On the first night of Pesach I went to the Seder at the Gay Centre in the Meir Park, on King George. Nathan had sent me the link. He was in Frankfurt, but I should go, anyway, and I signed up. It’s no more than a ten minute walk.
Tel Aviv was mostly closed for the evening, just the am:pm, and the Olive Korner, who were doing a Seder meal for 150nis. The most unexpected thing was when I passed a man wearing a tie. You don’t see many of those in Israel.
At the centre, there were a hundred or more people sitting at tables outside, under canopies. Someone told me I could sit anywhere, and I found a place at the back with two handsome men in their forties. Their English, it turned out, was about as good as my Hebrew, but we lumbered on anyway: London, I travelled to New York, We live in Jerusalem, We have been together for sixteen years, Mazeltov. Painful, but not unbearable. I poured wine into my tiny, plastic wineglass and smiled.
The service was conducted, of course, by a large angel with glitter in her hair. Two other men joined us, friends of the original pair. One was, I suppose, my sort of age, late fifties, maybe sixties, dressed youthfully, in a tight t shirt pulling against his belly, leather jacket, leather thong around his neck. His hair was as black as his clothes. His boyfriend was skinny, thirty or more years younger, with lots of blond hair. I thought of Beryl Reid and Susannah York in The Killing of Sister George, I don’t know why. It’s never shown on tv anymore, which is a shame.
I said, Good evening and Shalom and Chug semaech. The blond smiled weakly and said, No English. The older man ignored me and began eating.
Four trannies sat at the low wall next to me, chain smoking. They chattered like finches, complaining about something or someone, lit one cigarette with the ember of the last, and put the butt under the sole of their strappy sandal. Unusually for Tel Aviv, they were the only people at the event smoking. There is a fug of cigarette fumes everywhere here, like it’s 1975, or something, and is one of the things I like least about this city.
The older man poured himself a drink and turned to me. I have family in London, he said. Golders Green. I told him I’d lived near there, in Belsize Park, Hampstead, but he hadn’t heard of either. He asked if I knew someone called Lipman. As it happens, my father did, but it seemed easier to say no. I spread my hands and explained, helplessly, that there are nine million people in London. He told me he owned a big business, huge, very successful, and hated Tel Aviv. He had continued to eat throughout this exchange, double, treble and quadruple dipping, until the table was clear of anything edible, including the mixes representing tears and bitterness.
The service came to a natural break and I had a choice. I stood up, tried to look as if I was going to the sherootim, and left.
I think if I’d sat with other people I would have really have enjoyed the evening. Had Nathan been there we would have given each other the side eye and laughed like jackals. Do jackals laugh? Or give each other the side eye?
I walked back. The city was like London on Christmas Day evening; light and laughter coming from some windows, but mostly quiet. I waved and called Chug semaech to Marcel at the Olive Korner. It was busy. They’d put cloths on the tables. I thought about stopping, having a glass of wine, maybe something to eat, but continued the hundred metres to home and made myself matzoh brei.
Today’s word: memoormar – bitter – ממורמר
See also: Playboy of the Western Wall