“The last city I loved: Tel Aviv”

My wonderful friend Shaun (who was also briefly my roommate – we would eat chocolate-covered almonds and watch Thirty Something in his flat on Tel Aviv’s Smuts Blvd, a place where I found refuge when refuge was the thing I needed most) is also a wonderful writer.

He’s the author of (among other things) Seven Sweet Things and  Snapshots of The Boy (the wee boy with the bucket on the cover of the latter being Shaun, when he was but wee), and the founding editor of the queer literary journal Chroma, and the director of Treehouse Press (a small, independent press where they “opt for small print-runs relieving the writer of the pressure to commercially perform, giving more room to play creatively.”)

He wrote this lovely thing for The Rumpus that I love, because I love Shaun’s writing, and because it makes me feel like I’m right back there with him, young and in Tel Aviv, sweaty with the heat and the hard work and all the sex everyone was having, falling in love with a city that is still my home, for all its failings and feral cats.

Here’s the top, to give you a taste, but please click through to read the rest:

The haircut was the last thing on my list. The woman in the salon on Ben Yehuda Street is telling me about the uncle who smuggled her out of Morocco when she was five and brought her to live with relatives in Israel. At some point, she says, he was caught, interrogated, sent to prison for a couple of years. After that, he made his way to Israel with her parents, and the family was reunited again. She’s in her mid-fifties now, her hair dyed blonde, her fingers nimble with scissors and comb. It’s a Friday afternoon, that liminal time of the week in most parts of Israel, and the last day of my trip to Tel Aviv. I used to live here in the 1980s but moved to London about fifteen years ago.

“So,” she says to me, “do you like it there?”

I tell her that after all these years, I’m about ready to leave. My life can be divided into fifteen-year chunks: the first in South Africa, then Israel, now London. I tell her I’m just waiting for the right moment, the catalyst, the final straw to ease my exit. In Tel Aviv it was the same: for the last five years I lived there I dreamt of escape. In general, I’m good at beginnings, the drama of wooing and seduction, the honeymoon phase. That’s what it’s like with me and relationships; I’m not very evolved when it comes to attachment.

To read the rest of “The last city I loved: Tel Aviv,” please click here. To learn more about Shaun and his work, please click here.



  1. And strangely, only a couple of days ago I was telling a friend about you and I and thirtysomething, and how we’d have our ritual of chocolate-coated peanuts and raisins while watching (ogling) Michael and Faith. (We’d been talking about TV series that we loved.) That was so long ago, and I almost don’t recognise that person I was (re your post about one’s head-age), it was like everything was still beginning, like we’d only just left the starting line. And regarding your other post (being a two-stater), those were the days (the 1980s) when it was still illegal to talk to the PLO, and there we were demonstrating and calling for talks, and now they’re talking and things are worse. Is it possible to leave the starting point and actually move backwards? (A rhetorical question.) Thanks, Em, for mentioning my TA piece and for liking it. x

    • It’s like our Ur moment, that TV watching that we did. I remember you telling me — re the chocolate goodies — that you liked it that, unlike a lot of women, I just ate what I wanted to eat, without caveat, complaint, or apology. x back atcha.

      • Definitely. I love that memory of us. But you should see me now, being a bit of a diet-bunny. Though no broccoli, I promise!

  2. aaron singer

     /  June 18, 2012

    What a beautiful piece.

    • Make sure you tell him in comments over at The Rumpus, too! (That’s Brian Spears’s place, btw, where he’s the poetry editor. If the world ain’t small, it’s tiny).

  3. One part of Shaun’s post jumped out at me in particular …

    “After four or five years of political activism, I stopped believing peace was possible. I saw the entrenchment of the occupation, the deepening of the Jewish right wing, the way their sentiments trickled down and poisoned the Left, the dehumanising of everything, the self, the other.”

    There isn’t an occupation here (even the NYPD stuff isn’t quite on that level), but about at the point where my eyes read “right wing”, my brain jumped ahead and drew parallels in case I was too slow to draw them myself.

    It sure feels like we’re in a completely different situation than Israel has been, pre- or post-1967, but the right wing is certainly deepening here. There does seem to be a tendency to dehumanize others. (Is this new, or is this another “nothing ever happened before the Internet” moment? I don’t know. Obviously we’ve spent centuries dehumanizing different groups of people, but is this different?)

    Maybe that’s why the Tea Party scares me so. They’re good at what they do. (They completely hijacked one of the two major parties in less than four years.) They say the right things to get people to follow them. (Poisoning?) And it definitely seems like there is a point of no return in their minds. (As an Indiana resident, I’d be right in the middle of it. Most of the Great Lakes states seem to be similarly poisoned.)

    But it’s also a solid piece in its own right, whether or not there is any connection to current US events, and it helps to draw a picture of Tel Aviv for never-left-North-America zlionsfan. I just know so little about Israel that I don’t really have much else to say other than “nice post”.

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