Seven Nights 7: The Pub Crawl

‘So we’re going out, and here’s the deal: we’ll only drink in places where people were murdered due to inter-group hatred.’ The seventh and final installment.

For other nights click here.

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One April night in 2003, my cousin Yaron decided he needed a bass player. He was growing as a local blues musician and figured that some accompaniment would do no harm. He told his girlfriend, Shir, that he’s popping over to Mike’s Place, a blues bar on Tel Aviv’s promenade, and left.

He returned shortly afterwards, covered in blood and in a state of shock. While the band played at Mike’s Place, two men walked in wearing explosive belts. The place went up in flames, claiming three lives along with that of one of the attackers. For a reason that remained unclear, the other terrorist failed to pull the trigger. He escaped into the night; his body was washed up by the waves a few days later.

Shir washed Yaron off with the shower hose. The blood came off and no wound appeared — the blood belonged to other people. Nine months to that night, the couple’s first child was born, a Second Intifada boomer and a treasure of a kid.

A dozen or so years later, on the eve of this story’s final night, I invited my friend Michelle for a drink at Mike’s Place. “I’m planning a epic pub crawl that will be remembered in this city’s history. I have been healing nicely from what happened at Jerusalem Pride, but I need a catharsis. So we’re going out, and here’s the deal: we’ll only drink in places where people have been murdered due to inter-group hatred.”

“May I remind you I live in Jerusalem,” Michelle replied, “That is what I do whenever I go out.”

So she was out, but others agreed to come. At 9 p.m. I left for Mike’s Place with a happy song in my head — one that has been stuck in my head ever since picking the name for this series: “Seven Drunken Nights,” an Irish pub ditty. In each verse, a man returns home from the pub and finds another object that seems to belong to another man. His wife denies, blaming his blood-alcohol level:

Ah, you’re drunk, you’re drunk, you silly old fool. Still you cannot see?
‘Tis not a horse, it is a cow that my mother sent to me
Well, it’s many a days I traveled, a hundred miles or more
But a saddle on a cow’s back, sure I never seen before.

I walked past the security guard at Mike’s Place, successfully smuggling a bottle of whisky in my bag, sat at the bar and ordered some of its own whiskey. At 10, two girls arrived: Hanna is a Londoner who made aliyah, met my mother on a bus and became half-adopted by my parents. I love her to bits. She brought a friend: Lauren, a student and writer, originally from L.A. We had a round or two, said a word about the bombing, dealt with an early-bird drunk who fell in love with all three of us, and moved on for more historical mayhem.

Inter-species crime

Station two was a bit heavy duty. The Dolphinarium is a largely-abandoned concrete structure that stretches along the sea front, interrupting Tel Aviv’s stretch of beaches with unforgivable ugliness. Here, too, a suicide bombing took place. In 2001, a Palestinian blew himself up inside what used to be a nightclub catering to Russian-speaking clientele, killing 22 people.

But there were other blood stains to speak of here. in the early hours of a 2013 dawn, a Palestinian street sweeper was randomly attacked in front of the building by a drunk Jewish mob and had to be hospitalized. This is also also one of many locations of the Palestinian national trauma. The Dolphinarium was built over the ruins of Manshiyya, a Muslim outcrop of Jaffa that was emptied and wrecked by the Irgun in 1948, shortly before the eruption of the formal war.

Then there were the dolphins. “I got to go here as a kid and see them jump through hoops,” I told the girls, “Later I read that they were kept in horrid conditions. That’s an inter-species crime, right?”

They agreed, and also agreed that we should skip the overly-posh bar currently operating at the site. Instead we sat on the rocks and drank whiskey out of the bottle, before moving on to station three.

Susanna is a pleasant cafe in the quaint Neve Tzedek quarter. A year and one day before our crawl, its owner and founder was murdered by her spouse. A dozen women are murdered by their partners in Israel on average each year. The authorities are notorious for letting abusive men go, even when they make explicit threats. We ordered cocktails and three varieties of delicious stuffed vegetables.

Others joined us here. Aziz, my boss at my tour guiding job, whose name likely provoked the intern’s deportation, came with three friends: an American and two Brits of Iraqi heritage. This was a nice international crowd. This was a nice night — I was getting trashed.

We emptied the bottle on a street near the central bus terminal. May 23rd, 2012, was the night our current Minister of Culture Miri Regev called African asylum seekers “a cancer in our body.” That same night, hundreds of Jewish Israelis heeded her call and rampaged these streets, where many asylum seekers live. They smashed stores and car windows, and beat up random Africans. No one was killed that night, but something did die, something in our spirit as a nation.

Regev and her fellow hate-mongers cleverly incited against the underprivileged. They spoke to the the impoverished Jewish communities of south Tel Aviv, and blamed the asylum seekers for the condition of their neighborhoods. In fact, poverty in these parts result from the government’s own neglect, which is, in turn, a product of the Ashkenazi hegemony’s disdain for Mizrahi Jews. I counted that as another form of hate crime and let the last sip of whiskey fall on my tongue.

I’m sorry to interrupt the movie

Considering its gritty, uber-urban appearence, Tel Aviv is a surprisingly safe city. Mugging, for example, has never been an issue here. We reserve our violence and use it to express our political convictions. These convictions are legion. The walk to station five was extremely brief.

In 2009, a hooded man walked into the basement of an LGBT youth club off Rothschild Boulevard. He slaughtered one teenager, incidentally a 16-year-old girl, and one of the instructors. The killer was never caught. Survivors had to deal both with trauma and with an unplanned outing to their families and friends.

We walked into an unfamiliar bar near the scene of the crime. It was cool, so we stayed a while and got properly drunk. Stepping back out, the song was back in my head. One drunk night followed another.

Ah, you’re drunk, you’re drunk you silly old fool. Still you cannot see?
‘Tis not a pipe, it is a whistle that my mother sent to me
Well it’s many a days I traveled, a hundred miles or more

But tobacco in a whistle, sure I never seen before.

We took two cabs to Rabin Square. Nearly 20 years have passed since November 4th, 1995, 20 years of decay. I was there on the night that gave the square it’s namesake, attended the peace rally, was floored by how huge and hopeful it was, had an ice cream bar and listened to Rabin speak. I didn’t stay for the cheesy singalong, and instead went to see a movie.

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A friend of mine worked as an usher at an art-house nearby and would sneak me into films for free. The movie shown that night was Nanni Moretti’s “Caro Diario.” I had already watched it and knew that it ends with a piece of bad news: Moretti learns that he has cancer.

Just as the film was about to end, a minute before the diagnosis comes, the door to the theater opened, and a different bit of bad news arrived. “I’m very sorry to interrupt the movie,” said the silhouette at the door, “but there was an act of violence committed in the square and Rabin is dead.”

The silhouette was of my usher friend’s shift manager. I was the only one who knew he was not some lunatic off the street, and so was the first to react, asking him what exactly happened. How many people were killed?

“Only Rabin,” he replied.

What kind of etiquette applies in a such a situation? Should we stay and watch the ending? Should we all leave right away? The confusion lasted for a minute or so while the Italians on the screen continued on, unfazed. Finally we left them there, pouring into the street and into the political reality that persists until this day.

“The Brasserie,” Tel Aviv’s most elegant all-night restaurant, is right on the square. It was getting past four and the place was buzzing. We took a table on the terrace, drank some more, ate and had a fine time.

 The pyramid

Across from The Brasserie, a huge, upturned pyramid of black iron soars over the square. It is a public sculpture by artist Yigal Tomarkin. I don’t know whose idea it was that we scale it, but at least three of us did, myself being one.

In retrospect, we nearly added our names to this long list of the city’s victims. Aye, we were drunk, we were drunk, silly old fools.

And when I came home on Sunday night, as drunk as drunk can be
I saw a foreign man standing where my old self should be
So I called my wife and I said to her: would you kindly say to me,
What’s this foreign man doing where my old self should be?

Ah, you’re drunk, you’re drunk you silly old fool. Still you cannot see?
‘Tis not a man, it is a baby that my mother sent to me
Well it’s many a days I traveled, a hundred miles or more
But a beard on a baby’s face, sure I never seen before.

Isn’t this what we do here, in this bubble of a town? We try to drink and party enough not to know or at least not to care that we are being lied to. I reached the top, as did Hanna and Lauren, we took each others photos against a dark blue sky. Dawn was breaking and I declared the Death and Destruction pub crawl a partial success; partial because I wanted seven stations to fit my writing project, and could only think of six. Then I looked down into the heart of the pyramid and saw a small, iron bonfire, and it hit me that this as not only a public sculpture. We just drunkenly climbed Tel Aviv’s Holocaust monument.

Here was the most unfathomable hate crime of them all, the one that still scars us, that still drives us crazy, The source of so much anguish and violence in this land. Here was the seventh station of our Tel Avivian Via Dolorosa, marking the source.

Satisfied, we climbed down safely and went to the beach. We swam to one of the wave breakers and watched the sun rise behind the towers. While we did, someone stole all our cellphones from my bag that we left on the sand, but it was nothing. Really nothing.


Thank you all for reading. Michael Scheaffer Omer-Man and Edo Konrad took turns editing the chapters. The illustrations are by yours truly. Please consider sharing the project page so that it finds new readers, and may peace and safety prevail wherever you are.