Outside the Kabbalah Centre, by Diezengoff Square, a man eating a felafel approaches me. He has long, wild hair and a huge, wild beard, like Ben Gunn, or Roy Wood from Wizard. He has, obviously, never been convinced by the merits of conditioner. Much of the tahini from his lunch has been redistributed in his beard. The effect is not beautiful. He says something, and I try to get past. He says, Français? and, reflexively, I say, Un petit peu. Stupid reflexes. Despite holding a half-eaten sandwich in his hand, he asks for money, for food. There is always the next meal to worry about, but even so, I decline.
Tel Aviv has too many beggars. This says bad things about a country, if it can’t better look after its least fortunate. I feel the same in London, where the number of people sleeping rough has been growing in the last seven or eight years.
There is a youngish homeless man who lives on the bench where Bograshov meets Ben Yehuda. He’s around thirty-five, maybe, but who can tell? A life on the street can’t be easy. I’d see him every morning, on my way to the ulpan, and began nodding hello, and he’d nod back. He, too, has long, wild hair and beard, although he always looks meticulously clean. I guess he’s schizophrenic, I’ve seen him talking to his hand, but he is harmless, so the authorities won’t look after him better. He wears football kit, a new one every few days. Chelsea blue suits him well. Yesterday I saw him walking on the other side of the road swinging six or seven new bags from the Nike shop. He looked very happy, he was almost skipping. By the afternoon he was wearing a new football kit, White top, grey shorts, pristine quilted, neon yellow trainers, rucksack to match. I give him money sometimes, but he’s the only one.
I’ve seen an elderly man wearing pyjamas pushing a walking frame with his hand held out. Someone at the Olive Korner said he’s been doing this for twenty or more years. There’s a painfully thin, toothless woman who walks up and down Rothschild stopping at every café table asking for money. Any number of elderly people go café to café, trying to sell cheap trinkets, disposable lighters, and so on.
One woman who I should pity, but don’t, I quite strongly dislike her, walks along Allenby, up Bograshov, the length of Diezengoff, then back again, every single day. This is quite a long way. She, too, is unhealthily skinny. At each café table she cries, wails, really, asking for money. I saw a man give her a five shekel coin. She looked at it, held it in her palm, showed it back to him, and said, Is that all?
Today’s word: kesef – money – כסף