for an hour on Monday [not wishing to cause Amir too much expense, I had] and found the cheapest possible replacement, the odd wheel from a set. It cost 250 shekels [just under £45]. Where should I send the receipt?”

There followed a long, awkwardish silence . . . and then, “We should each pay half.”

Even amongst the rich tapestry of Israeli chutzpah, with which I have become all too familiar, I thought I was hearing things.

“Atah loh mitbayesh?!” (Aren’t you ashamed?!)

“You have to take your share of responsibility, too, for what happened.”

Naturally, if I had known that two boys were riding a motorized vehicle towards me in the wrong lane, and with little control, I would have got off the bicycle path altogether. But to equate our relative culpability was outrageous. Either Amir’s sons had fed him a load of porkies, or – more likely, to my mind – knowing that there were no witnesses, he just knew that he could get away with it. And I could only imagine the shtook Amir would have seen to it that I would have been in had the roles been reversed, with me being the one on the korkinet.

I told Amir to keep his 250 shekels, but that I would now be going to the police. And following a thinly-veiled threat – that “I shouldn’t misinterpret [his] [wait for it . . . ] softness”!  – I terminated the call.

Always one to feel guilty, however (even when I am far from), I still wished to resolve the matter civilly, and I sent Amir a text message, that evening, suggesting that he, instead, sponsor my upcoming charity bike ride (for which I had informed him that I was in training). Numerous folk, on hearing the sorry tale, have opined that Israelis, however wrong they might be in any given situation, never want to be – or, perhaps more to the point, to be seen to be – the freier. So I had given Amir a way out. Needless to say, he hasn’t taken it.

Perhaps I am too sensitive (and naive?) a soul, but the whole incident, to my surprise, has filled me with real sadness, saying so much, for me, about the current state of Israeli society and all too many of its citizens.

Of course it is “not everybody,” but what I can say with some degree of confidence is that the bollocks that we are often fed – that Israelis may be rude and arrogant, but that, when push comes to shove (how appropriate the idiom!), they will be there for you – is now at least, in the main, exactly that (i.e., bollocks): Whether in business, professional relationships, ‘queues,’ on the roads, in restaurants, shops or hotels, or with their children or dogs, my sad experience and conclusion – and that of most people (natives included) to whom I have related the unfortunate tale (some even expressed their surprise that I had expected anything more) – is that too many Israelis these days just couldn’t give a flying felafel about anybody or anything but themselves and theirs. It was once, I am told, very different.

Several days following the incident, I happened to be walking up my former happy hunting ground, Rothschild, as the individuals dressed up here as police officers were evicting the last tent dwellers from the Boulevard. And, after months of not taking the protest too seriously (see here), I now kind of recognized the attitude that has driven so many other Israelis – perhaps the ‘weaker,’ less ambitious and/or aggressive of the species – to despair.

My guess (and it is just a guess) is that Amir was an above-average soldier, who served in an IDF combat unit, perhaps even reaching the rank of officer. And as with a former friend – who, on the basis of such a CV (and all the while considering himself a noble human being), believes that it is just fine for him to screw other men’s wives – this (like the big-paying job he landed on military record, rather than intellectual/academic ability) gives Amir the arrogance to believe that he can do whatever he wishes in civil life, shitting on any poor bugger unfortunate enough to cross his path. (And, if this was how Amir saw fit to act in this situation, one can only imagine what he must be doing with client money!)

Naming and shaming  Amir – surname, position, company – has, of course, been hugely tempting. But this post is not the tool of my revenge. Perhaps, however, Amir will read it – I will forward him the link – and at least attempt to comprehend why I felt compelled to write it.

Perhaps, too, he will try to bring up those nice – and they were – boys into adults that this country can be proud of . . . rather than individuals, like their father, seemingly without moral compass.

Chag sameyach!

[http://www.justgiving.com/mike-isaacson/ . . . only 88 quid to go!]

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Better a manyak than a sheep: some historical perspective re the “situation”

Can things possibly get any worse?

Viciously turned on by our only true friend in the region. The Palestinians on the verge of the unilateral declaration of statehood. Our own country divided and seemingly rudderless. And all of this under the spectre of the growing nuclear threat from Iran, with – perhaps most gallingly of all – not a word from the Israel-only bashers about the continuing human rights violations there, in Syria, and across the Arab and Muslim world . . .

Which might go some way to explaining why, as thousands streamed up Tel Aviv’s Ben Zion Boulevard towards the social justice rally, a fortnight ago, I – not untypically (I have always been a little davka) – walked alone in the opposite direction, to (the Dizengoff Centre and) the latest Woody Allen movie. After all, only an idiot, it seemed to me, would care about the rising cost of cottage cheese when we are in such an existential mess. (Joining the protest also seemed rather incongruous at a time that I was patting myself furiously on the back – you see, there are other things I do furiously! – for selling my Melchett home of 12 years, two blocks from Rothschild, just days before the tents went up.)

Then, Friday week ago, our Ambassador was forced to flee the new benevolent democracy next door (confirming my fears, expressed here just a week earlier), followed – on the Sunday, the tenth anniversary of 9/11 – by a Sky News studio guest summing up the decade since with “And there still isn’t a Palestinian state”: It was the Jews, of course, not Islamofascist knuckle draggers, who were really responsible for the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people on that horrible day.

Rather than allow the matzav (situation) to get me down, however, I have tried to view it as I always have: in the light of a history that has never been much better than miserable (though, to quote Alvy Singer, “life is divided up into the horrible and the miserable . . . so, when you go through life, you should be thankful that you’re miserable”).

By way of illustration (with the aid of a quick Google search), the following occurred on September 11, 1941, 70 years to the day before last Sunday:

  • The Jüdischer  Kulturbund (Cultural Federation of German Jews) was dissolved “for the protection of people and state.” (source)
  • All 91 Jewish patients at the Babinski Hospital in Kobierzyn (near Krakow) were moved to the Zofiowka Sanatorium in Otwock (near Warsaw), where some were shot and buried in the garden, with the remainder gassed in Treblinka. (source)
  • The following report (presented at the Eichmann trial) was written: “In Kamenets-Podolski [Ukraine], 23,400 Jews were killed by shooting within three days by the Group of the Senior Commander of the SS and the Police.” (source)

Complacent (primarily Diaspora, I believe) Jews who say that such things can never happen again have either never picked up a Jewish history book, or are too egotistical to see themselves as a mere dot in them. The calls from the radio of the Mavi Marmara, I would remind them, were “Go back to Auschwitz” and “Don’t forget 9/11.” They (and you fool yourself if you interpret the word narrowly) just don’t like us. That is the only feasible explanation for the obsession of the Israel-only bashers with Jews to the exclusion of all else.

70 years on from Auschwitz, however, we Jews are believed to be in possession of up to 400 nuclear weapons (source). And, kid yourselves not, the only reason that our Allah-loving enemies don’t attempt to finish off the Germans’ work is not any code of ethics, but the belief that the Jews really may have “second-strike” nuclear submarines.

As Ehud Barak spelt out last week, we Jews just can’t be f*cked with anymore: “They know very well why it’s not worth it for them to use chemical weapons . . . why it doesn’t pay for them to even think of using such weaponry against Israel.” (Haaretz)

Having moved to within three minutes’ walk of Bloomfield Stadium, home to all three Tel Aviv football clubs, I recently purchased a season ticket for Maccabi (who play in yellow; no self-respecting Leeds fan would dare be seen in red). And, at my first game, the guy seated behind me gave a crass course in Hebrew abuse: “Shofet, ya manyak ben zona (Referee, you crazy son of a whore)!” he yelled repeatedly, seemingly oblivious to the young son by his side.

At Israel’s subsequent Euro 2012 qualifier against Greece (also at Bloomfield), there were regular cries of “Milchama (war)!” And while I could understand why my friend, Nick, found them objectionable, I also thought: “How incredible that we Jews, not long ago history’s perennial victims, can finally shout stuff like that!”

If the Arabs are as stupid as some fear, or Ahmadinejad as reckless, there might still be another slaughter (heaven forbid). There will, however, this time, be no sheep. And we will take great numbers of the pathologically Jew-hating bastards down with us.

And that makes me, for one, through all of this bad news, feel a lot, lot better: Yes, it is great, for once, to be the manyak ben zona!

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Just scum, innit

“What is going on in England, Mike?!”

Recent unrest in the Mother Country has given Israeli friends and colleagues the opportunity – in which they have revelled – to make the point that the English are not that much more civilised than the “monkeys” whom I so consistently (if jokingly . . . well, semi) disparage.

In general, too, Israelis love to make mileage out of the seeming tears in the fabric of ostensibly ‘normal’ countries. And who can blame them? Opportunities to feel good – or, at least, better – about their own country, and to convince themselves that the matzav (defence/security situation) is not that bad after all, are few and far between. And they positively delight when such tears appear in the fabric of the former Mandatory power.

And I have made no excuses for my former compatriots, explaining to any Israeli who has asked that the pond life involved in the recent disturbances is like nothing and no one that they – or even many Englishmen – have ever experienced (or should wish to): take your biggest chach-chach (the nearest local equivalent to a chav), arse or frecha (see here), or even Betar Jerusalem fan (generally held up as the very worst sort of “ape”), and he or she will not even come close to the scum which looted and set fire to the streets of England a fortnight ago. The most serious crimes in over a month of so-called “protest” in Israel, on the other hand, have been nothing more than possession of offensive back hair, and of an imitation nose.

I spent most of my solicitor’s training, in North London Legal Aid practices, attending on blue-collar criminals in Crown Courts and prisons. And they were easily the most eye-opening years of my (admittedly previously sheltered) existence: from shoplifters to murderers, wife-beaters to Yardies, I had to deal with them all.

On one, regrettably unforgettable, occasion, a suspected paedophile saw fit to place a photograph of his member – and not of Parliament – on the table in front of me.

“What is this?!” I asked, furiously rotating the image in the hope that it might quickly resemble something else.

“My penis,” responded the nonce, with all the nonchalance of someone who had just shown a snap from a family holiday.

The recent riots, however, had nothing to do with pervs, psychopaths, or even hardened criminals, but with an underclass that you never want to encounter. And I am not convinced that historian David Starkey is the racist that the knee-jerks have branded him: in stating his view that England’s “whites have become black,” he was merely giving less humourous and subtle expression to the reality expressed by Ali G (view the pair ‘together’ here). That white English youths have taken on aspects of black “gangster culture” is surely beyond question.

To blame England’s black community, however, for the scum of the white one – and I am not sure that this was Starkey’s intention – is as ridiculous as charging England’s indigenous whites for instilling a pernicious consumerism in the sons of simple, post-War Caribbean immigrants. And, if anything, the chavs or “white trash” (to use an Americanism) that I came across during my legal training were generally far further beyond redemption than the black youngsters caught up in the criminal justice system, many of whose families appeared to possess a far stronger sense of tradition, and of right and wrong, than the entirely rootless white ones.

Looters in Birmingham, earlier this month

The recent outrages clearly had nothing to do with race or colour; but, to my mind, with the decline amongst England’s poorest, least educated classes of religion and the nuclear family. Indeed, Puff Daddy is about as close to anything paternal as many of the rioters and looters will ever have come. At the same time, I don’t buy the loony liberal – I was sat next to one such at Friday night dinner – argument that these kids are merely non-responsible victims who have no alternative to a life of crime. One could just as easily excuse Betar fans, following all the years of Palestinian terror, for their chants of “mavet le’Aravim” (death to Arabs).

While listening to working class parents eff and blind at their very young children in the Crown and Family Courts of England and Wales was a shocking experience, one exchange more than any other – between a young adult (white) and his barrister, attempting to put some meat in his imminent plea of mitigation (before sentence) – will always remain with me . . .

“What should I tell the judge that you intend to do with your life now?” enquired the Oxbridge-educated counsel.

The defendant looked up at the ceiling, the family brain cell clearly going into overdrive.

“Study, innit.”

“And where should I tell the judge that you are planning to study?”

The young man tilted his head back even further.

“College, innit.”

“And what do you wish to study?” the barrister triumphantly concluded, certain now that his carefully-honed questioning skills were about to reap their reward.

The client, however, merely glared at his advocate as though he were a complete imbecile.

“A course, innit!!”

[Apologies for the delay between posts . . . just moved apartment, innit! If you are enjoying melchett mike, please take a few minutes to donate a fiver or tenner to my Norwood charity bike ride (click here) . . . just 700 quid to go!]

Stop, hey, look what’s going down on Rothschild

“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear . . .”

The closest I have come to tasting revolution since 1967 – the year in which Stephen Stills sang those words, and the one, too, in which I was born – was witnessing Johny Finn stand up in a crowded Holders Hill Road examination hall and (following, it must be said, no little provocation) cut Rabbi Abrahams, aka “Abie,”  (even further) down to size with the now legendary “You chutzpadik little man.”

That uprising, however, ended there. And, following the exchanged glances of horror (and of respect for our classmate), our heads immediately returned to the University of London exam papers from whence they had risen. Moreover, Armitage Road’s answer to Che Guevara is now a successful (and, what is more unusual in that line of work, well-liked) Jerusalem property developer.

Following some encouraging early signs of rebelliousness, the only type of revolting ever associated with me had nothing whatever to do with changing society for the better (or, indeed, at all). And, at our Shderot Rothschild architect’s office, yesterday afternoon, my partners and I – entirely oblivious to the tent-ridden Boulevard outside – were, somewhat obscenely in the circumstances, arguing the toss about whether we should invest an extra 15% for Schüco (German) windows with a spec befitting a gas chamber (as you can perhaps tell, I was against).

Observing the day-by-day growth of the Rothschild tent protest, however, has left me in no doubt that we are witnessing something truly historic and society-changing here. Something is clearly rotten in the state of Israel: twenty-odd families, effectively, control its economy (Bloomberg article), while insane property prices and high food costs – ludicrously, much Israeli produce costs far more here than abroad – cause significant hardship for most Israelis, whose low salaries are completely out of sync with the cost of living. But it is not in the interests of the vested interests – said families, the Israel Lands Administration, property developers, and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats – to make life more affordable for the ordinary Israeli.

Rothschild Boulevard, yesterday evening

It would, of course, be entirely hypocritical of me to overdo the empathy bit with the tent-dwellers. And, of course, no one likes a protesting student: what exactly have they got to “protest” about? Doing f*ck all for four years?! The movement has also been hijacked, to some extent, by agitators, crusties and downright lazies, many of whom appear to believe that the world owes them a living. I observed one such yesterday – who looked like he regretted ever leaving Goa – appropriate water from a fire hydrant to fill (and to the brim) a large plastic swimming pool. For all of these reasons (and because I am just like that), I have turned a blind eye to Stuey raising his hind leg – walk after walk, and day after day – against tent after tent (see July’s Mensch of the Month). It is, after all, his Boulevard, too.

Nonetheless, it has been quite something witnessing this public awakening and mobilization – and the intensity of debate being conducted – on Rothschild, until only recently the bastion of Tel Aviv superficiality, vacuity and bullshit. And, if you haven’t seen it for yourself, it is well worth a visit.

Tomorrow morning, I will once again walk Stuey and Dexxy down Rothschild . . . and will once again confront the harrowing sight of early-20-something Israeli females emerging in their skimpy pyjamas – in this humidity, merely shorts and a vest – into the virgin sunlight from the night’s makeshift erections (their tents, I mean!) And it is not an easy sight to behold, I can tell you.

Though there is nothing to be gained, either, from looking the other way or burying one’s head in the sand . . . so, may the struggle continue!

Photos from Rothschild, the following morning: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150745740155160.720923.611810159

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