New real estate in God’s Venice

In one of the few remaining bits of open, rocky terrain in Jerusalem, just a few minutes’ walk east of my house, a stone inscription announces a mini-neighborhood to be named for the poet Yehuda Amichai. The inscription includes a line from one of his poems, describing Jerusalem as “a port city on the shores of eternity.”

According to critic Glenda Abramson, the poem is part of a cycle expressing “prophetic disappointment” in the city, but those who chose the inscription may not have been aware of that.

Anything built on this piece of prime real estate will undoubtedly be bought by wealthy people abroad who, if they come here at all, will sail in for two weeks a year, to grace with their presence the city that Amichai referred to as “God’s Venice.”

A new law, the Environmental Enforcement Law, makes the state and all its agencies—including the Israel Defense Forces and the defense agencies—subject to inspection. The new law, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry, reflects its policy of zero tolerance toward polluters.

Now that’s a law I’d like to see in action. “Hey, soldier, pick up that Coke can you just tossed. And you don’t have to point your gun at me. I’m just a ministry inspector trying to enforce the law.”

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, who won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2009, is designing a pavilion to protect the magnificent mosaic floors of Hisham’s Palace, north of Jericho. The mosaics of this sumptuous palace, built in the 8th century CE, are considered the largest and most important in the Middle East. The pavilion will consist of a lattice of Lebanese cedar beams resting on reinforced concrete pillars. Construction is to begin in 2013.

On a recent trip to the south of the country I was surprised to see solar electricity panels, solar panels for heating water, and satellite dishes, all in Bedouin villages where the fanciest house is a tin shack. The panels are necessary because unrecognized Bedouin villages are not connected to the national electricity grid.

The state would like all Bedouin to get off the land and move to cities, but urbanization has led to a breakdown of the social structure and an increase in crime. It has also had a negative effect on women, who have lost their economic function as shepherds (which formerly enabled them to move freely outdoors), and have become confined to their homes.

At the same time, more and more Bedouin girls are receiving education, and they account for the majority of Bedouin college graduates. But in their case, education is a mixed blessing, because it makes it harder for them to find suitable husbands.

I recently made a discovery of the culinary kind. Though I avoid caffeine, I love drinking lattés, especially very hot ones with lots of foam. But I spend little time in cafés and I don’t have an espresso machine at home (since I don’t drink coffee).

What I do have is a hand-operated milk foamer. It looks like what you’d use for French press coffee. You heat the milk in it in a microwave oven and then plunge the mesh part a few dozen times to create the foam. But no matter how hard I try, there’s never enough foam to suit me.

Last week I discovered that if, after pouring in the foamed milk, I put my cup in the microwave oven for a few seconds, not only is the beverage (made with coffee substitute) as hot as I like, it has mountains of very stiff foam. Elementary physics, Watson.


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4 Responses to “New real estate in God’s Venice”

  1. David Says:

    Lovely – this has become my ear to the ground for the interesting things in Israel. (no pressure!)

    Where you say that women are the majority of Beduin college graduates – are they a big majority? Do men not want an education, or do the demands on them to support their families preclude them from it?

    • estherhecht Says:

      I’ve been gathering more information. Bedouin women are getting higher education, but most are in teacher-training programs. In fact, they comprise the vast majority of students. This is partly because the teaching profession, formerly all male among the Bedouins, has opened up to women. Also, men can find work in various kinds of jobs without getting higher education. As you undoubtedly know, many Bedouin men serve in the standing army.

      • David Says:

        Thank you.

        I knew next to nothing about the Bedouin beyond goat herding and a semi-nomadic lifestyle.

        I’ve been reading up about them since, and it makes me want to stop off and say hello.

      • estherhecht Says:

        Their lives are undergoing vast changes, and most have permanent homes (though for many that consists of a tin shack). Just for example, the birth rate among educated women is dropping drastically.

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