Yiddish karaoke

I needed to celebrate signing the lease on my flat. I go to Keton, on Diezengoff, a non-kosher restaurant serving traditional, Eastern European, Jewish food: chopped liver, calf’s foot jelly, you may not want to know. My father loved a slab of calf’s foot jelly. As he grew older he only preferred moules marrinière. Oh, he could clean a bucket of mussels in minutes.

At the restaurant the owner introduces herself and we chat companionably. You like this sort of food? she asks, and is surprised when I say I do. I have chicken soup with (excellent) kneidlach followed by cholent, a very slow-cooked stew. It used to be easier to find this sort of meal in modern, exciting, food capital, Tel Aviv.

She waves a microphone around, trying to persuade someone, anyone, to take it and begin singing. A woman, smart, her hair recently done, in her seventies, maybe, halfway through her dinner, without putting her fork down, takes it and begins singing a Yiddish song. When she finishes, she hands the microphone back, and continues eating her meal.

Another elderly woman stops at my table and starts a conversation. She is Dutch, and has lived here and in London, but prefers Rotterdam now. She hates Tel Aviv. She wouldn’t have moved here if she’d been me. It’s too hot here, for one, and there are too many bikes. Every vehicle with fewer than four wheels uses the pavement, weaving between people. Pedestrians also veer from left to right like drunks. Everyone, of course, is looking at their phone. If they trailed ribbons they would make some colourful plaits.

Later I sit at a bar on Diezengoff. It is Friday night and therefore quiet, as everyone eats dinner with their family. I watch a few people passing, watch the cheruts, halfway between a bus and a taxi, and the large bats flying between trees, drunk on the fermented fruit. I think, for the first time, which may be surprising, I’m doing it. I’m moving somewhere foreign. I was by myself, but the thought made me quiet. What else did I think I was doing?

Today’s word: mareksoupמרק

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