My neighbor’s chickens got out again the other day, I saw them milling around in the front of his house. He built a small chicken coop inside his house and he keeps a rooster (who likes to crow a lot) and two chickens for eggs. Now, I wouldn’t house my farm animals in my house, but animal pens outside are subject to theft by local immigrant workers; another neighbor’s rabbits were kept outside in a hutch and they became someone’s dinner. I asked Chicken Guy if he was afraid stray animals would attack his free range chickens. He said he needs to let them out for exercise and hopes for the best. I can’t figure out why the neighborhood cats aren’t interested in the chickens! Chickens in the middle of Tel Aviv, go figure. The rooster crowing doesn’t bother me, but I’m often awoken by the call to prayers from the mosque at 5:00 a.m.
It’s the little things that make living in Neve Tzedek an adventure. I have another neighbor across the street (Cat Guy), he doesn’t work and I have no idea what he does all day. He speaks English very well and we chat a lot, but not about anything in particular. He’s a cat person, he always has 6 or 7 cats hanging around his house waiting to be fed. He goes to the shuk to get chicken parts for the cats, then he comes back to the neighborhood and slings chicken feet, wings and pieces of fat all over the sidewalks and the cats feast. You can walk down our street and see cats sitting on the hoods of all the cars (keeping warm by sitting over the engines).
The diversity of the people in Neve Tzedek is such that we neighbors don’t all think alike. My mother in law often comes over for lunch on Saturdays; when ever she drives past one of the religious neighbors, they scold her for driving on the Sabbath. She waves and tells them to have a nice day, what else can you do? Then there’s a matter of charity, who’s worthy? There’s a fairly crazy (I mean this in true medical terms) woman “who works hard for her money” that comes to get away from it all in front of my house. She comes here, I think, because Cat Guy and I give her coffee and I bring her out dinner when she asks for it. She speaks very bad Hebrew and so do I, but she tells me stories about the neighborhood she lives and works in and I listen to her. She’s a real sight to behold (I mean that in a sad, unfortunate way), many people are afraid of her because she rants and raves and yells at people. I was afraid of her, till I observed her for a long time and saw that she didn’t seem to be dangerous. I’ve been asked (by other neighbors) why I bother with her and I was initially at a loss because I was asked to explain myself but I tried to explain how I feel when I see her. All I can say is “there for the grace of God go I”. But on the other hand, after their comments, I’ve had to ask myself “how might the neighbors feel” about a “working woman” hanging out in this neighborhood (she doesn’t “work” here, it seems to be a refuge for her). So I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a free street.
We haven’t encountered violence here, just many angry, screamers from time to time. One of my daughters was playing at a friends house and my husband walked over to pick her up around 7:00 p.m. As they were around the corner from our house, they ran into a man screaming and threatening our favorite neighbor (Mrs. Chihuahua). My husband stopped to see if he could help our neighbor and the angry man (who was really drunk) pulled out a machete and threatened my husband and daughter with it. We called the police and by the time the police arrived, the man had hidden the machete so he was not taken to jail, the man’s daughter was with him pleading for him to behave and there was a full blown ruckus in the street. A few days later, the man apologized to my husband for his behavior; we see him sitting in front of his house every day, we wave and are on friendly terms! I don’t know this neighbor’s name, I call him Machete Guy.
I’ve heard from my mother in law that the Poop police are out and about; she lives within walking distance from us. Some guy with a badge asked for her name and address because he mistakenly thought she hadn’t picked up after her dog, she refused to give him the information. He hounded her (pardon the pun), asking her where was her plastic bag for picking up after the dog, she showed him the plastic bags. He followed her and pulled a by-stander off the street to ask him if he too saw dog doo-doo on the side walk that she had not picked up. The by-stander did not see anything but an old leaf on the side walk and my mother in law returned home with her dog, bewildered.
Many stores and galleries have closed recently. The cafes and restaurants seem to always be full and the streets of Neve Tzedek are always full of tours and tourists. Since the side walks here are barely big enough to walk on, everyone walks in the streets, making it tedious to drive around. The new “hip” destination is the Train Station, 3 minutes further south, toward Jaffa; I’ll write about this next time I gossip about Neve Tzedek.