Tuesday, June 9, 2015
|Gay Pride site, Tel Aviv municipality: the events include a parade and a fair|
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Yesterday in a small ceremony the neighborhood Sephardi synagogue initiated a new Tanach scroll (old testament) (see wikipedia Sefer Torah). This event happens only once in a few years. In a small neighborhood synagogue it may happen once every decade or so. Tanach scroll are read as part of the daily and Shabbat (Saturday) ritual prayer. Jews real the Torah in weekly portions covering the first five books in one year. The scroll itself is copied by hand by a trained scribe. This is a tradition of disseminating the books with complete accuracy going back two thousand years (or more). Torah scrolls cost a great deal (in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars). They take months to years to write and apparently there are more prominent scribes than others. Overhearing one of the conversations apparently this Torah scroll was commissioned two years ago (or has been written in the last two years) and is a work of the third most capable scribe in this area. The silver box to the scroll is also a highly prized ritual item with dedicated craftsman showing their skills to the world. The box for this scroll is more ornate than the older scrolls currently used. Some scrolls do not have ornate boxes at all, they are simply covered with a cloth wrap (embroidered felt or silk).
The procession ended at the synagogue and evening prayer took place. Afterwords a big meal to celebrate the event was held. It is customary to hold a meal sponsored by a community member in every big event. Sometimes the congregation women cook and share, in this event a catered meal was served. The commissioning of a Torah scroll is a big event for a community. In Israel today it may seem trivial since the state sponsors synagogue costs and pays Rabbis. But this tradition of a community keeping a religious tradition and having the community resources to do it with style is crucial to the continuation of local synagogues. Like many neighborhoods in the central region of Israel, people here came from different countries. The Sephardi community is made up of families that chose to live in this neighborhood. The communities gathered around a synagogue in Israel do not carry the traditions of hundreds of years in the same village. Sephardis (Sepharadim - plural in Hebrew) came from different countries from as far east as India to the western north African countries with a small minority from Turkey and Greece. They adjusted to the new structure of the state while keeping as much as their communities together as possible. Three generations since they immigrated there are not many communities as a whole that can trace their ancestry to the same village or even region. But their religious practices are similar enough. An Iraqi Jew may have a slightly different melody to a song than a Moroccan but the prayer book and the ritual services are similar enough to feel comfortable.
Judaism is Israel's official religion. Americans feel a little strange, since the US does not have an official state religion. Britons and French do not have a problem at all here. As most countries, Israel is officially Jewish with most of the population secular. Small communities of more religious people gather around a rabbi or a synagogue. They make up less than 10% of the population. For the most part the state covers basic costs of buildings and related costs (prayer books, furniture, etc.) Rabbis serving a congregation receive a salary, which they usually supplement with other work. Like other state sponsored services, there is always someone that wants it better. This community certainly has done "better".Read More...
Saturday, April 25, 2009
This week is a secular events week in Tel Aviv. Last week was the holocaust memorial day and this week is Israel independence day and secular remembrance for the Israeli soldiers day. It feels like the secular days of awe, equivalent to the days between Rosh Ha'shana (Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur (day of atonement). Holocaust memorial in Tel Aviv this year felt quiet. As if everyone said "shhh... let me do this alone" inside their head. The slow economy is helping, there are less people in cafes and window shopping. Tel Aviv is celebrating 100 and there is a sense of how this city is uniquely Israeli. The sense of something built in a way that was not built before but without really throwing everything away. It is a strange concepts to think of Tel Aviv as the first completely Israeli city. Until Israel had confidence in it's own culture it was called the first Jewish city in 2,000 years.
If you ask most Israelis they would tell you how strange and painful holocaust memorial has been. For years the survivors did not want to mention what they went through. Today when they are in their 70's and 80's we actually have more awareness and there is a trend of new stories in the media (a new TV series and many new books). But we also find survivors poor and without the ability to stand for themselves. The state feels guilty about the way people who went through hell are treated (badly). On the opposite end, holocaust memorial ceremonies are being celebrated (ostentatiously? some say). It seems like a sad turn of events to feel this way. There is no way not to be confused about the most violent event in our history. There is no way to care for people who "went to hell and came back to tell about it" and feel in any way satisfied. Many holocaust survivors say that living in Israel and seeing children and grandchildren thrive is the best revenge to Hitler. That may be true for some. If this is the case, Tel Aviv as the first real Israeli city is even a bigger revenge.
But for some reason very few people seem to feel revengeful. Contrary to what you may hear from Arab and European media, Tel Avivians just want to live in peace. They are much more worried about daily issues like real estate prices and job security than revenge against Arabs or Germans. With two generations between World War II and today, this makes sense. On the other hand, the scars from the past do affect our pride and desire to keep our country and city alive. More than that, if revenge means living, we are living like there is no tomorrow. There is passion for life here. Tel Aviv, a thriving city, is a result of this drive to live fully and create something for the next generation. This sense of responsibility for the future is not something people talk about, but the feeling is there.
This mix of a responsibility to the past and responsibility to the future is an interesting situation. I have not seen this in many other new cities. Some places want to be old and stay that way. Jerusalem is a good example. For the most part even building style is still an echo to surviving architecture of 400 years ago. Tel Aviv did not try to mimic Islamic or Turkish or even crusade era architecture. But it also does not try to erase the period architecture from the early days of the city. It is not a modern landscape like you see in Europe and even in the modernized Asian cities. People tend to decide how a place look and Tel Aviv style echoes the feeling of remembering the past and worrying about the future.Read More...
Thursday, July 3, 2008
In July 2008, UNESCO declared the White City (Tel Aviv) a world cultural heritage city. Tonight, July 3rd, 2008 - Tel Aviv will be celebrating the declaration with a city wide event that starts at 7:00PM and continues until dawn tomorrow. This is one night but over 100 separate events of all kinds and for every taste imaginable!
Tel Aviv knows how to throw a party, maybe better than any city out there. Not just for a few, not just for a special occasion, not just for the young! FOR EVERYONE! This is the forth year of the White Night festival in the city that never sleeps. Where bars and pubs close "when the last customer leaves".
Events taking place across the city include beach parties, dance parties in clubs and on open stages, theater, and music performances. Clubs, restaurants, and other sites also have specials for the day - all the way to the wee hours of the 4th of July. Some of the other treats are dance shows, Jazz and modern music, opera, and rock and roll shows.
Our city is going to party, like only Tel Avivians know how. Don't believe that crap on CNN, Israel is neither dangerous nor violent. Stop taking the word of ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, and CBC! You are not going to see any gun toting masked Palestinians or right wing extreamist "settlers" tonight here. Come to see our "White City" for the full night -- that's the W H I T E N I G H T ! !
see yah' in Tel Aviv -- sam-D-man Read More...
Monday, June 23, 2008
Looking good is important in Tel Aviv. This flies straignt in the face of the very confusing image of the rough and schlumpy Israeli woman. The image that Israeli women tried to portray in the 1950's was of pioneering all can do superwoman. Milk the cows in the morning, raise the kids in the day, guard the border at night. But the city reality of Israeli women was a little different. Fashion and beauty supplies came with Europeans very early on. Whatever Israeli women could not afford local companies made here. Jump forward 50 years to 2008 and the Israeli woman, a mix of every imaginable culture is very much interested in fashion and beauty. There are a dozen Israeli beauty supply companies, some with international reputation. Ahava started out as a Dead Sea specialty company, and Jade is well knows here but a bit of a 'hidden secret' outside Israel.
A crema counter with samples and plenty to buy.
Let's face it, Tel Aviv is not considered a fashion center. I would say YET! But if you are a woman, this city is nothing to laugh about. It's true that most Israeli designers have looked elsewhere to develop their careers and their businesses. But women still want to look beautiful and there is plenty of products and services to help them. In the beginning of June Tel Aviv hosted a Beauty City 2008 fair. About 30 makeup, hair, and fashion companies gathered at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds and showed off their "product". It turned out to be a mix between a fashion show and a 50% off sale. Let's face it, these little bottles of beauty don't come cheap. Some of the names in the makeup category: Estee Lauder, Lancome, Hugo Boss, Jade, Revlon, Ahava, L'Oreal, and Dove. In the hair section: Wella, Pantene, Nivea, Shuki Zikri, and Gillette.
The big practical attraction was the 50% discount on almost everything on display. This is a big deal for women who like good products but don't like to pay the high prices. The more expensive products from Estee Lauder, Shisheido, Lancome, and Jeanne Piaubert were discounted a little less, but still 20% to 30% was offered.
Beautiful in design, the Revlon booth.
The fair also offered a fashion show every hour or two. Cloths from Gucci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, and Dolce & Gabbana were on display worn by about 25 young models. Beuty City 2008 showed also how Israel has grown up in the fashion and beauty area. There are still many international brands who consider this market small and in transition. This is simply the phase Israeli women are going through, both economically and culturally. But the women here definitely want to look and be seen as beautiful. So when the late comers look back at 2008 they may regret not making Israeli women beautiful today. But that again is just a speculation on the future. Read More...
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Well, this is an English blog about Tel Aviv, which may lead you to believe that Hebrew does not really matter. Well, it does. Actually, Hebrew matters quite a bit in Tel Aviv and even more in the rest of Israel. But let's get back to the event at hand, the Hebrew Book Fair (actually Hebrew Book Week, or month, depends who you ask). If you wonder into the main squares in the big cities in Israel: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beer Sheva... and even the smaller cities: Ramat Gan, Modiin, Petach Tikva... you will see tons of books. For a country as small as Israel, there are so many books, both written in original Hebrew and translated from just about every language to Hebrew, than you can imagine. Tel Aviv probably has the largest book fair, in Kikar Rabin (city hall plaza at Iben Gvirol). But the Ramat Gan version was also a nice browse. The Hebrew book week is not just fairs in the cities and a sales frenzy, it is also book readings, radio and television programs, school programs, and a bunch of other interesting events. The Hebrew book week was started in Israel in 1926 when a few book publishers decided to put out their latest creations on a Tel Aviv street to encourage Hebrew book sales. Apparently until the 1940's there were not enough Hebrew readers.
Some excitement and some boredom... books for all tastes and types
Zoom forward 82 years and Hebrew readers seem to be doing just fine, no need for stimulation what so ever. On a warm Thursday evening a few hundred children, adults, and a few dogs converged on the book fair in Tel Aviv. There seem to be about 20 to 30 publishers, from small ones with one book (a few poets and self published writers) to the big ones with hundreds of new titles this year. Apparently there was a good representation of the 5,000 new titles published here every year, for me that was hard to judge. Most of the sellers were offering great "deals" from buy 1, 2, 3... and get one free, to simple 20% to 50% off the regular price. For an English reader this would not be an interesting event. I could not find anything interesting and the only English books seem to be the easy reader versions of the classics for school children (teaching aids). But there were lots of books for any reader, from the easy one (mostly for children) to the esoteric biblical studies.
Live Spanish music at the Nescafe booth
There was a nice Nescafe (from Nestle) booth with live music and coffee samples, you could also buy a good cup of coffee for 10 to 20 shekels. Sit at a comfortable chair and listen to music or just read your new book. The area has plenty of restaurants so food was not part of the fair. Due to the overlap with the food fair in the Ha'Yarkon park, this time they choose this location. I guess it is easier to get there, but there is not real parking to speak of in the center of the city in the evenings (parking on most streets is reserved to residents and Tel Aviv tickets and tows cars ruthlessly). But having a nice place to drink a cup of coffee or sit and have dinner before or after the fair is a nice change. So even if you are not a big Hebrew reader, go visit the book fair at Kikar Rabin. Read More...