Tel Aviv is perhaps at the same time, the most beautiful and the most ugly city. The Bauhaus buildings which have been neglected for years are once again white and their remarkable geometry looks surreal against the background of the clear blue skies. The brutalist buildings from the '50s are no less remarkable, in their often cartoon simple shapes and practical stucco cladding. The beach and טיילת (the tayelet - boardwalk) are beautiful. Neve Tzedek, our neighborhood is amazing in its mix of small walled houses (NB: Ken's project of documenting the neighborhood can be found on Instagram under the user "itscometothis"), run-down, half-crumbled stone structure and new French highrises. (I say French because it seems you need a French passport to fully integrate into the culture of the building).
When we first moved here infrastructure upgrades were well underway by the עירייה (City of Tel Aviv). It seemed as though every street was ripped up and every sewer was being replaced - at the same time. For years these improvements had been under consideration. Lucky us - we came just as they decided to proceed. And in true Israeli fashion the work had to be done three times since there was only a general plan, not a specific plan. Not all the building owners were in the country to sign off. Sidewalks were forgotten. Some streets were totally of forgotten. You get the picture.
No sooner had the sewer project slowed down when the city announced that the Light Rail Project was approved and going ahead. Everyone assumed, like all other decisions taken by the city, that the work would begin in 2020. Not so. Within days, major arteries were closed. The traffic in and out of the city became, and continues to this day to be a nightmare. It is 45 minutes between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - if and only if you reach the highway and it is not rush hour. We have learned to allow an hour and a half.
In all the talks and negotiations for the upgrades one would expect that the telecommunication wires, junction boxes, the power lines, generators, electrical hubs, mainlines, etc., would be included in the overall plan. However, one would be wrong.
Our street has its own power grid - literally. We can see it outside. It draws a box around the houses. There are loose electrical wires that are live. There are loose electrical wires that are dead. There are cable junction boxes, DSL, Dish Network paraphernalia, water drip systems and so on. Also a bougainvillea which nothing can desist.
When we lived on Shabazi they tore up the street, paved it, repaved it, tore it up again and repaved it. At the end of the process there were giant black PVC tubes sticking out of the sidewalk. These we were told were meant for the electrical and communication infrastructure that would be coming in the next phase. So not only did we have wires above our heads, we had a hydra of pipes sticking out onto the already inadequate sidewalk. So there is no hope that these totems will disappear anytime soon.
Today, all this external בלגן (chaos) crystallized into the most surreal experience with the טכנאים (technicians) from HOT, YES and Bezeq. These are the three big players in telecommunications. One offers internet and phone. One offers cable and internet. One offers all three. Two rent wire services from the other. One doesn't have internet but needs the connection for VOD.....וכולי, וכולי (etc.)
We made the mistake of changing cable companies when we moved. The company was so insulted they kept phoning Ken and asking him to reconsider as though they were a jilted lover. Finally they stopped calling but they refused to terminate our service even though we moved two months ago and were informed promptly. Worse yet, we wanted to start a new contract with them for internet only. This was incomprehensible to the support people on the phone. Even though they have the product, they tried to reinstate the old service. After weeks of this nonsense they finally sent out a technician who told us we didn't have the rights wires. We got the wire technician to come who said we did but we didn't have the right junction box on the street. The internet folks said they would come to install the junction box but it would take up to six weeks. Meanwhile the cable folks came and said we could not have VOD without the internet wiring.
This is our ארון תקשורת (communication closet). Can you blame them? I can't, but it has been an entire season of Monty Python.
Finally today, the internet guy came to add service to the top floor. He was stumped. He could not figure out how to use the 4 trunk lines without disabling our TV.
Coming to the rescue was lovely, quiet טכנאי who came to fix the intercom. He seemed to understand how to pull a wire, connect it to the right cable and make it work. He also installed a camera outside the door so we can see who is ringing the bell. He was patient. He came with all the right equipment and he stayed for hours until the job was done.
Ken can attest to the craziness here today. He can also correct my mistakes on the timeline. I am sure I have got the order of things slightly askew.
But now we have TV, cable, two wifi hotspots (you need two because one is invariably slow or out of service), VOD and an working intercom.
I spent the day upstairs because there was no room for me in the mix of technicians, ladders and equipment. When I came downstairs late in the afternoon, there was a new hob installed in the kitchen. How I totally missed yet another installation is beyond me.
In any event, for those of you who live in New York and complain about the fact that the service person did not arrive on time and you had to wait a couple of hours - well hopefully it wasn't too painful. As for us, we had a very interesting day. We met lots of new folks. Learned some new Hebrew words and can now sit back and watch an episode of The Great British Bakeoff.