“Not Gay – But Supportive!”


A “Straight” perspective on the parallel non-heterosexual world

My parade shirt – designed and hand-painted by my daughter

I am writing this, fresh from participating in the largest parade of Gay Pride ever to take place in Israel. Yesterday, tens of thousands of people – some say 100,000 – paraded through the streets of Tel-Aviv in a noisy procession, celebrating and, at the same time, promoting, their right to be different.

But I am not Gay, so why was I there?

Well, let me say that one’s attitude to, and awareness of,  the existence and activities of the Gay community is strongly influenced by having a family member who is not a part of the “straight” community. Those of us that find ourselves in this situation are still a relatively small proportion of the total population. This means that the majority continues to view the Gay section of society with a mixture of ignorance, fear, distrust, suspicion and loathing.

Other than what they see or read in the media, they have little or no understanding of Homosexuals, Lesbians, Bi- sexuals or Transgender individuals.

So it is unfortunate that their awareness level of the existence of such people is only raised by the advent of parades such as this. For the image of the Gay community, as projected by these  processions and events, is a distortion. The decorated floats blaring out loud music, and the gyrating semi-naked dancers, are certainly eye-catching, and make for great visual images on the evening news.

But this is only a small part of the community, albeit the most publicised.

Frankly, I was astonished at the huge numbers of photographers and cameramen, both professional and amateur, that this event attracted. There is something visually stimulating about the rainbow flags, and all the other rainbow coloured paraphernalia. But there were also a number of other flags being waved, in rainbow variations

Each group has its own colour theme, including a flag in various stripes of grey, representing the “asexuals”. And I was personally amused to see a contingent from Great Britain waving a Union Jack in various shades of pink!

I was also struck by the presence of the  small group of ” Parents of Gay children” with their own flag. I know that, for many of them, it was very hard to face up to, and deal with,  the new reality in  their lives.  Traditional concepts and values are difficult to overcome, so I salute them for the support they give, to their families and to others.

Unfortunately, I have personal knowledge of some cases where this was not so. Parents who could not overcome their prejudices, and placed religious belief, or simple ignorance,  before the well being of their son or daughter.

It is an attitude which I find impossible to comprehend.

Not like this in Safed itself!

The reality of a Gay relationship is an incident I witnessed on the fringes of the parade. I found myself next to a male couple, one of whom had a little boy perched on his shoulders, to better see the floats. Suddenly the child reached across to his other “father” and gave him a big hug and a kiss – a regular family!

This little scene encapsulates another, and I think much more important element;  the fact that a same sex couple, in Israel can adopt, or even via surrogate births, enjoy the ability to have a complete family.

I know that I am not alone in feeling that, to some extent, the flamboyant and open sexuality, exhibited in parades like this, are counter productive to the cause of equality.

If the argument is that Gays are no different from heterosexuals, save for their sexual orientation, then parades do nothing to persuade the rest of the population to understand Gay people better. To be accepted as an equal part of society requires compliance with the social norms of that society in matters of public conduct.

Being equal means exactly that. Equal rights are not superior rights.

I would hate us to arrive at a situation where there could be suggestions of “affirmative action” for Gays, This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. History has shown that other groups who screamed “discrimination”, did go down that road. That was bad for society then, and would be a bad thing were it to happen again.

Not yet!

The contentious subject of Gay marriage is an example of this phenomenon. In all the agitation for the rights of Gays to marry, it seems to have been overlooked that even heterosexuals cannot get married in Israel if they don’t satisfy the criteria imposed by the Orthodox Rabbinate.

Thousands of people still have to get married in Cyprus, or elsewhere, because, either they are not “Jewish enough”, to be permitted to marry in Israel, or they have some other impediment dreamed up by the religious authority.

Civil marriage for all citizens should be the sole aim, and Gays will then share the equal opportunity available. But I’m not going to hold my breath whilst waiting!

Of course, there are a variety of other aspects to the situation of Gays in Israel, many of which have been well publicised. The status of Tel-Aviv as one of the leading destinations for Gay tourism in the world being just one example. The expansion of Gay pride events to other cities, including Haifa, Petach Tikva, Hadera, Be’er Sheva, Eilat and, yes, even Jerusalem, is proof that the movement for equality is gaining momentum.

Oh, and I omitted to mention that, included in the parade, were a small contingent of religious Gays!

Maybe the day will come when we’ll see a parade in Bnei Brak or Ramat Beit Shemesh!

OK – just joking!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is

Photo credit: gay marriage:http://patnurseblog.blogspot.co.il/2012/05/gay-marriage.html

Is The (Secular) Worm Beginning To Turn In Israel?


Finally turning?

The first signs are there – but the Haredim will not give up without a bloody battle.

“The smallest worm will turn being trodden on”    William ShakespeareHenryVI, Part 3

After decades of being in thrall to the extreme religious minority, can it be that the rest of Israeli society has finally come to the point of declaring: “enough is enough”?

The answer is a definite “maybe.”

English: , alternative as used on the website ...

No separation between Religion and State

The essential problem with the structure of Israel has always been the lack of separation of  “Church and State”  (well, I suppose “Synagogue and State” would be more appropriate!) The concessions made by David Ben-Gurion to the tiny religious minority in 1947/48, may have seemed necessary then, but as we are now in the second decade of the 21st Century, it is fitting that we pause to reflect on whether those considerations should continue to apply.

In retrospect it’s ironic that a substantial number of the visionaries and founders of the new state for the Jewish People were, themselves secular – even Atheist. Most orthodox Jews opposed its formation, demanding that it was necessary to wait for the Messiah to come first (or again, depending on your belief).

However, once Israel actually existed they decided “if you can’t beat them- join them.” Better still, “control them”. And so it came to pass, that by clever political manoeuvering, manipulation of the electoral system, and by invoking the name of God when things got tough, they succeeded in obtaining power and influence out of all proportion to their numbers. (Actually, they don’t ever say God’s name as such, referring always to “Hashem” {“the name”}. When writing, they use only an acronym). The greatest irony is that tens of thousands of them still do not believe that Israel should exist, even whilst living here. Go figure!

Their success in controlling so many aspects of life is also due to the essential tolerant nature of secular liberalism. But it may be that they got too greedy. Not satisfied with what they had, they wanted even more.

I cite one example of many:

Machine matzo produced from shmura wheat in Israel

Only Matzot for a week............

During the period of Pessach (Passover), the custom is not to eat bread and similar “leavened” products made from flour. The consumption of many other kinds of foods and drink is also forbidden.

At one point, the law was changed so that it became illegal for such goods to be openly displayed. In deference to religious sensibilities, the food stores and supermarkets would cover these items with opaque material so that they would not be visible.  However, there was  a tacit understanding that those who wished to purchase the “forbidden” items could do so by simply reaching under the cover and taking what they wanted. This arrangement continued for years; a reasonable compromise you might think. You would be wrong. This word does not exist in the ultra-Orthodox lexicon.

Around two years ago the  ultra-Orthodox tried to put pressure on the leading supermarket chains to not allow the cashiers to accept such proscribed items. They threatened a boycott of these stores if they did not comply. But the practicalities of enforcement defeated them.

Not easily deterred,  they then arranged for a special software programme to be written which could be loaded into the check-out tills. This programme would prevent the bar code readers from identifying products they deemed “not allowed”. So far, they have not managed to bully the retailers into compliance. But every year they try harder. Talk about “food police”!

What was once a voluntary arrangement to accommodate the religious, has moved from “not being allowed to display” to “not being allowed to buy.” In some circumstances it is also forbidden to eat banned items in public. It is only one more small step to making it illegal to consume such items at all, even in the privacy of one’s own home. Fantasy?  Perhaps, but what happens at Pessach is the small tip of a very large iceberg. And for those who don’t believe in the physical manifestations of religious traditions, it feels like being on the Titanic!

Following a number of recent incidents, which took place over a period of a few short months, it is possible to detect the beginnings of a secular backlash. A short summary of some of the more prominent actions, which contributed to this feeling for change, includes:

  • Violent demonstrations by Haredim against young girls in Beit Shemesh, which included spitting on the girls and physically attacking them with everything from sticks and stones to excrement loaded diapers.
  • The complete exclusion of images of women on any advertising signs or billboards in Jerusalem.
  • Also in Jerusalem,  the virtual siege of a bookshop, until a Haredi inspector was allowed to check the inventory to decide which books it would be permitted to sell.
  • Repeated attempts to circumvent the law forbidding segregation  of men and women on public  transport, and abusing and physically attacking women accused of sitting in the male section of the bus.
  • Incidents of religious soldiers obeying their Rabbi and disobeying their officers – again in the sphere of separation of the sexes.
En: An Egged bus in Afula, Israel He: אוטובוס ...

Men in the front - Women in the back (but not in Tel Aviv)

Essentially, it all boils down to freedom of lifestyle, and religious coercion. I’m not sure that there was an actual “trigger”. It’s more an accumulation of things that caused non-religious people to move from thinking that the situation had reached untenable proportions, to actually doing something about it.

The decision last week by the Tel Aviv City Council to introduce public transport on Shabbat will, almost certainly, prove to be more declarative than actual, but it is a move that would have been unthinkable even 6 months ago. The obsession with the oft repeated mantra of “maintaining the status quo” must come to an end.

The Ten Commandments, In SVG

Also man made...............

The Ten Commandments may have been set in stone, but the other rules and laws of the Jewish State are all man made. (Well, so were the Commandments, actually, – but that’s  another story)

Also last week former TV presenter, Yair Lapid gave a speech to effectively launch his entry into the political arena. A main plank of his platform was to seek to reduce the power and benefits enjoyed by the Haredim. It seems that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. His father, the much admired Josef (Tommy) Lapid fought the same battle for years before he died. The Shinui party, under his leadership, even secured 15 seats in the Knesset, primarily due to his anti-religious stance. This was the most serious threat to Haredi power in recent years.

Lapid the Elder

Unfortunately, the members of his party started squabbling amongst themselves, and, in due course, the party fell apart. Lapid the Elder also found that politics is, truly, “the art of the possible”, and not everything he promised could be achieved. Of course, the Haredim detected that “the Hand of God” was responsible for what happened to Lapid and were outwardly triumphant.

Pundits predict that a party led by, or containing, Lapid the Younger could gain a sufficient number of seats in the Knesset to be a serious coalition partner. Then, the argument goes, a government could be constructed without including the religious parties. This could set Israel on a different path, but, based on past experiences, this scenario is unlikely to happen.

The choice is always between integration – or separation.

Personally, I’m all for separation. Sounds drastic, but the problem with integration is that the compromises required are too one sided. The secular are always expected to accommodate the religious. Until now, this is how it’s worked – and that’s the reason we got to this position.

Even the much publicised recent survey, claiming that a large majority of Israelis still believed in God, also stated that almost 60% -70% of respondents wanted public transport, shops, restaurants and places of public entertainment to be open 7 days a week.  A majority were also in favour of civil marriage. Should any of this ever come about on a national basis, the world will not come to an end. It won’t be Armageddon.

The city in which I live, Eilat, is a popular tourist destination for Israelis and foreign visitors alike. Its hotels, restaurants,coffee shops, attractions, shopping malls and public transport, function almost uninterrupted 24/7. Naturally, the “religious beach”, a newly constructed fenced off enclave within which there are separate sections for men and women, is closed on Shabbat.

So far, the small, but growing, religious groups in this City have not succeeded in changing its character significantly. Which is not to say that they are not trying! This is the problem with integration. Give them a finger and they soon want the whole arm – or body!

I would not feel uncomfortable if the state were to build physical Ghettos for the Haredi sects, in the style of 17th Century Poland, to replace the virtual Ghettos in which they now live. Then they could really feel at home.

For the rest of us, it’s time to acknowledge that this IS the 21st Century, and to start living in it!

Time, in fact, for the worm to start turning!

Andyboy – telling it as it is

Photo Credits

Worm – http://informedfarmers.com/

Ten Commandments -en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments

Lapid –http://news.bbc.co.uk/

Others in public domain or GNU free

Related Articles

http://andyboy1.com/2012/02/07/till-death-us-do-part-literally/

http://andyboy1.com/2012/02/05/fatal-attraction/

http://andyboy1.com/2012/02/04/if-it-quacks-like-a-duck-and-walks-like-a-duck-it-must-be-a-duck/

http://andyboy1.com/2011/11/03/some-of-my-best-friends-are-jews-2/

http://andyboy1.com/2011/11/22/rabbi-ovadia-yosef-from-his-mouth-to-gods-ears/

“Andyboy Has Been Banned” – Again!


Well, I don’t really make a habit of it. This is only the second time!

Since discovering the Blogosphere, about  six months ago, I found myself drawn to sites having a large number of contributors dedicated to attacking Israel, Zionism and Jews. I am not sure how many of you are aware of the battles taking place every hour of every day in Cyberspace.

I am not referring to the recently highly publicised “Wars of the hackers”, but to the long-term insidious phenomenon of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli rhetoric saturating the internet. I discovered this quite by accident, and was horrified to slowly learn the extent and depth of the hatred being spewed out so regularly.

Al Jazeera English

A forum not for the faint hearted

Somehow I felt an obligation to reply to the (mainly venomous)  talkbackers, and to put the alternative viewpoint. I started slowly, with what I might define as the “soft porn”  forum in Ha’aretz. I graduated to the harder stuff produced daily in Aljazeera, and then found myself in the “hardcore” website of Robert Lindsay. This was interesting to the extent that Robert allowed people the freedom to use whatever language they liked, with virtually no limits, just a few restrictions on subject matter.

It quickly became clear that I was dealing with a different breed of commentators. All, apparently, highly educated, and exuding the kind of intellectual superiority that a university education seems to inspire, well, at least in America. Of course, their “gurus” were the likes of Ilan Pappe, Norman Finklestein, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, so you may imagine their perspective on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.

It disclaims state of Israel

Zionists not welcome

To be fair the exchanges were, in the main, reasonably civilised and much of the banter was not vicious. I don’t think that I succeeded in influencing mindsets one iota. They had, without exception, swallowed the Palestinian narrative,“hook,line and sinker.” Their viewpoint of the situation was the only valid one. Any opposing  view was simply Zionist propaganda, or Hasbara, having no merit.

As we all know, historical narrative is never absolute truth; it is always open to interpretation. Since their interpretation depended, to a large extent, on the writings and teachings of the left wing protagonists listed above, their position on the issue was fixed and inflexible.

Apart from the conflict itself, there were two other subjects which constantly recurred. The first was about world domination by the Jews. The usual canards about Jewish power, control of the banking and finance sectors, control of all media – the regular rubbish. Secondly, as an extension of the first, was the Jewish influence on American politics, particularly in the sphere of foreign affairs. There was really great resentment about the perceived actions of the”Jewish lobby” and their results.

English: Governor Mitt Romney of MA

"Obama threw Israel under the bus"

My standard response was that each nation acts only in its own best interests. For as long as those interests are satisfied, the nation will continue to do what it feels is right for it. The moment it stops feeling that, it will do something else. In the case of Israel, even America, or its President, will, as Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney so eloquently expressed it “throw Israel under the bus” when it considers the time is right. No amount of lobbying will prevent that.

I mentioned that the exchanges were reasonably civil most of the time. But not all of the time. The site hosted a fair number of hostile anti-Semites, not afraid to express themselves in the most primitive language. I was invited to “fuck off and die” and to “fuck off back to Jew-land”. One commentator volunteered the information that he“spent all last night ripping up pieces of toilet paper…  it has the Israeli flag printed on every piece”. I was also variously described as a “gonorrhea dripping penis”and a “gay ass fucker.” If you decide to enter the internet world to speak on behalf of Israel, you need a thick skin.

After a few months of this I decided that my time could be more usefully utilised on developing my own blog and writing elsewhere, and this what I did. From time to time I would glance at Robert’s site, but it was pretty much “same old, same old” so didn’t feel that I had much to add. But a few days ago I came across this gem:

“The black slave trade over the Atlantic from Africa to America was a JEW ONLY monopoly. All the slave ships was  owned by jews.All the captain’s on all the slave ships was jews.  The biggest slave owner was jews. 

Watch any jew made jewish propaganda bullshit movie made in jew ruled Hollywood and what do you get? Jewish bullshit telling ignorant and stupid white people that is was the white man behind the black slave trade” (his grammar) .

I could not resist the desire to respond. Robert had written a piece about political correctness, with which I agreed, and I told him so. I then said: “On the other hand I see that you have acquired another raving lunatic, foaming at the mouth anti-Semitic nutcase. Well, I guess there’s no shortage of those – I just wonder why they gravitate to your site. I suppose it’s because you don’t mind providing a forum for the “Jews are the cause of every evil that has ever befallen the world brigade.”

Robert’s response was the following:

“Andyboy Has Been Banned

Andyboy, the beloved British-Israeli commenter who charmed and delighted so many of you on this blog, has been banned for “hostile attitude.” This was a very difficult decision. I realize that most commenters were endeared to him, and the longtime commenters especially loved him very much. I realize that by doing this I will enrage many of my commenters, and even many longtime commenters will probably leave, but I had to do it anyway. He got too nasty with me one too many times, so it’s back to Tel Aviv or wherever for him.

I hope some of you will stick around. As the rest of you don’t live in Tel Aviv, I doubt a similar fate awaits you. The rules are the rules, and they have to be enforced. I hope you all will forgive me for this necessary but very painful action.”

Last time I checked, there were 50 responses to his decision: Not all them negative towards me.

You can judge for yourself the nature of his blog, and the level of the discussion as I’m giving him a free “Plug”.  Just click on these links:

http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/andyboy-has-been-banned/

http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/the-zionism-thread/#comment-65971

Feel free to form your own conclusions – and let me know your thoughts.

Oh – the other “banning”?

English: The Daily Mail clock, just off Kensin...

Times have changed in the UK!

That was 6 months ago and had nothing to do with Jews or Israel. I commented on the London Daily Mail website about the London riots which had just ended. I pointed out that political correctness in the UK had reached such a level that the media studiously avoided mentioning the self evident fact that most of the rioters, arsonists and shoplifting thieves were, actually, Black. Or Brown.

I was unaware that it was no longer possible in 21st century Britain to call a spade a spade. (Pun intended). So I was surprised to receive a notification that I was “banned for life”  from their site with the threat of serious reprisals if I ever tried to comment again. To this date I have been unable to obtain from the Mail any explanation, or justification for their action. My assumption is just an assumption. You can click on the link below for fuller details:

http://andyboy1.com/2011/08/31/banned-for-life-with-no-explanation-2/

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

(or trying to if not banned!)

 

In Defence of the “Oldest Profession”


“Proposed Israeli law would jail prostitute clients”

(Jerusalem Post headline)

English: Knesset Israel 61 years. עברית: מליאת...

Knesset to vote - "no more hookers" (don't hold your breath)

In a few days time a Knesset committee will consider a law which, among other things, proposes criminalising the clients of prostitutes. This is manifestly absurd and unreasonable, and is a desperate attempt to regulate a situation which requires a totally different approach.

Prostitution, until now, has been treated by successive governments as an activity which requires control within a criminal framework. Being a prostitute is not, in itself, illegal. The crime is living off the earnings of a prostitute. As with all previous attempts to control activities deemed to be against the best interests of society, this current plan is also doomed to fail. One only has to consider what happened to the prohibition on the sale of alcohol in America in the 1920’s, and now the failure of all efforts to control drug trafficking, to understand that more legislation simply drives the problem underground.

What is needed is a radically different approach. Rather than criminalising the prostitutes and/or their clients, it is time for us to face up to the reality. These women (or, sometimes, men) provide a much needed service in a professional manner, for which they charge a fee. That service will continue to be required, no matter what laws are passed. Consequently, a far better, and more realistic approach, would be to acknowledge openly that fact, and deal with it accordingly.

English: Prostitute waiting for customers. Esp...

waiting for clients..................

Government bodies, social services and the police should combine to provide support, and a comfortable working environment in which the services could continue to be provided, without threat of criminal prosecution. Rather than being harassed, these working ladies should be protected, provided with appropriate health services and controlled, perhaps even to the point of paying tax on their earnings. This is not as absurd as it might sound: a similar scheme is already in operation in parts of Germany.

The main problem will arise from the pimps, and others who make money from the activities of the prostitutes. This aspect is, and should be, criminal, and it is THIS that the police need to control and eliminate, as far as possible. What is unacceptable to society is the human trafficking aspect. Since that has not been controlled to date, it is that element that requires the energies of the legal services. Not the girls, and certainly not their clients.

חרדים ירושלמים. צולם על ידי אפי ב.

Potential clients?

It seems extraordinary to me that, in a society containing large numbers of ultra-orthodox Jews and Muslims, whose religious beliefs preclude pre-marital sex, the thought of eliminating prostitution should even arise.  It is a grossly unrealistic premise. A few nights spent in the area of Tel Baruch beach in Tel Aviv will suffice to show the reality, and the necessity of the services the ladies provide. There is even a body of opinion that claims that the very existence of open prostitution reduces substantially the incidence of rape.

One thing is absolutely certain. No matter the legislation, Prostitution will not disappear. It is not called “the oldest profession” for nothing. It has endured for thousands of years, and will continue for as long as mankind inhabits this planet.

Why is it considered evil? Is a prostitute less of a person than the wife in a loveless marriage who endures sex to maintain her financial security? Or a young girl marrying a wealthy old man, decades her senior? Prostitution is not just about money for a specific act for a limited amount of time with a total stranger. It is also a state of mind in so-called “normal”relationships.I

And what about “recreational”sex? Sex just for the hell of it? Or sex for relief?  It’s true that the internet today has many sites where sex is offered for free, but not everyone is into computers, especially the Haredim. What are they supposed to do? If I’m not mistaken, even masturbation is Biblically forbidden.

( Full disclosure)  

1. I, myself, have in the past, engaged the services of these working ladies in a number of different countries. I think the experiences were mutually satisfactory, as far as I could tell. Only in Israel did the  girls arrive with credit card machines at the ready. Strange, but organised at least. Unfortunately, the advent of AIDS caused me to no longer pursue this line of recreational activity, as I am sure it has for many people. The fear of disease is a far more potent controller than any man-made laws.

2. Many years ago I discovered that I had a pimp on my payroll! Needless to say, I was totally unaware of the fact that the company chief accountant was pimping out his wife and using our office facilities in the process. Only after the police arrived and arrested him did I learn what had been going on. After due process, he was fired – and promptly sued the company for wrongful dismissal. At the Industrial Tribunal he claimed that his private life had nothing to do with his professional abilities. Privately, I sympathise with this view, but as CEO of a large company in the retail field serving multinational conglomerates , I was left with no option from the position of corporate responsibility.

For your interest, the Tribunal dismissed his claim. He might have improved his chances for success had he not turned up at the hearing with his pregnant Black girlfriend, looking every inch a hooker!

But I digress.

As I said before, the ladies are in a respectable profession, provide a service and do so for a mutually negotiated fee. Much like lawyers. So what’s the difference between a prostitute and a lawyer? There are a number of comparisons available:

  • One you look forward to visiting, the other one you wish you’d never met.
  • One is illegal, and shouldn’t be; the other one is legal, and shouldn’t be.
  • One walks the street openly; the other one hides in an office.
  • One lets you lie back and enjoy it; the other one bends you over, and you don’t enjoy it.
  • One gives you what you paid for; the other one, you never stop paying.
  • A prostitute will stop screwing you after you’re dead.

Andyboy – Telling it as it is

“The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions”


This particular “Road” is actually the Eilat promenade

Market stall - or mini department store (photo: andyboy1,com)

The “Hell” is not so much that it is paved. Rather, that it is infested with scores of, apparently, immovable market stalls. To understand how this has come about, it is necessary to give some historical background.

Eilat history

Eilat, although allocated to the Jews as part of the UN partition resolution,

Eilat captured - March 1949 (photo: andyboy1.com)

was not actually taken by the Israeli army until March 1949. It was then known as Um Rush Rush, and was uninhabited. Until 1958 it was almost inaccessible from the North, but in that year the road from Be’er Sheva was completed.

By the end of 1959 the population had grown to some 6000. The majority were new immigrants from North Africa. Their relocation was not always entirely voluntary, but in those times people had to go where they were sent by the absorption ministry. Perhaps it was felt that they could better adapt to the hot, dry climate than could Europeans. Whatever the reason, this defined the ethnic character of the city. It still does.

A combination of the social fabric of the emergent town, and its geographical isolation from the rest of Israel gave rise to a phenomenon, the effects of which are still felt today. For reasons which are not absolutely clear to me, the police and judicial system decided to treat Eilat in the same way that the British treated Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Eilat became a penal colony to which petty offenders were despatched as an alternative to prison. One can only imagine the cumulative effect of this policy on the social development and civic values of the city. This was a big problem for the municipality, which was making strenuous efforts to promote Eilat as a tourist centre. Indeed, a separate company was created which worked under the aegis of the Tourist Ministry and the Israel Land Authority, to develop the tourism area.

The birth of the market stalls

So what has all of this to do with market stalls on the promenade? Everything!

In attempting to deal with the problem of drug addicts, criminals, drunks, homeless and general down and outs, someone came up with a “brilliant” idea. The plan was to provide these unfortunates with the means to earn an honest living and become useful members of society.

And so, sometime in the late 1990’s,  the concept of market stalls was born. The plan was supposed to result in the creation of a  handicrafts market; something similar to the market in Nahalat Benjamin in Tel Aviv. A major difference became established at the outset. In Tel Aviv, the stalls are temporary and only trade for a few hours on 2 days a week. In Eilat they quickly established a pattern of 7 day trading.

supposed to be maximum 2 square metres! (photo: andyboy 1.com)

The municipality, under the leadership of Mayor Gabi Kadosh, identified some 50 individuals which it deemed suitable for the scheme. Contracts were signed in which each side took on certain obligations. Firstly, the contracts were personal to the specified individual and could not be assigned. Secondly they required that the individual must work on the stall whenever it was open for trade.

Employees were not permitted, since the basic intention was to get the person off the streets and ensure that their time was fully occupied. The stalls themselves were described as temporary and of limited size. The municipality designated the location of each stall and arranged for electricity and water to be provided. The stallholder was supposed to pay a small contribution towards the expenses. Of course, in the best Israeli tradition, none of the stallholders’ obligations were met.

An unexpected development

Temporary became permanent; stall sizes expanded; family members, then extended family members, then friends and finally employees worked on the stalls. Handicrafts, if they ever existed at all, rapidly gave way to Chinese imports. The range of merchandise grew to include clothing, shoes, jewellery,toys, cosmetics, gifts and sunglasses. Kiosks proliferated selling food, drinks, snacks and cigarettes. The original concept was blatantly ignored. Even the number of stalls expanded as new ones appeared overnight. The municipality turned a blind eye. Attempts to exert any control were feeble at best.

At the beginning of the new millennium a prior decision to upgrade the promenade was implemented.

not exactly aesthetic when closed (photo: andyboy1.com)

This required the removal of the stalls. Considering how much unsupervised and uncontrolled cash money was changing hands daily, the stallholders had to be practically dragged kicking and screaming from the promenade. Eventually a combination of court orders, police action and brute force relocated them to a temporary location in the parking area of the Club Hotel.

This gave the municipality a breathing space.

In conjunction with the company responsible for the upgrading, a plan was drawn up which acknowledged that the original contract holders could eventually return to the refurbished promenade. But there were two important conditions; firstly a standard design, and much smaller size of stall was mandated, and the construction was started. Secondly, electricity and water supplies were built in the exact spot required. The total number of approved sites was less than 60.

Eventually the refurbishment was completed. Despite previous agreements and various applications to the courts,  the municipality finally had to succumb to the capriciousness of the wonderful Israeli  court system.

The stallholders return

And the stallholders  returned with a vengeance! Completely ignoring the restrictions placed on them by the courts they invaded the promenade like the proverbial swarm of locusts. In addition to the “legal” 60, a further 200+ stalls appeared in a matter of weeks. Physical “turf battles” took place and  all of the shops facing the promenade were slowly and relentlessly blocked from public view and access.

Appeals of the municipal tax paying shopkeepers fell on deaf ears. Already suffering from damage to their legitimate trade by the ever growing variety of cheap merchandise flooding the market, literally on their doorstep, they were powerless. The stalls had expanded into the equivalent of shops, many occupying up twenty square meters of space. This was ten times the area of the original contract. A number of stallholders claimed to have received special permission from the mayor to be there. This allegation has never been satisfactorily answered.

he would not be amused..... (photo: andyboy1.com)

By now the promenade was a dangerous place. In some places movement was almost impossible, and the passage was too narrow for fire trucks to get through. They were just lucky there wasn’t a serious fire in this period.

In the 2003 elections Gabi Kadosh lost his bid to remain as mayor and was replaced by Meir Itzhak-Halevi. He now inherited this terrible situation and had to deal with  it.  Attempts to exert some control over the stallholders, by appointing a team of inspectors, did not succeed.

Although I have frequently referred to Eilat as a “city” because that is what it likes to call itself, and indeed, it is legally, the reality is somewhat different. Actually, its just a big village in which almost everyone knows everyone, and are frequently related. If not this, then there is always the ethnic connection and sense of solidarity. Enforcement is difficult.

Fighting court orders

Add to this the fact that the extended families and friends of the stallholders are a substantial part of the electorate. They are also represented on the city council and they have been able to raise enough money to hire very expensive and aggressive lawyers. Battle after legal battle has been waged on their behalf in numerous court hearings.

Sometimes the municipality has prevailed and in various raids over the years have managed to reduce the number of stalls to around 80.

only good for sheltering motorbikes (photo: andyboy1.com)

A major line of defence for the stallholders, at least those with contracts, was lack of an alternative location. To deal with this argument the municipality has built at enormous cost, a special shaded area in a former car park adjacent to the promenade. The plan is that it will be a permanent covered market with uniform stalls. As you would expect, if you have read this far, this plan has been refused by the stallholders.

Nevertheless,  the municipality has finally succeeded, after ten years of battle, and at considerable cost to the ratepayers of Eilat, in obtaining an eviction order. They have been trying to enforce this for at least a year. Each time the stallholders appeal to another court. Each time they obtain a deferment. Firstly they were granted an extension for last Pessach. Then again for the 2 months of the Summer holidays. Then for Rosh Hashana and Succot. Now they are seeking a stay for Hannukah, and are even talking about next Pessach. Isn’t our court system just great !

Meanwhile the expensive covered market is a free covered parking space for motorbikes.

So much for good intentions!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

“North Promenade stall holders demonstrated on Monday night against the mayor of Eilat, Meir Yitzhak Halevi. The demonstration took place soon after evacuation orders were given for stalls to evacuate the promenade by Wed 15.6.2011.The Supreme Court decided  to extend the evacuation to September 2011…not good news for those eager to see a quiet and stall free promenade..” 

http://eilat-today.com/index.php/community-news-mainmenu-72/645-the-promenade-stalls-stay-untill-september-2011

(The quotation used for the headline is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux – a French abbot. 1090-1152)

Enhanced by Zemanta