Monthly Archives: June 2011

Tika And Schmitz

It’s been a slow day of resting my leg and waiting for news from a friend, so you are about to be treated to a very special post — I am going to share the furry friends I have made so far on my visit to Israel.

Tika lives in the house I am staying at now. You wouldn’t know it from the supine poses in these photos but she’s a real dynamo who loves to rip into the wooden furniture or the arm of a visiting cat-person. We bonded quickly over play time and she has taken to hanging out in the living room with me, seldom going very far. She has also tried to claim most things that I own, so it will come as a rude shock when I leave with it all in a few days! She’s fun to talk to as well as play rough with, as she responds very well to her name and has very expressive eyes. I should have picked a photo with her eyes open, but she looked so cute in these shots that I chose them to share.

Tika Lounging on the Love Seat

Two hosts back at Irit’s place i made the acquaintance of another lovely feline person named Schmitz. Quite unlike Tika, Schmitz will not respond to her name at all — but that’s because she is stone deaf! (Good excuse, no?) Also unlike Tika, she is a loud and vocal kitty, who greets and demands with real enthusiasm. She is a massive attention-hog and will let you pet her forever, but she also has to go on regular patrols and spends a good amount of her time begging for food. *grin* She’s a little overweight but not much, which comes down to Irit’s discipline in resisting those plaintive cries and the eventual loud overturning of the food dish. We got on well and she slept out in the living room with me both nights.

Schmitz Knows That This is Her Table

So far I have to say that the cats are one of the best things about couch-surfing. Sadly, my last host’s cat, Maui, died less than a week before I got to his place, while I was on the way to Israel. By accounts she was a sweet cat and very friendly. Hello, Maui, wherever you are!

Rome Comes To Me

I feel like a Roman patrician lounging here on the sofa all day, leaning over the edge of it at just the right angle to reach the keyboard and work. I haven’t showered or dressed, so I’m lying here shirtless and in my shorts, which are ripping up one of the legs so it could almost be a half-toga if you apply some imagination. All I need is a bunch of grapes, and maybe some hot dancing girls, and this could be a scene from some bad movie.

Why am I not bothering to do anything? That’s easy: I am resting my leg so that it will heal a bit faster. I figured that if I gave it a full day without any real strain it might be more forgiving of use on the following day. We’ll see.

At any rate, I’ve not been idle. I have spoken to some friends (one of whom I am worried about), posted into the database another few old papers from my school archives, read a bit of the news, studied some new words and did some humourous pronunciation practice with Anat. I expect at this point that my day will consist of much the same — more worrying, more posting, more studying, and more reading of the news.

Are you jealous of my perfect life yet? You should be…

‘Independence Is For The Very Few’

Excerpted from: Beyond Good and Evil, Part Two: ‘The Free Spirit’, #29, by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Independence is for the very few; it is a privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it even with the best right but without inner constraint proves that he is probably not only strong, but also daring to the point of recklessness. He enters into a labyrinth, he multiplies a thousandfold the dangers which life brings with it in any case, not the least of which is that no one can see how and where he loses his way, becomes lonely, and is torn piecemeal by some minotaur of conscience. Supposing one like that comes to grief, this happens so far from the comprehension of men that they neither feel it nor sympathize. And he cannot go back any longer. Nor can he go back to the pity of men.—

Art And Archaeology Near Be’er Sheva

To pick up the story I hinted at in the post from earlier to-day… Yesterday Boaz invited me down to see where he works — in a small museum in the town of Omer, east of Be’er Sheva. Accordingly, after my morning walk and a quick lunch, Anat and I picked up the bus and headed out. Of course, not only did we miss the stop, Anat was not entirely sure where we were going! We had a nice long walk back to the right intersection, then we had to hike up the road into the business park section of town, then pass through some fields without a proper path to reach the area containing the museum. But it was an adventure, ho-ho, hee-hee! *grin* The photos below show a little of that walk, just for flavour.

Missed Our Exit! (Anat is on the phone with Boaz.)

If You've Seen One Industrial Park....

Lost But Not Lost

It's Somewhere Past This Guard Shack...

Once we had made it to the museum area we grabbed drinks and ice cream bars and met Boaz at the entrance. The museum is not in a separate complex, but rather is in two of the buildings in part of a high-tech industrial compound. In between the two is a brand new exhibit: a sculpture garden of contemporary works in metal. We may have been the first to see it, hehe.

First we went into the main gallery, which houses the work of a single artist — Noa Eshkol, daughter of Israel’s third prime minister. Better known as a dancer, Eshkol invented a new system of movement notation that has found many applications outside of choreography. Her dance work is extremely precise and mathematical, and she usually wrote works for performance without music — only a rhythm — as she felt the music was a distraction from the movements of the dancers, which should absorb all of the audience’s attention.

During the 1973 War one of her dancers was called up to active service. Lacking the ability to perform her pieces, she turned to another art form — producing artistic tapestries. The aesthetic was very important to her, and in more than 1000 works she produced in the next three decades, all followed the same basic principles. She took scraps of cloth from local textile factories and arranged them into an abstract pattern which evokes a particular mood. Critically, she would not allow herself to cut the pieces; they could be folded under one-another, but each scrap is as she received it. Held together with pins, her dancers and followers would then do the stitching without pay. (Anat described their devotion as basically cultic, hehe.)

The first work (pictured below and titled for the war) is a sombre piece in only two colours. Later works would be far more complex. Sometimes they have a recognizable form and present imagery the mind can readily grasp; other times they are pure mood and abstraction. I will show a few examples here since I found her work terribly interesting. The pictures I’m putting up are collages in order to show more in less ‘blog space. I photographed the entire exhibit, though of course the colours are fairly washed out in these shots. The actual pieces are often dazzlingly vibrant and eye-catching.

Three By Noa Eshkol


Three More By Noa Eshkol

Another Three By Eshkol

Dancing Into The Art

After touring the gallery we walked through the sculpture garden, which had only just been installed that weekend. The grass, normally bright green, was mostly brown as they needed to let it die in order to instal the pieces (I did not ask why). I will post a few photos below of only the most eye-catching pieces. Some of these are musical, by-the-by, and you can produce melodies by tapping them in different places.

Boaz Plays The Birdy

Look, It's The Swamp Thing!

Laser-Cut Horsies, Yee-Haw

The old car exhibit came next. This contained all vehicles that had actually once graced the roads of Israel, and it was truly an eclectic and interesting mix. Again, just a few photos are posted below to give a sense of what it was like. I had more fun looking around in here than I would have expected, and enjoyed in particular the 1970 MGB (my first car was a 1977 MGB) and the Messerschmidt car that looked a little too much like a fighter cockpit!

A Messerschmidt! Fucking Awesome!

Down Memory Lane, In A 1970 MGB

Nifty Wagon, Eh?

We hitched a ride from the museum to an archaeological park just up the road. Despite living in Omer all her life, the driver had never been there; neither had Anat or Boaz in their four years in Be’er Sheva. Seems I provided a good excuse for the occasion! *grin* We arrived at the park a hair before closing time, so we only had a bit over ten minutes to explore. I snapped photos like a madman so that I could look it all over again later. A few choice ones are included below.

The site itself is called Tel Be’er Sheva, which is kind of confusing but oddly appropriate since it is in between Be’er Sheva and Tel Sheva. *lol* ‘Tel’, in this case, means an artificial hill under which layers of human settlement can be uncovered. The site was occupied as late as the Byzantine period, during which a small fort existed here, but the main part exposed by the digs dates to the 8th century BCE. Its centrepiece is a well 70 metres deep — impressive, no?

Wandering Into Tel Be'er Sheva

What Can I Say? Sucker For Antiquities.

A Shot From The Observation Tower

On First Experiences Of Be’er Sheva

I have not done a good job lately of recording my adventures here. But I have some excuses — been busy on walks with friends, had a long drive down from Tel Aviv, etc., including having to go to hospital to-day for a tendonitis. It is quite painful to walk and has been for a week, but yesterday was horrible. I finally stepping into the emergency room at Soroka hospital here in Be’er Sheva this morning and got it seen. I now have to limit my walking rather drastically, wear a thick set of bandages under my sock, and take some medication for a couple of weeks. But it’s better than being crippled for life, no? *grin*

Let’s see, I suppose I can share a little of my Be’er Sheva adventures thus far, but I will have to make a separate post for much of yesterday’s walk since it was pretty long and covered a museum and a national park! I would like to include some photos from that stuff, so I copied the pictures over and we’ll see about doing that to-morrow or maybe to-night (though I doubt the latter).

The ride down from Tel Aviv was nice. Took a little over an hour, and included views of wide-open cattle pastures and semi-arid landscapes. I was in the back of the bus with a few IDF soldiers, one of which had his rather nasty-looking assault rifle on the seat beside him. I got out in Be’er Sheva and then had that hard surprise about the missing shoe. (*sigh*) I could not figure out where to find a sherut (a shared taxi) that would cover the route I needed so I splurged on a cab to get me most of the way to Anat and Boaz’s place. The cab ride cost a little more than the bus trip, but totally worth it given how hard it was to lug my full pack with my leg in so much pain.

We picked up some food at a corner market and went up to their home, which is a really cute flat on the eighth floor (which we Americans would call the ninth floor) of a high-rise near the hospital. They have a great view down on a park and path to the university. It’s a much bigger place than those I’ve been seeing in Tel Aviv, which isn’t surprising since it is so much cheaper to live down here. Anat and Boaz have an adorable cat name Tika who is very mischievous and likes to play rough. Since I’m used to that from both Stef and Moshe, she and I got on famously from the start.

The first night we talked politics for a while, then went to a local pub even though Boaz was too tired for it (he’s a good sport, hehe). The next day was pretty full though it got a late start. I had pulled my back so slept a little longer thinking that would help (wrong!). Then I went for a walk in the morning before taking the bus out to Omer with Anat. I will cover those events in a subsequent post, though…. (stay tuned!).

In the evening they watched an episode of True Blood, then we played Settlers of Cataan, a great strategy game, for a few hours. We stayed up late playing and Boaz had to leave early, so I think my visit is being hard on the poor chap. *lol* This morning I went to Soroka, then took the bus down to the mall to buy my prescriptions and get some work done. I had thought to look for a pocket knife to replace mine, a new pair of flipper-shoes to replace my lost Rainbow, and perhaps go hunting for a good walking stick, but I’ve ended up on my computer talking to people for hours! Ain’t that just how it goes?

I should probably say a few things about the city so far, right? Be’er Sheva is one of the bigger cities in Israel, but there are really only three big cities so that doesn’t mean too much. It’s about half the size of Long Beach in terms of population, but it has a lot of the same features of the other big cities here — great public transit, big malls, a picturesque but crumbing and poverty-stricken old district, and some world-class businesses. It is also a university town, with Ben Gurion University of the Negev dominating the northern half of the city. There is a large research hospital attached (which you now know something about, eh?) and a bunch of really cool buildings. Israel has some of the most attention-grabbing architecture anywhere, and the dormitories look especially weird. And, before I forget to say it, Be’er Sheva is the capital of the Negev region, and exists just at the beginning of the desert. It has a dry atmosphere that’s quite easy to breathe, though it has its share of pollution. The creek that they call a river is completely white, as if paint had been thrown on top of it. Gross.

Anyway,… I did manage to ask some people complicated questions to-day, and though i did not understand most of the responses I did get the gist. I need to spend more time doing this, as it is really helping. Talking to people at hospital was especially challenging, as the orthopaedic surgeon was the first person who spoke any English and his was not very good. I managed to find my way through it, though, with a combination of questions and riddling out signs. Studying a language is a lot more gratifying when you are surrounded by it and forced to make your way in it.

I have to get to sleep at a reasonable hour to-night since I have to wake very early to-morrow to get to Yossi’s at 0730. Our walking tour of the old city is going to be a bit more complicated now, but I will manage. I have places to stay for the next five days or more, and have a couple of people looking for sub-lets for me. I think I will stay down here in Be’er Sheva for a while and make a home-base of it. I figure I can take day-trips to many sites, and for some longer ones like the West Bank I can couch-surf taking a smaller sub-set of my stuff in the day-pack, thus sparing my legs excessive torture.

I should get back to the house now and have some dinner, etc. On my way out I should also look for shoes again. I will post on the museum and archaeological site probably to-morrow, along with posting on my exploration of the old city of Be’er Sheva in the morning. Until then…

‘Living In A World Of Delusions ‘

‘Living In A World Of Delusions’, by Jisho Warner.

Bodhidharma met the emperor of the Liang Dynasty, a devout Buddhist renowned for his piety and charity, who was much given to endowing monasteries and orphanages. Wu said: “I have endowed temples and authorized ordinations–what is my merit?” Bodhidharma’s answer was radical: “No merit at all.” Wu had been doing good for the sake of accumulating merit. Bodhidharma cut through Wu’s ideas about merit to the core of his teaching, that your practice isn’t apart from you: when your mind is pure, you live in a pure universe; when you’re caught up in the ideas of gaining and losing, you live in a world of delusions.

The emperor tried again: “What is the first principle of the holy teaching?” And Bodhidharma’s answer once again cut to the quick: “Vast emptiness, nothing holy.” There is nothing to cling to, holy is just a word. The great dynamic universe of absolute reality flourishes, and it is completely ordinary. The emperor did not understand what he was saying, and Bodhidharma left his kingdom…

Sad News From The Road

I have sad news. Well, sad for me. I was forced quickly to separate my packs at the Tel Aviv bus station and one of my Rainbow flipper-shoes (flip-flops, zories, whatever you call them!) must have fallen out on the platform. This hurts because they were one of my most sentimental birthday presents, and I am very sad to lose them. This is where I am most materialistic — I get attached to gifts connected with meaningful memories. *frown*

Other than this the evening has gone fantastically well. I am making the acquaintance of my new hosts and will have plenty to say about Be’er Sheva … tomorrow. *grin*

On The Road To Be’er Sheva

This two-paragraph note might be all you get to-day, my loyal droogs! I have finished my e-mails and am on my way to the central bus station to hop a ride south. Carrying this pack is going to suck but I’ve had two days off to rest my battered leg and back. *grin* If I end up with Internet later I will write again about the journey, but otherwise you’ll just have to wait.

In the meantime, I have posted another of my old book review essays. *grin* I am having fun formatting old papers into posts here; it goes pretty quickly and it’s quite satisfying to see crappy old work find new life on the Internet. Heh. Anyway, enjoy, if it’s your kind of thing. This last one is a discussion of nationalisms’s origins in the eighteenth century.

‘But The Point Is To Live’

Excerpted from: The Myth of Sisyphus, Part One, by Albert Camus, pp 64-65.

… I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion. By the mere activity of consciousness I transform into a rule of life what was an invitation to death — and I refuse suicide. I know, to be sure, the dull resonance that vibrates throughout these days. Yet I have but a word to say: that it is necessary. When Nietzsche writes: “It clearly seems that the chief thing in heaven and on earth is to obey at length and in a single direction: in the long run there results something for which it is worth the trouble of living on this earth as, for example, virtue, art, music, the dance, reason, the mind — something that transfigures, something delicate, mad, or divine,” he elucidates the rule of a really distinguished code of ethics. But he also points the way of the absurd man. Obeying the flame is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. However, it is good for man to judge himself occasionally. He is alone in being able to do so.

“Prayer,” says Alain, “is when night descends over thought.” “But the mind must meet the night,” reply the mystics and the existentials. Yes, indeed, but not that night that is born under closed eyelids and through the mere will of man — dark, impenetrable night that the mind calls up in order to plunge into it. If it must encounter a night, let it be rather that of despair, which remains lucid — polar night, vigil of the mind, whence will arise perhaps that white and virginal brightness which outlines every object in the light of the intelligence. At that degree, equivalence encounters passionate understanding. Then it is no longer even a question of judging the existential leap. It resumes its place amid the age-old fresco of human attitudes. For the spectator, if he is conscious, that leap is still absurd. In so far as it thinks it solves the paradox, it reinstates it intact. On this score, it is stirring. On this score, everything resumes its place and the absurd world is reborn in all its splendour and diversity.

But it is bad to stop, hard to be satisfied with a single way of seeing, to go without contradiction, perhaps the most subtle of all spiritual forces. The preceding merely defines a way of thinking. But the point is to live.

Bus Station From Hell

To-day was my third time inside the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station in the last few days, and it still makes no damned sense at all. The curves, the location of stairs, the maze of shops, the paucity of helpful signs, the fact that routes are divided amongst several companies with no indication of who has which, and the general chaos and filth everywhere,… it’s a wonder that any but the most seasoned, nay jaded of locals can find anything at all.

I went down there in order to figure out how I’m going to get to Be’er Sheva to-morrow. If anyone knows of a helpful compilation of such information on-line, please share it! Before that I stopped at the post office with the worst customer service — no-one bothered to staff the windows for about 20 minutes while I stood in the lobby and said “hello?” over and over…

Other than that, slow day. I did a bunch of chores at Michael’s house (laundry, dishes, etc.) and started into some research on short-term rentals and sub-lets. I found several promising ads and wrote to a few people. It’s definitely worth considering, as it would be far cheaper than hostels and more secure. I’ve just stopped into the café for a beer and to rest my feet. Time now to write to a few couch-hosts and then read the news a little. Nothing more to report to-day… you can go now. *grin*