The demonstration in the square was a success. True, it wasn’t focused enough − between us, what were meditators, owners of split-up apartments and taxi drivers doing there? − but somehow the message got through. She was even seen on television for a tenth of a second, holding the left pole of the huge cloth sign that read: “No to deportation of foreign workers!”; sacrificing her vocal cords in rhythmic chanting, “No, no, no way we’ll let apartheid in today!” “Eli Yishai, hide your face − deporting our brothers is a disgrace!”
She had no voice left, but even so she managed to retort that, “We Jews were also once refugees,” when the convenience-store owner on Ibn Gvirol Street bellowed at them, “You cruddy bleeding hearts! Why don’t you demonstrate against the mayor’s inspectors, who don’t allow a car to stop here for even a second!”
“This is a country of egoists!” shouted her chum, Chummy (“Che”) Chupar, who marched alongside her waving the presumed flag of South Sudan. “Everyone here only thinks about his own ass.”
“You’re right,” she replied with her last remaining drop of energy, in the midst of the noise. “We are so ethnocentric that we have lost all sense of simple human solidarity, not to mention empathy for distress, even though the religious groups should be the first to demonstrate. Who better than they should know the verse, ‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself”?”
“What!?” He couldn’t hear a word she said.
“I said that ... Oh, never mind.”
The demonstration dispersed in the square next to the Cinematheque. She rolled the sign around the pole, for use the next time around. Chummy said he would gladly accompany her home, were it not for his asthma and for the fact that she lived on Purgatory Street, hard by the old central bus station.
“Will you be all right?” he asked. She was too hoarse to answer.
When she arrived at the corner of Vale of Tears and Golgotha, a shadow in the form of a man, or maybe vice versa, detached itself from a fence and made blinking noises in her direction, or maybe they were gurgling sounds. She quickened her step, despite the sudden weakness in her knees. She gripped the folded poster tighter, ready to use it to smash it over the assailant’s head. The stranger too quickened his step. And then, from another wall, another shadow detached itself.
The horror that swirled within her gave way to rage: rage at the border-breached country, rage at the non-police, rage at Huldai, the mayor, who had abandoned the once-tranquil neighborhood of her childhood to dodgy foreigners and invaders. She almost dropped the cellular phone as she called the police with trembling hands. And when asked by a blasé voice “to provide a description of the assailant” she didn’t know what to say, other than to gasp, “You think I can tell the difference between them? It was a nigger! A nigger − you know!”
“It’s not nice to talk like that,” the telephone voice said.
This week the National Council for Planning and Building decided to recommend to the government an amendment to National Master Plan 38. This allows two and a half floors, as opposed to the earlier provision of one extra floor, to be added to buildings that are being reinforced against earthquakes. Few know that one of the chief proponents of the decision was attorney Maniv (“Nesach”) Parselatzia, the representative of the government authority.
For reasons best known to him, he had fought for this decision for years. He systematically attacked all the high-density resisters and environment advocates who opposed even the addition of one floor in already-suffocating residential neighborhoods. He mocked those who lamented the disharmony that would ensue, he protested the surrender to the real estate sharks. He silenced anyone who railed against heaping more floors onto dilapidated apartment buildings: They probably would not survive a major earthquake, which might or might not occur and was maybe just an excuse.
“Enough dithering!” the arrogant jurist would cut off the bleeding hearts. “In a country like ours we don’t have the luxury of building horizontally. We need to add not two floors but four! That’s the way it’s done in cities elsewhere. A city is like a compost heap,” he philosophized. “Everything has to be compressed, organic, fermenting!”
“And smelly and rotten,” the representative of the environmentalists mumbled.
Parselatzia pounded the table with his fist. “Anyone who wants fresh air, a view and fields as well as parking places − please move to the countryside. You walk through the alleys in the heart of the ancient cities − Rome, Sienna, Naples − and breathe in the density. You see laundry hanging from peeling wall to cracked wall, a balcony nudging the rusting tin flowerpot on the balcony opposite − and you know you are living in a city: a breathing, steaming, panting city! You don’t like it? You want to hear a rooster in the morning? Move to Kfar Azar, get thee to Moshav Timorim.”
Our friend went on like this for years, in dozens of meetings, before returning every evening to his two-story home, which was ensconced on one of the small, secret streets of north Tel Aviv, one of those delightful alleys whose existence no one even suspects. And since the widow who lived in the one-story next door died, he now had − thanks to one of those typical blessed Tel Aviv inheritance battles, which had been dragging on for 25 years − a wide-open space to inspire his municipal visions. Yes, only there, at the picture window overlooking the sundeck of a small backyard, surrounded on all sides by lilacs, shade trees, jacarandas and mimosas, only there did he experience true tranquillity, dreaming of the alleys of Naples, Rio, Lisbon.
Until the day came when ... Do we need to continue?
Appalled, he approached the fence that had been erected overnight around the neighbor-woman’s house, 20 centimeters from his yard, and stared in disbelief as he read the large sign: “Structural reinforcement and addition of five floors according to NMP 38.” Above the din of the bulldozer and the electric saws no one heard what he was screaming, the man with the crazed look, the reading glasses, the tablet and the shorts.
In the first cabinet meeting he attended after joining the coalition, Minister Mugaz heard the details of the plan to attack Iran. As a fierce opponent of such an attack he reiterated his well-known view, which he had held for years, that an attack would be disastrous, that it was unnecessary and would inflict a catastrophe on the entire region, apart from being ineffective.
“After the attack they will have a bomb and we will find ourselves walking amid ruins,” he summed up cogently.
The prime minister whispered something to the cabinet secretary, who scribbled something on a piece of paper and slid it across the table to Mugaz. Mugaz read it, wrote something on it and slid it back. This happened a few times, until the rebellious minister asked for the floor and announced that he was retracting his opposition.
“In the light of a few facts I have received, I have changed my mind and now am in favor of an attack on Iran − with all our might, and the sooner the better.”
At the conclusion of the meeting Mugaz went over to the cabinet secretary to clarify a few more points. “I just wanted to understand. Is it for couples or individuals?”
“I don’t follow.”
“The shelter, the government’s atomic shelter − can minister’s wives get in, too?”
*NIMBY − Describes a person or an attitude; short for “Not In My Back Yard.” A NIMBY might agree that a community or a neighborhood needs a halfway house for convicts transitioning back to society, but doesn’t want it too close to his or her own home or in the neighborhood (source: urbandictionary.com)