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Soon My Childhood Home Will Be Razed

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A man rides a bike along Ben Gurion Boulevard in Tel Aviv
A man rides a bike along Ben Gurion Boulevard in Tel AvivCredit: Aviva Ein-Gil
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

It hit me like a bolt from the blue: 9 Stand St. An advertisement on the Haaretz Hebrew-language website. My childhood home, the home of my dreams. “Live in a Garden Apartment in the Heart of Tel Aviv.” Garden apartment? Where? In the backyard where the milkman parked his delivery tricycle? In the front yard, the view of which Mrs. Zaroni – a survivor of the 1954 Ma’agan disaster and leg amputee – commanded throughout the day from her balcony?

“Well-designed building with advanced architectural planning. Appointed to the highest standard. Penthouse with a skyline view. Elegant lobby, landscaped gardens. Underground parking accommodating high vehicles like the Land Cruiser. Aluminum minimal-frame thermal windows and Klil Office double-pane windows. Venetian blinds. Electrically operated sun blinds. Shade elements on the balconies. Floor tiles from HeziBank Designs and Mitsubishi central air-conditioning. Palazzani faucets. Vortice ceiling fans on balconies. Doors with hidden hardware and baked-on epoxy finish. Double-coat ‘American’ plaster. Dada kitchen from Tollman’s. Building permit obtained.”

The letters danced, the head spins, the breath catches. My 9 Stand St. is about to be demolished.

I called the developer, Yair Krinsky, who was affable. He already sold the penthouse to a high-tech guy who cashed in on an exit.

The parking garage will be automated, he promised. Back in the day, Mr. Sarna, the landlord and a member of the Dan Bus Cooperative, would drive his bus – No. 5 – and park it in front of the building at noon before going upstairs for lunch. When we played outside, there were almost no cars parked on the street.

Two apartments are left, 98 square meters (1,055 square feet) for 5.9 million shekels ($1.8 million), and a two-level, 97-square-meter garden apartment with a 70-meter English garden for 8.4 million shekels. The old building will be razed at the end of the year. The new one will be completed in three years. It’s the end of the world.

The ad says “Shtand.” O, the ignorance. The name of Adolf Stand, an Austrian Jew, is written Stand, of course. We were always embarrassed by “Adolf” and called him by his Hebrew name, Avraham, so people wouldn’t know. Just as I sometimes said my mother’s name was Leah, and not Thea, so people wouldn’t know. When she called me from the balcony in German I would cringe in shame.

From that balcony, with no shade elements, Mrs. Lehrich, from whom we had bought our apartment, would call her husband to lunch from his metalworking shop. Koby, she’d call, bebakasha (instead of bevakasha), please, and he’d come.

The Tadiran window air conditioner that my parents bought back in the day – it was a big deal then – is still installed in the balcony wall, which will soon be knocked down. Of course it was reserved for special – and particularly hot – occasions. The “mosaic,” the ledge of the balcony that we sat on, is still there. The black mark on the street, however, has long since faded.

Ricard was my parents’ only friend from the Irgun, the pre-state underground militia led by Menachem Begin, and he never forgave me for accidentally knocking over a can of paint while getting out of his car. I thought the stain would endure in eternal disgrace. It too disappeared.

There’s no longer any need to ask Mr. Sarna for a key to the faucet in order to wash my father’s Prinz 1000. The faucet is still there, hidden in the bushes.

The one-room apartment on the roof, where I lived after leaving my family’s apartment below it, will be a duplex apartment. The high-tech millionaire who bought it probably doesn’t know that the poet Yonatan Ratosh lived there before them, and the poet and radical left-wing activist Maxim Ghilan before that. Ratosh tried to recruit me to the youth movement of the Caananites, and I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Someone put feces outside Ratosh’s door once, and I was terrified by it.

The paint on Mrs. Pelner’s door is still peeling. A Holocaust survivor from Hungary, haunted and alone, she would stand at the door for hours before going out, to make sure that it was locked. And nothing remains of Meir’s grocery, not even the wonderful smell of the lakerda pickled fish that rose from the wooden barrel.

Coming soon: garden apartment. Two levels and an English garden with a skyline view.

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