Sunday, December 12, 2004

Once upon a time, Friday and Saturdays after lunch in the summer were spent in the 'Closed Beach' in Haifa. 'Closed' because you had to pay to get in. We were lucky enough to have a season ticket, and a cabin. After a few years on the waiting list we even managed to get a cabin with a shower.

They were a bit tatty, the cabins, crumbling green plaster, definitely no frills, but not cheap I seem to remember, although I've no idea how much it cost my parents.

The cabin was extremely useful for storing chairs, sunshade, and a bottle of neft and a hard bush for scrubbing your feet to get the tar off. (Whatever happened to all that tar?)

My parents used to meet all their gang. I used to wander off by myself and only come back when it started to get dark.

I used to spend the whole afternoon, bopping up and down on the waves, or climbing over the rocks looking for crabs and other little creatures. Occasionally I would go over to the big swimming pool over on the other side of the beach. I would go on my own, but I wouldn't be on my own for long.

I was always wooed by a little girl of around my age who would decide we were friends. She always had long dark hair, a dark thin body, and the same faded check swimsuit, blue or green or pink. All the little girls had the same swimsuit.

What made me so exotic, so desirable as swimming pool friend of the moment, was the inescapable fact that I had a different swimsuit.

So here I am this Hannuka weekend, sitting with my family at breakfast in a very nice hotel in the Dead Sea, surrounded by other Israeli middle class families. My stay at the hotel is heavily subsidized by my workplace, otherwise we wouldn't be there. I believe this is the case for many of the families around me. And I am thinking that this is lovely, and that thirty years ago things were so very different. Gone are those awful uniform swimsuits. The standard of living of ordinary Israelis has come a long way since those days.