Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Pilpul - Part 1

Pilpul, as used in a Jewish house of study, literally means bits of pepper. Its bit of sayings or teachings. A tool for Rabbis who write sermons in their heads wile walking to synagogue. Its also a bunch of disconnected thoughts that have to be dumped somewhere to make room for other clumps of pilpul.

28 November 2005
Tel Aviv

At sun down Liz, cousin Marcia and I are sitting on Bograshav Beach in the beach café area. Drinking café afuk and watching the sun go down over the Mediterranean Sea. Its sunny and in the ‘80s. As Car Talk aficionados know, everything works when it’s warm. I feel great. I love this city.

30 November 2005
Tel Aviv

The streets are named for dead Zionists, a few relevant Kings (David, Solomon, Saul, and George) and even, in this mostly secular town, some prophets and selected dead Rabbis.

Our apartment is on Zlatapolsky Street. Our friends the Mallachs tell us that Zlatapolsky was a Ukrainian industrialist who lived from 1868 to 1932. After the revolution he moved to Paris. Zlatapolsky was a benefactor of arts and culture in Israel. He does not appear to have emigrated nor do we know if he ever came here. He must have sent enough money though to get a street, albeit a sort one. Of course, there is the definition of a Zionist in the Diaspora: A person who solicits money from a second person so a third person can move to Israel.

The neighborhood is a quiet, residential area tucked between the big hotels and embassies (we are a block from the Hilton and the British) and Ben-Yehuda. Liz points out the irony of several large Israelis now stand guard protecting the British embassy. Ben-Yehuda and its parallel street, Dizengoff are major shopping and eating roads. So many cafes and galleries, so little time.

1 December 2005
Tel Aviv

If, instead of going out the front gate of our building, we go around back we can walk through a small park in the middle of the block, out an alleyway, and arrive on Ben Yehuda next to Barbunia. Barbunia is a fabulous fish restaurant with tables out on the street. Our waitress helpfully advises us that all of their fish is kosher, except for the shrimp. Barbunia also has the mark of a great grill restaurant – the salads. Salatim (in Hebrew) are small plates of different dips and slaws that one noshes on while waiting for the main course to arrive. The waitress will keep bringing salatim as long as you keep eating them. This can become a meal in itself. But no one I know has such discipline. There are the expected eggplant (in several varieties), houmous, tahina, babaganoushe, cole slaw and red cabbage. But also a couple of things that I still don’t know what they were but they were good. Another thing Israelis do very well is bake bread and rolls.

The architecture in Tel Aviv is predominantly Bauhaus. Zionists may have liberated the land but Mies Van Der Rohe and the rest of that crew inspired the builders. Much of Tel Aviv was getting pretty shabby when we were here in 1992. But since then the town has gotten gentrified with a vengeance. Old buildings have been restored with their insides gutted and modernized. New buildings retain the Bauhaus flavor with curved corners and balconies but large, double hung windows. Automated shutters replace the hand/rope-controlled variety.

Someone who went for sleek, top of the line stuff restored our apartment. He then couldn’t meet the payments and sold to a woman who lives in Belgium and only uses the place for her vacations. She rents it out the rest of the year. Those of you who are used to the hand-held shower head (saves water but also saves on plumbing) while in Israel will be most impressed that we have a Grohe full body shower system in the corner, glass walled shower. This is something we passed on when doing our Millburn bathroom (which as you know is our proudest achievement except, maybe, for the children). Well, next bathroom……… The small bedroom has a built in closet with multiple types of storage areas, from the different areas to hang clothes to the deep drawers and the stack of narrow, glass-fronted pull out shelves on which you can lay two sweaters side by side. Deena, the real estate agent, says the owner who did the restoration was gay. Either that or he had OCD, or both.

Meanwhile, the living room wall facing the street (we’d see the beach if not for the buildings in the way) consists of three almost floor to ceiling window panels. Open the automated shutters (they roll up -- as they start to move they first expose slots between the shutters – then they open – it’s a bit like Morbius’ house on Altair 4) and you have a giant picture window. Slide the windows to the side and your living room is also your balcony. Sit on the couch and watch the trees and clouds or the cable TV. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

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