Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Tel Aviv, Israeli Radio and Unexpected Art (part 5)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Bewilderment,Humor,Israel,Jewish Themes,Obsession,Travel — Bob at 4:40 am on Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tel Aviv, Israeli Radio and Unexpected Art

(part 5)

by Robert M. Katzman © November 4, 2017

 Driving south from Haifa, Israel, or 20 miles east of that to Tel Aviv on the mid-part of the coast on the Mediterranean Sea, later referred to all whom I asked as, “the Beach” or “the Sea” I had a choice of two ways to go, like long shoestrings hanging over a balcony, because both were parallel and I didn’t know the difference. One was more inland in the skinny country, Highway 6; the other ran along the touristy and industrial west coast, Highway 2. I chose 2.

An unmoving steel highway sizzling in the bright cloudless sun in tiny little chunks, chained together.

Discovered that rush hour in Israel was just like rush hour in Chicago or Los Angeles, except the road was narrower, the cars were tiny and aside from endlessly, robotically doing arithmetic in my head about how far one hundred kilometers really was, in American miles terms, so I had a mental picture of how much gas I had, and at the rate I was moving, would I ever get there?

Then there’s the radio. Israeli radio.

Except for coming back from Masada where I was startled to hear English spoken on 104.3, with a dimwits couple arguing about whatever they thought was funny and playing bad USA rock ‘n roll in between, everything is in Hebrew. Or Arabic. Which makes sense, sure, but there are endless stations to pick from.

And the music, when I was able to get a clear station without static was very much akin to “light rock” or the humming along barely tuneful monotonous drivel that after about ten minutes makes you want to rip out the radio and through it out of the window onto the highway.

But then I’d hear beautiful male and female voices, sometimes, singing in Hebrew and as good as anything I would hear in Wisconsin. Talent is talent and unexpectedly hearing a great voice while driving in one hundred degree heat in the desert in Israel was a great distraction as the dry, treeless, tan and beige mountains weren’t exactly whizzing by me.

Then after a few good minutes of that, a loud and deep voice would say a rush of Hebrew words in what seemed to be a commercial, sometimes briefly pausing to say an English word or name. The most amusing one of those was yesterday, November 3rd, when a voice said,

“…blah, blah, blah–Black Friday Outlet!–blah, blah, blah…”

 Which reminded me back when I was forced to take French One in grammar school in 1962, even though the only local foreign languages spoken in my Jewish/Irish neighborhood were Yiddish and Gaelic, the teacher mentioned something that actually did stick to my brain, unlike any French.

She said sometimes there are English words that are either untranslatable into France or other country’s local lingo because either no one could come up with a better way to say the word(s), or the new word came by way of black American musicians subversively introducing them in late night clubs, dance venues or where certain drugs might be smoked. Remember, I was twelve in 1962 when this information was passed on to me by what were probably twenty-five or thirty-year-old female teachers. Meaning she was born between 1932 or 1937, and grew up when the Beat Generation was adding words to American English, like:

Beatnik. Groovy. Mary Jane. Pad. Free love. Hepcat. Long green. Grass.

Some words I remember the teacher using as examples were, Jazz, or Weekend, which she said the French just added le or la and pronounced them as:

“Le Weekend”, Le Jazz-Hot!”

 Except for “cool” which was taken as it was whenever it was added to everyday speech and seems to be unchanged wherever I’ve gone in the world, passing from a younger generation to a younger generation. Maybe the ultimate perfect word for a place to go, a person, a situation, agreeing to do something, a movement, music, theater, art and so on. One syllable does it.

And that’s so cool.

Man.

 There is an Académie Française which was established in 1635, which still exists to protect France’s “perfect” language from foreign invaders corrupting it, as if a language can be controlled like lions and tigers trapped in a cage. Except that the French were very willing to let unlimited American and Allied Forces stream into their country during World War Two despite the fact that much more then their language was going to be corrupted because of a million young men passing through Paris and every other town looking for a last chance at sensual distraction before D-Day.

Israel may also have that except for the little problem that Hebrew is an ancient Semitic language that was formed thousands of years ago and used by various tribes in the general area of the present country, and at a certain point long before Christ came on the scene (an appropriate example of Fifties slang) had all the words it needed for ox, goat, horse, chariot, crops, buildings, weapons, family, war, sex, cooking and general small village life. Its evolution as a way of communicating stopped. Froze. Mummified.

But almost all those migrating civilizations either died, or were absorbed by empires, which were then absorbed by another empire, like the Assyrians to the Medes to the Persians to the Greeks to the Romans and then the Dark Ages. Little groups, like the Jews, or then called Israelites were generally swept up into the crashing waves of giant armies and keeping their language intact was not the main problem on their collective minds.

When the Vandals arrived, or Germanic tribes, or the Vikings, Hebrew was long dormant tiny little language and only kept alive as a religious language that traveled with the Jews dispersing throughout Northern Europe, the Ashkenazis, or other Jews, the Sephardics, but still the same tribal people who never really left the Mediterranean area after Rome destroyed Jerusalem as the capitol of an independent state in 70 AD.

Yiddish and Ladino were respectively local languages that arose by the two groups above and were formed by combining Hebrew with Slavic and Germanic words, while the group that stayed near Israel absorbed Latin. Yiddish somehow survived its users, though Hitler killed millions of them, and it traveled west to the new world, where it thrives.

Ladino barely exists and I don’t know if it will become extinct with the rise of Israel as a constant base for Modern Hebrew. I’m no expert on any of this, or probably anything at all except how to sell newspapers really, really fast during rush hour, but I think about a lot of things and how things change and about how people relate to each other. So, I’m happy if my running stream-of-consciousness interests people.

When I began Hebrew School in 1958 on the South Side of Chicago, aside from the mostly Israeli teachers screaming at us, or maybe just me, constantly—we didn’t know then that it was normal for Israelis to do that in Israel—I learned that so differently than France, Israel had Hebrew scholars dreaming up new combinations of existing old words in order to accommodate the changes in the world since 70 AD.

After some religious and progressive Jews began moving back to Israel in the late 1800’s to see if they could reclaim biblical Palestine as their own modern state, and seeking a refuge from Eastern European sanctioned pogroms, or the slaughter of Jewish villages at a whim by the Czar or the Cossacks, over time it was collectively decided to revive Hebrew as the national language. I believe no other new country in the world took a near dead language, determined to teach it every person living there to use there in everyday life.

Arabic, also a Semitic language, never went away and is spoken by a billion people today, and also in Israel. But Latin isn’t spoken in Italy even though it spread from country to country almost everywhere in Europe as a “Romantic” based language and so survives in evolved forms that way today, for example: French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Corsican, Romanian and Catalan, the language of the country that I right now, today, seeking independence from Spain partly justified because they claim to have their own distinct Romance language.

Meanwhile, those scholars were very busy dreaming up words for jet planes, refrigerators, atoms, bullets, other countries (Mitzryeem for Egypt was ok, but what about Argentina? Or the European Union?), skyscraper, elevator, earth-moving equipment, typewriter, electricity, the telephone, television and trans-Atlantic cables…the words had to exist so dictionaries could be written, classes for immigrant children and their parents could be taught, an army, navy and air force could be organized with a specific military vocabulary created, universities and scientists had to have their way of conversing in their fields, as well as plumbers, architects and restaurants. Both restaurant and also entrepreneur–the other ‘religion’ in Israel—are French words but Israel and English are glad to have them. Or maybe just me.

But in regards to my hearing: “Black Friday Outlet!” on Israeli radio, well c’mon, guys! That is just so wrong. Take the words, fine, but try to get the concept right, ok?

Black Friday originated as a day immediately after the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which is always on a Thursday. It might, supposedly, tremendous reductions in prices of things people would be buying for Christmas. It was a way to “jump-the-gun” (a racing idiom) to get people into stores and get the massive buying period started. Except it has grown and grown over the years and now precedes Thanksgiving and even has begun to be in effect on Thanksgiving. That offends many people, but the idea for the word was original meant to be for one day only. There is no conceptual comprehension of the phrase “Black Friday Outlet”. Not for me.

“Outlet” has evolved to mean in present day retail terms, a secondary store to a large chain where either “seconds” clothes damaged in production, or out-of-season fashions are offered to the public at reduced prices. There is usually, or used to be, only a set amount of any particular item offered for sale and when it was gone, it was gone. Sometimes, most of the time, a group of stores like this are offered space in a mall then known as an Outlet Mall, or words like that to attract an even larger group of people to come to the mall for a range of products.

What isn’t possible, isn’t intelligible to me, is to have an outlet for a certain day of each year, Friday, where that day can be offered to the public in perpetuity.

Aside from all these thoughts of mine on language, and I think about how to effectively communicate all the time, Tel Aviv is a beehive of traffic, cars, stores, curvy streets with occasional street signs in three languages, endless construction of taller buildings on new locations, replacing former smaller buildings, tall thin buildings crawling up hills to get a better view of the beach and areas set aside for building machines and supplies, a long beach where people surf; wear very little black bikini bathing suits with big stomachs hanging over them, and I mean the men here, too little; families, small restaurants in a million locations to feed big crowds both on the beach and on most streets near the beach.

The main things that happened for me there is these. I located the performing arts area in my endless walking around method of experiencing a city in a minute way. I had had bee thinking of trying to sleep in a local hostel until I discovered that the prices were unacceptable to me and I scotched that idea. I typed that odd word that exists in my vocabulary and wondered how many people still use that it to mean cancel a plan. So, curious, I looked it up and Merriam-Webster said:

“Middle English scocchen to gash, from Anglo-French escocher, eschocher to pierce”

Moving on, I spent the rest of the day walking everywhere. But when I learned that I could tour both the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the National Theater production of touring Cuban Dancers for less money than the Hostel would cost, about $68 in US money, where it would probably be double that in Chicago and never even think of appearing in Racine, Wisconsin, I jumped at the chance to absorb both art and dance in the afternoon and evening. A buffet of unexpected still images and fifteen dramatic and perfectly coordinated female dancers in a range of national costumes.

I don’t need so many words to say what made the museum thrilling to me. Not much is thrilling to me. Maybe if I ever fall in love again, that would be thrilling to me. I don’t know about that.

But beginning in 1959, my mother sent me to art school at the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue, the big building with the two giant stone lions on either side of the entry stairs. I stayed there for a year, third floor, 3-north, Mrs. Cerf was the teacher. I toured the museum as it was then, when I was nine, endlessly. Love of art ensued.

Though my mother was many things, half of them terrifying and not for here, she was beautiful, an excellent artist, taught me to draw people correctly, and made me appreciate how many colors there are in the world because of the numerous color charts she had lying around our house at 8616 S. Bennett Avenue, which constantly consulted in her work as an interior decorator. This was at a time when most women didn’t work.

Through casual exposure to the many charts every day I lived with her, I became interested and began studying them. Each chart was comprised of a range of one color with five little squares of that basic color going left to right, and then six rows down, going from barely there in the top left corner, to intense as death in the lower right corner. At seven or eight to learn that the crayon box didn’t have the exact shade of yellow I wanted for the sun, caused me to learn to blend different crayon colors, even if that wasn’t really good enough.

To become aware that there were thirty variations of blues, reds, greens, yellows, blacks and white gave me an education and awareness of how to seem my world more clearly, more completely. I was sent to art schools until 1964 when I ran away from home before graduating grammar school. I learned to draw with oils, charcoal, pen and ink, watercolors and sketch in different shades of wooden pencils. I never went anywhere with my art, never became a good artist, but I see a lot more when I look at a painting, a psychedelic movie, a panoramic vista, a sunset, clothing in a museum, the sea, make-up on the faces of women who are more creative about how they look, fires…why, mostly, I even dream in color.

So, my choosing to go to an art museum in a foreign country with many choices about what to do next, was an ongoing gift from my mother who died at eight in 2001. Did my time with her balance out in the long run?

I don’t know. But she looms increasingly larger as a force for culture and the senses as I become older. I owe her that.

I saw these artists’ work in paintings and sculptures when I went to the museum:

Van Gogh, Monet, Klimt, Pissarro, Picasso, Degas, Chagall, Pollack, Rodin, Miro, Lichtenstein, Braque, Renoir, Kandinsky, Rothko, Modigliani and too many others to remember.

But words like stunned and electrified would be the accurate way to express my emotions there. I am not any expert on art or architecture, and didn’t study them in my momentary time in different colleges and universities. But I know what stirs my soul, don’t need someone to tell me what to look at and why.

I have taken many photos in Israel of people and places. I have met some very interesting individuals in unexpected places and I am here because of a promise I mad, and kept, to my dead wife, Joy.

But as time goes by, when I recall my time in Iceland, Sardinia and Israel, besides climbing to the top of Masada, besides attending services on Shabbat in the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv, besides an unintended alleyway conversation with a person I wouldn’t pay who told me God talks to him (and momentarily me) in ancient and mystical Safed or (Tzfat) and the essentially un-photographical inflamed sunsets over the Mediterranean Sea, I will treasure my time spent in Tel Aviv’s Museum of Art.

Wow.

 

(to be continued)

 

Driving in the Dark: Lost in Israel (part 1) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3736

Bob in Israel: Crusader Castle and Caraway Seeds (part 2) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3748

Joy’s Ashes in Israel: An Independent Woman (part 3) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3761

Marsha Michael, Who Solved My Problems in Israel (part 4) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3771

Tel Aviv, Israeli radio and Unexpected Art (part 5) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3796

Vad Yashem: Killing Millions of Children (part 6) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3811

Chicago man Watches Death of Samurais in Israel (part 7)//www.differentslants.com/?p=3846

Traveling Alone, Traveling Together (part 8) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3865

An American Jew’s Bold New Plan for a Sane, Peaceful and Prosperous State of Palestine (part 9) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3887

 

David’s Star in Israel (part 10) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3907

To contact the writer:

robertmkatzman@gmail.com

Another word from the author;

Bob Katzman, poet, writer (5 books in print), entrepreneur and technophobe is seeking smart representation as a speaker for hire and to record all my work. As a guy who took on America’s largest magazine distributor in a six-year battle, and beat ‘em, as well as Com Ed, AT&T and Amex after that, all while having cancer at 18 and brain surgery (twice) at 54, plus 34 other operations, I know I can inspire both young and old people who possibly have less to overcome in their pursuit of happiness.

I’m the only guy to write a book about running a chain of newsstands for 20 years despite all the corruption Chicago had to offer. When things got really bad, the Chicago Syndicate stepped in to help me out. Scary. I can be reached at robertmkatzman@gmail.com or 847.274.1474. Serious responses only, people.

For the really curious, go to www.DifferentSlants.com/?p=3024 and read:

The City is Littered With the Corpses of My Retail Life

3 Comments »

Comment by Charlie Newman

November 4, 2017 @ 5:39 am

As always, Bob…props!
Nicely done.

Comment by Brad Dechter

November 4, 2017 @ 7:10 am

Glad you’re having fun now Bob- persevere!
Brad

Comment by Don Larson

November 8, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

Bob,

I was in the same useless French class as you were in grade school. I hated that class.

I think French is a beautiful language and glad there are many technologies that can take my English and create French for me. But I haven’t had the need for that yet.

Enjoy the rest of your trip, Bob. And keep writing!

Don

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