I write this post from the apartment we are subletting in Tel Aviv. Last Wednesday, Alon and I traveled from New York to Istanbul to meet Neil, who had already been there more than a week conducting fieldwork. Alon handled the flight like a pro. Following a minor [tiredness-induced] meltdown before takeoff [probably due to the fact that we were stuck in the airplane for nearly 2 hours before taking off], he slept through much of the flight and voiced no complaints about the very uncomfortable-looking bassinet provided for him. In fact, Alon slept more than I did – despite the fact that we were in premium economy, with larger seats, more recline and footrests, I couldn’t really get comfortable. Oh well.
I was going to give you a culture post, to follow up on all of Neil’s, but instead I thought I would show you my favorite neighborhood graffiti. Meet the Jew Tang family:
These guys are all over the place around here – who knew that the Hassids (ultra-Orthdox Jews) were such big rap stars??!? Every time I walk down the street, I run into at least one of these guys painted on to a wall or door. It’s hilarious, even more so because of the total culture clash implicit in the painting/caption combination.
More to follow in a day or two – I have a whole post about Israeli culture swimming around in my head, but I need a bit more energy to write it up.
there are many people i have been thinking about since arriving here nearly 2 weeks ago. most are back in the USA (or in Mongolia!). but there are people whose presence is missed here in tel aviv, as well. people who have always been part of my israel life, it seems. two in particular i want to introduce you to:
first – my savta (grandmother), who came to israel/tel aviv in the 1930s and lived here until she passed away at 2007. savta sonia, as we always called her, was an incredible woman who spoke several languages and lived by herself until the age of 95. she had a sharp tongue (like others in her family…) and quick wit.
i have memories of savta’s apartment going as far back as i remember, and of her standing on her balcony waiting for us to arrive or waving good-bye to see us off. when i was younger, we would all stay with her on our visits to israel. later, her apartment became a place i visited, either with family, or weekly, on my own, when i was a student and soldier here.
it’s been three years since i last spoke with savta and almost two more since the last time i saw her. but she is a part of my life here that’s not – and won’t be – forgotten. i think about her nearly every day.
The other missing link in my life here, so to speak, is a wonderful, very special woman named Ziva. Ziva was my mother’s best friend from age 6 and a central part of our family. Although she never married, she had a huge ‘family’ of friends, in Israel and abroad, and somehow she managed to make each one feel like he or she was the only person who mattered.
It’s hard for me to describe Ziva because she was such a unique and special presence in my life – in all of our lives. A friend of mine here, who met her, told me that he ran into her not too long ago, didn’t remember how he knew her, and based on her aura was sure she was a celebrity. Neil likened her to a shooting star.
Ziva’s apartment was where I stayed last summer every time I came from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and I saw her nearly every week. Last summer and in previous visits, she was someone to whom I turned for advice, for a laugh, and just for a listening ear.
She passed away this spring, relatively suddenly. It still doesn’t seem real to me – I keep expecting my phone to ring and for her voice to be on the other end, asking about my research or inviting me to dinner. Not a day goes by without me thinking about her, or seeing or hearing something that reminds me of her smile.
Here she is with me, on a visit to the USA for our wedding:
Tel Aviv is not the same without these two women. Every once in a while, though, I can feel their presence here with me. It’s not the same, but it’s comforting.
here’s a scene for you: i’m sitting in my apartment, windows open, with the radio on and the computer open on our new kitchen table (thanks mishpachat ben-bassat for the loan!).
a breeze is blowing, the sun is shining, and a car has been honking for 15 minutes straight. yes, you read that right. the street i live on is a small, one-way street, not very wide, and always full of cars – many of which tend to park like this. there are also a few furniture workshops on the street, not to mention any number of garbage cans waiting to be emptied by the trucks that come around every few days (including on saturday. i didn’t know anything happened here on saturday…).
so, cars get stuck. and people here are impatient. having to wait + israeli impatience = lots of honking.
luckily it finally stopped. i peeked out the window and it looked like a truck got stuck – but it managed to get out…at which point the honking stopped and clapping, from various apartments and people on the street, began.
just another day in the neighborhood…