I took this picture whilst I was out walking on Shabbat afternoon in Tel Aviv earlier this year. It was a sunny mediterranean afternoon but with one of those chilly winds that very occasionally can take you by surprise in the Middle East - even in Tel Aviv!
As regular readers will now, Tel Aviv is the place I love more than anywhere else - I may be tempted by other cities and destinations, but I remain intensely loyal to this special city. I love it for many reasons, for its energy, its beautiful Bauhaus buildings, its absolutely world class cultural scene and of course its very friendly people. On this particular Shabbat afternoon (Saturday to those not familiar with these things!), I had walked from my hotel, close to Kikar Dizengoff, along Rehov Hamelech George (King George Street), along the once very grand but now run down Allenby(please clean it up Tel Aviv City Hall - its got some stunning buildings, some of them with fabulous Bezalel ceramic panels) before walking the length of the stylish and popular Rothschild Boulevard.
Habima is the national theatre of Israel with a history going back to Russia and pre state days. Originally founded in Moscow in 1917 and allowed to continue for a time under Stalin, the theatre toured abroad in 1926, and split with one camp settling in the United States and the other making a home in Tel Aviv. Some of the finest actors in the world have graced its stages over the years, including founder member Chana Robina, after whom the new main auditorium is named. The theatre itself is located at the end of Rothschild where the boulevard meets Marmorek. It has recently re-opened after several years of rebuilding and restoration with some changes having been made to the original. It now houses four auditoria of different sizes seating over 1.500 in total.
As well as a rebuilt theatre, there is an adjoining new public square. Now no-one loves the outdoors as much as the Israelis do, even on a day with a bit of a chilly wind blowing and at the weekend and on summer evenings this square is full of families and groups of friends walking, talking and generally having fun. The square is very large and features ornamental gardens, public art, seating and stone tables for would be picnickers or readers who prefer to rest their book rather than hold it. It has several good cafes along the side of the theatre and on one corner that draw in Tel Avivians with the smell of richly roasted coffee and displays of edible works of art - pastries and cakes that easily rival anything that can be found in Budapest, Vienna or Paris.
But back to the picture. I spotted these two - who I assume to be father and son due to the likeness - using one of the stone tables which is decorated with a chess/ draughts board, using stones to play draughts on their Shabbat afternoon together. I don't know them, but I couldn't resist asking if I could take their picture, which they freely agreed to, the younger of the two rewarding the camera with a big smile. I was touched by the obvious enjoyment they took in each others company, by how comfortable they were together and how foreign those feelings would have been to me as a child. I was also struck by the usual Israeli inventiveness and creativity - stone tables designed to accommodate board games and stones collected from the ground to use as draughts pieces.
I didn't take their names or any details to send them the photograph, but it would be nice to think that they would somehow get to see it here. I hope they are still enjoying their draughts and wish them Shabbat Shalom for the coming weekend. ! שבת שלום לכולם.