Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hatikva in my heart...

So last Thursday I took a day off from work and spent said day stressing and sweating and cursing behind the wheel of a rented Citroën Berlingo, moving myself and my belongings out of Jerusalem´s Old Jewish quarter to the Hatikvah neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Arguing with different fiefs to have a rented car allowed into the Rova is no mean feat, and once allowed in, navigating it´s hair pin alleys and plazas among a million Israeli school trip teens, German sight seers and grumpy charedi soon-to-be-ex neighbors is nobody´s idea of a sinecure either. Or being stuck in traffic 45 minutes just to get back onto Highway 1 for the return trip to Tel Aviv for that matter.
Civilized mouse trap.....
In any case It´s done. The week leading up to the move went in the sign of bloody murder. It seems the future tenant of my dump in the Rova has a phobia towards the rodent species, and hence my land lady ordered me to buy mouse traps and get rid of the problem. Not sure why she considered this to be my problem, though? Anyhow. I´m a nice enough guy, so I got myself to the hardware store. You sell mouse traps here? Well. Turned out the Israelis idea of a mouse trap is a foam form filled with some hard syrupy stuff  that the mice get stuck in, after having been lured there by the bait of your choice. Stuck but not killed. So. When you wake up in the middle of the night by the ruckus, you find this super cute little mouse stuck in the foam, kicking and screaming for dear life. And so the actual killing is up to you, after having rubbed the sleep out of your eyes at 3 AM. So what do you do, club it, drown it, burn it at the stake? I had to go through this routine no less than 4 times the last week. Barbaric is what it is. The European mouse trap that swiftly, quietly and painlessly snaps the neck of the poor creature seems to me vastly superior in all aspects.

So now I live in the Hatikvah neighborhood. And so in one fell swoop I have moved from the most tourist riddle barrio in Israel to the least. Hatikva is by far the most ominously slandered part of Tel Aviv (with exception of Neeve Shaanan, which is more of a riot in slow motion that an actual place, and hardly anyone with a work permit lives there. And nobody slanders it because they wouldn´t know where to begin.) Hatikva is mostly known in the press as a place where every now and then tensions flare up between the original Sephardic inhabitants and the African refugees who´ve moved in there the last few years. In short, If you ask a generic Telavivian they will tell you Hatikva is shot, run down, dangerous and dirty and not worth bothering with. Stay away.

And nothing, I repeat nothing, could be farther from the truth. Sure, poor people live in Hatikva. And some 15% of the residents are Christian refugees from Darfur who were given political asylum in Israel during the near genocide in west Sudan. But what Hatikva is most of all, is bustling with life, everywhere and all the time. People are milling in the streets at every hour, the place is replete with stores and kosher restaurants, the architecture is a wild mix of Bahaus and well....Shack-haus? And although some of these buildings have seen better days, you will in the mess here also find a lot of newly renovated buildings, as well as a few reasonably new ones. I´m willing to swear that 50 years ago it was the most picturesque neighborhood on offer. And for every compact junk yard-looking hole-in-the wall shop selling rusty do-hickies, bicycle spare parts and second hand AC´s, there is his neighbour selling brand new flat screens and fashion brand apparel, pirates as well as the real deal, from elegantly looking boutiques. And everything in between.

And did I mention that people here are laid back? And actually nice most of the time? People here dress the way they feel like or can afford, and you will never see a nose in the air. The Hatikva shuk - I live next to it, probably one of the cheapest in Israel - is crowded with people, but there is not the stressed out feeling of Machande Yehuda. Crossing the Haganah bridge over the stinking ditch that is the Ayalon motot artery, and leaving noisy, stressed out, stuck up, careerist, grumpy, hipster Tel Aviv behind, is like entering a different world. Sure, people honk their horns here too, but the atmosphere is one of resigned and humoristic anarchy rather than stress and aggression. The Russian vegetable sellers drink their vodka and play cards by their rickety table when business is slow. The Sephardic kids hang around doing nothing and everything after school. And people are constantly arguing, talking and joking. I´ve seen more people laughing their heads off in the last 10 days than I saw in the Old City in a year. And there are a Synagogues on every third corner. It is the most Beit Knesset dense place I seen outside of Jerusalem. Hatikva is on another planet from the rest of TA. It´s actually hard to believe that the other TA is only a 10 minute walk northbound up the street and back over Haganah bridge.

Bascially I´m in love.

...a slightly magical place.

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