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I just spend two weeks in Israel, mostly in Jerusalem but also in Tel Aviv.
What a huge amount of building work in Jerusalem. The energy is enormous. I thought of the brains and organisation needed to keep the country functioning in a hostile environment – I can’t help but think of the UK Government handling Brexit. If the UK Government had to govern Israel, the country would be finished in two weeks.
It’s a miracle that Israel thrives and flourishes like it does. It’s ten years since I was here, so I really see it.
To sum up what I notice on the street, it’s the vitality. I think the economy must be doing well – there is a sense of purpose and drive in the air.
I see a lot of electric bicyles – the idea has really caught on – many more than in England – and I should know because Cambridge probably has the highest per capita bicycle use in the UK.
Jaffa Road used to be busy with cars and buses. Now, it’s only for the light rail line and it feels empty save for the pedestrians on the pavements. Cyclists speed alongside the light rail. It’s a sight – all the more so because it contrasts with the road that is otherwise quiet.
Apparently, the TED talk on body language given by Amy Cudy is the most watched TED talk ever. As the introduction to her talk says “Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and perhaps even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.”
In the talk, Amy says that to make yourself feel capable, spread out your arms and open your chest – and increases your sense of power and confidence.
Men in the religious community in Jerusalem are anything but big of body movements and posture. They don’t swing their shoulders or puff out their chests. They hold their arms close to their bodies and walk efficiently, with very little wasted movement – upper trunk held quite still.
They walk very purposefully, with an economy of movement. They must pick it up from one another – or does it seep into them from what they study and how the absorb its lessons?
The thing is, their interactions are incisive, decisons are made quickly. I think Amy Cuddy would love to see them in action because they do not fit the norm. I think the difference is humility coupled with a fierce sense of intellectual capability. And a tight-knit community.
I tweeted her:
To @amyjccuddy – Thinking about your TED talk about big body movements moulding attitudes: You would be astounded and fascinated by the body posture, gait, ways of holding themselves, of the men in the Orthodox religious community in Jerusalem. They are different. Go see.
The Funeral Of R. Shmuel Auerbach
I saw scores of Haredi men walking quickly through the centre of town. They looked like they were on their way somewhere and I asked one. He said they were going to the funeral of R. Shmuel Auerbach. As I walked to a small Square near the Machane Yehuda market, I found myself positioned to photograph some of them.
I learned later that Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach zts”l, was head of the Jerusalem Litvish community.
Are Israelis Impatient
Are Israelis impatient? They think and do very quickly. The space between thinking and doing is smaller than with anywhere else I’ve ever been. And because they are so quick, they seem impatient with themselves and they seem impatient with each other. Quick, quick you thought about something, now do it. That’s how they are.
Whether they make good decisions when they do things, that’s a different question. But in their everyday lives they are very quick. Of course it can be different when they have to make complicated decisions like legal decisions, but I’m not talking about that.
Of course, impatience is in the eye of the beholder. I am comparing them with the reticence in the UK to show any kind of impatience in public.
I assume (maybe I am wrong?) that the people in this procession are Greek Orthodox. They walked slowly, with gravitas, but without showmanship on their individual parts.
Photographer In Tel Aviv
One day, I went to a Government Office at the airport. After that I went into Tel Aviv and saw a photographer photographing people very close up with a small flash handheld. We got chatting.
The dress code and the meaning of the garments to the various communities interests me, but I know so little about it. Here are men walking in through Jaffa Gate and men praying at the Western Wall.
This is a spot at which I have been many times, walking out of the Old City through Jaffa Gate. I don’t know why, but the sense of being there touches me whenever I am at this part of the city.
The intimacy is something that brings a smile to my face repeatedly. It seems to speak of the commonality between them – what they know and what they have experienced.
Purim is referred to as the hidden festival – a time when the feared outcome was stood on its head. Apart from listening to the Megillat Esther (The Scroll of Esther), an account of the events of Purim.
One of the ways that people commemorate it is to dress in some kind of funny clothing and to drink a little. Notice the man on the bench.
The Israel Museum
I was surprised at the quality and quantity of artefacts at the Israel Museum. Why should I be, given were Israel is located at the crossroads of the world, but I was surprised and I enjoyed what I saw of it. There was much more to see than I had time for.
Outside in the grounds of the museum there were sculptures. I liked the juxtaposition of the solid wall and the flimsy structure. I added the word Israel in Photoshop after I took the photo.
Flowers in Bloom
Coming from England in the middle of winter, it was nice to see flowers in bloom. There were cyclamen like these growing wild on grassed areas all around the city.