Saturday, August 09, 2003

Mediterranean/city stuff
One of the reasons I haven't been writing much lately is, believe it or not, the lack of a computer chair. You see Youngest's computer chair broke and she borrowed mine. When I took it back, it was also broken. I don't know what she does with them, jumps up and down on them or something. I like to sit high on a computer chair or typing is uncomfortable for me, so I find an ordinary kitchen chair too low. At the moment I am perched on two cushions on the chair usually used by the piano teacher. I am not very comfortable at all.

Another reason is that we have been enjoying the summer.

Thursday we had an interesting time at the "Metzitzim" beach I told you about (I'll link as soon as I can get the archives working. Grrrr). After a while there we noticed that the police boat we could see over by the windbreaker wasn't going anywhere and then we noticed that there were a few policemen on the beach questioning a young lady in a bikini. When it grew dark, we went to have supper in the restaurant on the beach, which is nice because you sit with your feet in the warm sand on low chairs. Then we noticed two helicopters in the sky lighting up the sea with strong projectors, certainly not a regular occurrence. They looked as if they were searching for something in the water. We wondered if this was terror related and should we get the hell out of there, but everyone else seemed quite happy. A large group was congregating in one corner of the beach among dozens of Chinese lanterns that someone had lovingly prepared, and the restaurant chairs and tables around us in the sand were all occupied. Families were enjoying a last evening dip in the sea before heading home. Surely if there was some sort of danger for us we would have been evacuated.

Later, around midnight, Bish noticed an update on the Internet about a man that had gone missing in the sea in the morning, and this was obviously who they were looking for. Apparently there had been divers searching for him in the water too, but we couldn't see that from the shore, of course.

Tel Aviv is very much a coastal town. I may choose to ignore this most of the time, but sometimes the pull of the Mediterranean proves too strong and I have no choice but to succumb. I love the sea (although I am Not a Fish) and it has always played an important part in my life. However, I used to think the Tel Aviv beach area was sordid and nasty and I was annoyed that the seafront, the soul of the city as I saw it, was allowed to reach such a state. I sadly avoided it for years. Of late the municipality has been trying to make amends.

And I have come to the recognition that beauty is not always pretty. (My thanks to Oriah Mountain Dreamer for turning that sentiment into words so beautifully).

Early yesterday evening, we found ourselves in the old Yaffo (Jaffa) port, walking along the front, enjoying the sight of the ramshackle fishing boats. Being Friday night, neither the Arab nor the Jewish fisherman were working, but the fishy smell lingered on the stacks of fishing nets piled up here and there. The fish restaurants were just beginning to prepare the evening meals. I told the girls stories about how life used to be in Yaffo in the olden days and tried to give them an idea of what the little port used to be like when it served as the main entrance point to the country for those coming from overseas, be they merchants, crusaders or other conquerors; Christian pilgrims, nineteenth century British or American tourists or East European Jewish pioneers.

We sat on the rocks of the windbreaker on the far side of the quay and watched the red sun sinking slowly into the sea. Two men in the water below us were catching waves onto a rock. Looked dangerous to me, the waves were so fierce, but Bish said he used to do it all the time as a kid in Bat-Yam, just to the south of Yaffo.

Not being fish eaters, we didn't stop at any of the fish restaurants in the port. They tend to be touristy and expensive anyway. Instead we walked north along the seafront promenade until we reached the row of restaurants just south of the meeting point between Tel Aviv and Yaffo. We ate at Tarrabin restaurant. You may remember there was a terrorist attack there last month and a young guy was killed (Hebrew link with photos from Tel Aviv police site). Last night there were no signs of what had happened and there were quite a few people eating there, besides us. You couldn't miss the security guard, though. He looked ex-K.G.B., what we call a fridge (big and solid). If I remember correctly, the security guard wasn't very effective during the attack. They are obviously trying to make amends now. The fridge didn't detract from the laid back atmosphere at all. The lighting was low and we sat on low sofas around low wooden tables. Every table had a nargila (hookah) on it. It seemed so strange to imagine someone trying to kill people in a place like that. So out of character. Maybe the dim lighting was why he chose it over the adjacent places, which were more brightly lighted, especially the one to the south, which was very trendy.

The memory of the recent past didn't seem to bother anyone though. I wonder if anyone even thought about it. It was still quite early and the tables were full of parents with small children. We soon forgot about it too. This is as it should be, as Mary Poppins would say.

Tonight will also find us at a birthday celebration in a restaurant on the cliff overlooking the sea in the south of Jaffa.

It's the pull of the Mediterranean. There is no point trying to resist it, especially in the summer.