MeMoi ?!

"The sea of stars It’s waves all ours Our only obstacle’s the sand Our feet ablaze Each leg we raise In excitement of leaving the land The horizon nearing To the water we’re steering Longing to be lulled away As we enter the ocean At one with it’s motion This feeling we’ll want to replay"

- The sea of stars

Jul 17

"On day fourteen I noted “four half naked hunks stuck to sofas”. When they were still there on day twenty-one of eighty-one, you cannot blame me for being taken by surprise by their sudden signs of life (other than the occasional turn of the toned torso). For today, not only did they manage to stand on two legs, they also spoke. Words seem to spill out of their smoky mouths. Albeit in their mother tongue, “ma ze?” they challenged. Not clear to where they were pointing or to whom they were addressing, they repeated these monosyllables. I found myself jumping to attention, curious by these beings, finally awoken from their slumber. Like Miranda seeing a man for the first time in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, I indulged their delayed attempt of making conversation. Turns out it was a plant on my balcony which sparked their interest. Though not for long. Herbaceous soon turned to flirtatious, their bodies pressed closely to the railings, they had questions and they wanted answers. “Where you from?” “you live alone?”, “come for coffee!”. Evident my voice was not reaching the ears of these adonises, I asked them if they knew sign language. Not able to hear that either (perhaps they had neglected to remove their earplugs?), a passerby, four stories below - somehow able to hear every word - volunteered the role of our middleman, translator, if you will! Moments later, our passerby passed by and as though suddenly recognizing we’re in the twenty first century (for who knows how long they’d been asleep) they asked for my phone number, a way to continue our conversation without the neighborhood watch…!"

- My room with a view!

Oct 27

I do not wish to write anything political, you know I prefer other types of parties!

But I wish to describe a little, the situation here.

I have awoken, in mid November, to yet another day, which could be mistaken for the midst of summer. For the sun is shining, it’s warmth embracing and the light dancing from the bluest plains above our heads, down to the tops of breezy palm trees and darting from one wall of whiteness to another. This city, forever a glow, a buzz, alive - with living.

Despite last night’s attack and fears of further frights, windows are open wide and routines are recommencing. Just with the addition of a full briefing from a friend of mine. If I happen to be in my fourth floor apartment and the siren sounds (warning of an incoming rocket), I must go to the stairwell and in the seconds we have to reach safety, I must go to the third floor and stay away from any windows, and wait ten minutes.

It was only yesterday evening I had just left a dynamic event of entrepreneurs. Stimulated and charmed by their initiatives, I walked up the cities main and most beautiful boulevard, pondering whether to enjoy a carrot juice from one of the many juice bars or cafés, of the café with the juice bar. I chose the latter, and realising I didn’t have long until my next meeting with a fashion magazine visiting from London, then soon after, a sweet friends party celebrating his MBA graduation. I continued on my way. Until the sound of siren.

I’ve been told it’s twenty-one years since Tel Aviv has heard that sound. I felt the whole city was in disbelief; there was a moment of total pause and then urgency to reach a nearby place of safety. I had been waiting for the sherute (a shared taxi minibus ~ more on that another time, simply wonderful!) and followed the group of people in my surroundings into a newsagent. I received a text from my friend telling me to take cover immediately and to stay there for ten minutes.

My group and I stood waiting, I did not know for what. Until, a large explosion was heard. I think I might have sworn and my eyes wanted to cry. But there was a strength in the air. There was no panic, no hysteria, it was clear that my neighbours were experienced in situations such as this. This is what saddens me the most. I wish to say that they are regular people, such as you and me. But in fact, they’re not. For when the rocket landed, I did not feel a sudden sense of bonding over a shared atrocity. We were already bonded. From my very landing in this country I have felt so completely at home, comfortable, cosy even. For people interact with each other, on an hourly basis, they are curious, interested, interesting and caring. Each day I could write a list of encounters, anecdotes, minutes of magic, friendly, romantic even. Although I have only been here for forty-nine days, I am now a part of it. I am aware that when applying exfoliator to my face before showering at night, that should there be a siren, I would need to go to the stairwell in this way. I am refraining from playing my usually loud music so as not to miss any warnings and I’ve put my earplugs away for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless we did all turn up to celebrate my friend and his graduation. It was quite the loveliest party I’ve been to yet; we very almost forgot what could be happening outside.

Nov 16
No rocket in my salad days please.

I am writing from the fourth floor, where I have lit a candle. A blissful Santa Maria Novella; a treasured gift from Leo for my birthday.

As Bear Grylls always advises, ‘light a fire to boost morale’. So that is exactly what I’ve done.

Normally I would be listening to music too, but I’m fearful I could risk not hearing a potential siren.

My request was not fulfilled and rocket was on today’s menu. Peppery and bitter - a strong after taste for those, like me, who have no experience in such a field.

I had felt calm and cool that I knew the drill and felt the support from everyone around me, but as soon as I heard the siren, for the second time (in my life), my legs let me down. I did take on the stairs in my slippers, but it was purely from hearing the sound of danger that I don’t presume I, or my legs, will ever get used to. Not to mention, the wait to hear the rocket land. Who knows where, but it seems to be getting closer and closer.

I met a sweet neighbor from downstairs who had clearly not received the same briefing as me. She drifted towards the window, until I, who had only received tutoring the day before, insisted that she come and join me on the third floor. Her hand to her mouth, she gasped at how close the sound of the explosion was. We stood together, exchanged invitations for coffees and teas and then parted ways, to call our families to tell them we are fine. I’m not even sure this is necessary since these events barely seem to be featured in the news. But it is as much of a comfort to hear their voices as mine is to them.

I’d planned to go to the super market, the launderette but suddenly didn’t feel like it. Instead I replied to very kindest messages from old friends, new friends, inquiring about my safety, inviting me to their homes, to the north, everybody concerned and compassionate, refueling me for the next adventure. I’d been invited to a special service at the synagogue, and felt more than ever before, that now was the time to go, perhaps pray a little, but most of all be spiritual.

You might have seen profile pictures changed to red squares signifying ‘Code red’ sirens. Well my picture I have not changed, but I did put on a red dress, funnily enough one I have gone to every time I wish to dress up, but each time I’ve ended up dismissing it, until tonight.

I walked down one of my favorite boulevards, glancing into each wide and welcoming apartment as I passed. People playing with their dogs, others preparing feasts for their families, couples cosied up to one another. The air felt so soft and warmer than it’s been in recent days.

I met my friend on the corner by the synagogue, immediately enchanted by the sounds that wafted from ear to ear and then down the road and around the corner. I almost dreaded the service for I knew I was about to be moved. And moved I was. So many faces gathered together, some to read, some to sing, (others for the champagne reception that followed)! Whatever the reason, we were all together, our thoughts, all to the same place.

The service ended with the singing of the Hatikva, the National Anthem of Israel, a song of hope.

Before the first word had even been sung in it’s entirety, everyone stood up, as if the Queen of England had just entered the room.

Nov 17
Last night and I can only hope we have a tonight.

Ever since the first siren, two days ago, I’ve been too afraid to wash my hair. I just don’t think I will hear the warning. Not that my shower is all that and the water pressure is something to envy; simply, I don’t find the sirens to be so loud.

When the third siren sounded today, I scrambled to find my keys and unlock my door. All taking up precious seconds which I needed to make it down to the floor below. Almost comical, I slid down to the third landing, nearly colliding with Gidi and Nava who stood as representatives to number 6 and 7. All of us in some sort of pajama combo - It was Saturday after all. Albeit sometime late afternoon, but this is meant to be the day of rest (ha ha ha).

I feel you might know the drill as well as I do by now. We stand, we wait, we can’t help but gasp with horror and we wait some more. Even though this is now my third experience, I noticed how my arm had intuitively found the banister and clung to it, my limbs shaky. I joked to myself that this must be a grave situation if I was touching the banister!

After hearing the explosion my new friends were turning to reenter their apartments until I relayed the instructions I received. We must wait ten minutes to avoid any potential after effects (I don’t even wish to think what that might mean). It was not long until we heard a phone ring and Gidi was gone, his family, checking he was ok. On returning to my apartment I searched for updates on BBC news and nothing had been reported, still nothing, so I did not ring my family this time. I wish to avoid alarming them at all costs.

This is hours later and my heartburn has only just calmed down and that’s also after half an hour of giggles with an Australian in the launderette. Having been home all day I braved the outside, I thought unlike my hair, my clothes won’t wash themselves! Unfortunately immediately on exit, I encountered a monster cockroach; (they should have a siren for those things!), but on my way I recalled the conversation I’d had with my neighbor the day before the first rocket.

I pressured him to tell me where the nearest bomb shelter can be found. He thought my question was terribly funny, and told me vague locations of one or two, but couldn’t express enough that there was no chance of Tel Aviv being hit. It’s not happened in decades he said. He then lowered his voice and said that if it did happen, because I’m not from here, I should ‘get the f**k out!!!’.

I’ve not mentioned this conversation until now. Perhaps because I couldn’t find the f word in my vocabulary but maybe also because this really has come as a shock to everyone. 

Nov 17
Is this rocket science?

I’m noticing a pattern. Each day ends with apprehension, yet when I awake (from those times I’d actually been asleep), I feel glad, surprised even, to find myself in one piece, in my bed. That my night had been undisturbed and that outside looks like holiday. I notice the birds are singing again and my neighbor has even resumed making music on the piano.  

I deemed today the day to wash my hair. Flirting with the idea all morning I decided to just go for it. Upon entering under the water, I was reassured that should the siren sound, I would certainly hear it, for I could clearly decipher the sounds of a sonata from next door. Writing this now, I’m not sure how one relates to the other -but anyway - I did hear the siren, for yes it did sound and yes it was whilst I was washing my hair.

Fortunately I was at the final stage; applying cold water to close the cuticles. For a moment I questioned whether I might just stay there and not address my neighbors in such a state of undress. But I’ve discovered that war is not for the vain hearted.

Code red and funnily enough reaching for my red towel, I wondered whether to put my wet feet into my Four Seasons slippers or Havaianas. I astonished myself that I’d been so silly to lose a precious two seconds from one petty ponder.

The piano stopped and I had an appointment on the third floor. (Thank goodness he hadn’t been playing Mozart’s Requiem, I thought!)

Three neighbors, and my heart beating so fast, I realize now, I didn’t even give another thought to the fact I was completely drenched and undressed. For the first time, the entire building actually shook. Nava commented ‘even the cat is scared’. Ten minutes and then we said our goodbyes, strange to hope never to see them again.

Nov 18
Rockets falling and I am crestfallen.

A boring day is just what we’d been hoping for! Although it began with jumping out of bed as if I’d a rocket up my bottom, for I heard a siren, but soon realized it was not the forewarning of an explosion kind.

How terribly embarrassing I thought, climbing straight back in.

When I awoke for the second time, a more civilized hour and having slept off my shame; birdsong was abound and sunshine effervescent. Careful not to get carried away, with thoughts of peace and perfection, I went about my routine - although as if treading on eggshells - aware that any moment, (and as I’ve discovered it’s normally those most embarrassing!) a siren can sound and I’m no longer of sound mind.

Although hesitant to say it, since this day still has two hours remaining, we have had no disturbances. Just from friends taking exception to my frivolous play on words, Hamas, Harm us and Hummus. Had they tasted my lunch today, they would agree the hummus was to die for! 

Nov 19
Rocket bottom

"Code red to green light"

-

I crashed the trolley in the supermarket today. I felt perhaps I was in a little dream.

On my way there, to buy a watermelon, (I could write a whole other post about watermelon!) I found myself nostalgic, thinking of all my beautiful experiences here.

I felt wistful and wonderful; in the warmth of the sun I recalled endless magical moments. I feel I could make manuscripts, fill volumes; tell tales of the tremendous times which I’ve lived here.

You must understand that in Tel Aviv, it is quite normal to wait so long at the traffic lights - one has all the time in the world to reflect! In fact were it not for the ‘tick tick tick’, to assist the blind, I might have missed the little green man, altogether!

 

 

Nov 20

I’ve noticed I’ve been eating a lot more chocolate lately and today I had two breakfasts. So thankful that I did; for I needed all the stamina I could find for what became of today.

Something I shall never forget. Sirens like I’ve on no account, ever experienced. Ambulances, police and fire engines, a haunting cacophony, enshrouding the city with shrieks, shrills - screeches at pitches so claustrophobic and panicky, I pray never to witness again.

One could hear the speeds of these vehicles, the urgency and determination to reach their destination. “BUT WHAT WAS GOING ONNN??” I wanted to shout so the whole city would hear me. Running back and forth from the window to computer, still no updates on the news. My mind inventing scenarios. And then, there it was, ‘Blast on Tel Aviv bus’. One scenario I had not imagined, yet one I’d been fearing the most. I felt I held all the worlds fury inside my frame. Completely in horror that such an atrocity could happen. A new meaning to ‘it hit close to home’, because really, it was close to home, just around the corner from my apartment. 

Nov 21
21.11.12

I have always avoided sleepless nights, horror movies and roller coasters.

(The teacups were more my cup of tea - but that’s another kettle of fish!)

So when I found myself thrust into the position of an extra, in Israel’s most talked about feature since 1991 - encompassing all the above, bar the teacups - what else was I to do, then take out my quill, (no, not to write my will!) to describe the everyday, for all we knew was today, the notion of tomorrow seemed almost naïve.

I was here, already forty-nine nights before war was upon us. As soon as it was, pressure from abroad was upon me,

“You’re getting out of there, right?” “COME-HOME!!”

Amazingly these were not words which came from my family - friends in fact.

Of course there were times when a brother, or sister, mother, father, expressed their wish for me to return -articulating their ideal - yet always furthered by their understanding and support in me staying.

So endlessly thankful this was the case. For I felt all along I was here, preferably for good times, but this is and has always been a place of uncertainty and I was adamant not to run away just because things became difficult.

It would not have felt right to have basked in what had been the most blissful time and then pack up and run because I was suddenly abandoned - my comfort zone nowhere to be found.

For the support I received from each and every person here, whether I knew them or not, was abundant, bountiful. It transported me to places I did not know I’d reach.

We were all in this together and we’ve all come out of it together.

And yes, we all know the phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, well I’ve come up with one of my own,

“Whoever said ‘sex sells’, had clearly never written about Israel!”

Nov 22
Ceasefire brigade

"Dear Diary,"

-

I’ve always been told never to assume, so I presumed it was finally safe to wash my hair.

No longer a worrier, I stand a warrior. This past week, more vigorous than my entire last year in London, Riots, Jubilee and Olympics included.

Now I can unpack my little overnight bag.

When the very first rocket landed, I was advised to have a bag ready if needed to evacuate to a bomb shelter.

The only thing is, I didn’t know what to put in it. I’d already felt better just looking at it, so I went about the apartment searching for things to fill it with. I must have soon been sidetracked - probably by news reports or worried calls from far away family - since I’ve discovered it now, completely forgotten about, and all that sits inside is Lindt’s 85% chocolate (even before the war, I demonstrated signs of braveness, for it is the 90% I eat, but one simply cannot buy it here!) and a packet of sprouted spelt bread.

Needless to say, my first, and often only thought, is food.

In other news, must dash, it’s two o’clock and I just heard my tummy rumble! 

Nov 22

Never a dull moment here. Apart from the sudden change in weather, which I would call very dull.

This is the weather for war, not the beautifully balmy days that we’ve not been able to enjoy.

The clouds were indeed something of extraordinary proportions yesterday. Great imposing plumes, plump and powerful, they balanced above our heavy heads. I guess they stimulated the storm that followed.

It kicked off with a bang. Literally. A colossal clap of thunder, more slap, than clap, it took us all by surprise.

I was on the phone when I heard it, “s**t!” I heard myself saying. Even though I’d been monitoring the seemingly distant veins of lightening, nothing could have prepared me for the boom!

There were further bangs, as shutters were thrown open, windows pushed aside; gawping faces took their place. The old woman from across the road who I’d only ever seen as a figure in her bra and briefs, looked to me urgently, for information.

"Thunder" I shouted, pointing at the sky. “MA??”, "THUNDER" I repeated.

With deep relief her face fell into a smile. 

I realize now, as frightening as it is to hear the siren, it’s even worse not to.

Nov 23
Over fire, now under thunder!

"After the announcement of a ceasefire, I did not expect to find myself in a crossfire. Not the type of shells I was hoping to locate on the beach. But more fool me, for everyone knows that Matkot is the country’s national sport. Although the bat and ball is not the crossfire I’m referring to, yes it does make rather a racket, but throw a frisbee into the mix and you’ve got quite the battle field. Equip with my D200 I out armed them all yet I was the one in danger. I only threatened to shoot, yet these scantily clad demon athletes could take out an eye with one swift move of the back hand, worse still take off your head with a flying saucer. As risky as it was I couldn’t tear myself away. At least fifteen minutes I stood there, frozen, in the heat of the game. Interrupted by the sight of a friend also braving the front lines; we both decided this would be a terribly embarrassing way to go - after all we are survivors of a war!"

- A peace of my mind

Nov 25