Friday, June 6, 2008


I'm an East Jerusalem enthusiast. I grew up in a Jewish enclave in the east, and always looked at the west as the somewhat annoying haunt of spoiled, Politically ignorant, Jewish-American teenagers. When hitting town I rush towards massive Damascus gate and then through it, to eat Knafe at Jaffar's, lose myself among the market crowds, and discover an ancient, chapel-dotted, stone passageway or two.

Today, however, I'm heading west. There's a concert to attend, as well as an alternative arts festival. I even have a television appearence scheduled. I'm to speak about Macedonia on Israeli channel 1. But first I accompany my friend Baptiste from France to the very threshold of the east. There we meet his Quebecoise friend Roxanne who lives in Ramallah.

Having met, all three of us turn our back on the magic of the east. as if in support, the east stops looking magical almost at once. This picture of Jerusalem, taken a few steps from Damascus gate, has to be the least romantic ever shot. Of all the city's fabled sights, only the magnifiscent Dome of the Rock is there, popping over the open back of a truck.

The supposedly modernist, sprawly west, on the other hand, embraces us instantly in delightful pink stone and an air of antiquity, as we walk into the 19th century Russian compound.

We stop to chill at the garden of its old pilgrims hospice.

Turn of the century Nahalt Shiv'a neighborhood, right down the street, is positively gushing with charm. Here we were joined by Flashky, that unbeatable young chap, who took the van from Tel-Aviv spontanously to join in this little Odyssey.

Having caffinated ourselves we tread further and discover a fountain, clearly a gift of the city of Paris to its little middle eastern sister. Downtown lover, who dislaike Jerusalem and rarely joins me here, is mad about Paris. Alas, no such fountains can be found in her cherished Tel-Aviv environment.

We finally arrive at our first of the three destinations. A festival for alternative and socially involved creativity brought together small presses from around the country to a basketball court, somewhere in the labyrinthine Nachla'ot quarter. A lot of our friends from Tel-Aviv are here ,and there are also many new faces and a lot to learn. Certainly this fair is the most succesful alternative the "Week of the Hebrew Book" events, often criticised for being overly commercial.


This is where we bid farewell to Baptiste and Roxanne as they head up to her Ramallah home. They intend to make it past the roadblock before dark.

Flashky and I head on, walking to the edge of the Nachlaot and into the Mahne Yehuda market area.

We stop for a beer and a snack at the cheesiest drinking hole ever seen, a "club for members only" whose members are all elderly Iraqis. One wall is entirely covered by the decorative seal of some obscure German Brewery. The brew served to us is, curiously, Indian "Cobra" brand.

We made it to the studios of Israeli public television, but are not allowed to take photos inside. In defiance we pull out the camera out in the bathroom.

I was gorgeous on T.V.

We rush across the city to its center for the performing arts. On the plaza outside there's performance art taking place. Past colorful fabric, dotted with peeping holes, dancers are moving.

And on stage ,Jordi Savall's famed Hysperion XXI ensamble is performing songs from the Sepharadic diaspora. Legendary soprano Montserrat Figueras leads in Ladino. Yair Dalal is at the Oud and Savall himself plays the unique and beautiful Viol.

Time to go out.

First we hit Gilli's bar, which is good fun. Gilli pours us the butt of every coctail he makes. We get intoxicated enough that I forget to take a souvenir photo. Later at the Sira (possibly the city's finest nighthole), I do take one and immortalize Flashky's dancing joy. He's in an advanced flirt with the girl in a white tank top, a German from Cologne. Later on he ditches her, thinking that I am interested in returning to Tel-Aviv.

Now, I may be old, from Flashky's perspective - very much so. But I'm not letting go so easily of a city that looks like this at 2 AM

And like this at 3 AM

So we go to a place whos name I can't quite remember, tucked away down a passageway.

Than back to the Sira.

Where we learn how to balance pint glasses on top of one another and nearly get in a fight with an Everton supporter in his fourties. Flashky (a true Liverpool fan) does his best to calm the man down by pointing out their similar taste in music, but gets beer poured on his shirt. He stands up for himself, standing not two inches away from the aggressor's face and calling him a fascist. The Evertonian's friends, a group of truely sweet brits, calm him down and we bid farewell in good spirits.

No, in great spirits.


smadare said...

Yes, you were gorgeous on T.V...
Thanks again. :)

Aliza said...

oh that looks fantastic. i kind of hate jerusalem, even east, and never ventured much into west, but look at all that! where was the cafe from the 5th and 6th pictures?

3asl said...

I'd be jealous, except I am in Boulder.

Yuval said...

It's Tmol Shilshom, a cafe-bookshop that also has litarery events and so on.

The name means "The Day before the day before yesterday", it was originally the name of S.Y. Agnon's most ambitious novel.

Other good bookshop cafes in Israel include "Hanasich Hakatan" and "Tola'at Sfarim" in Tel-Aviv, "Ashan Hazman" in Be'er Sheva and "Sudfe" in Nazareth, where I'm going today.

Yuval said...

Oh, and I like Boulder too!

Maxim Reider said...

You write really, really well. I like this intonation of yours as well as the sensation of a literary tradition, that of essayism, of course, hovering above your texts.