Posted by Simone Wilson
Everyone knows the summer beach clubs along the Tel Aviv coastline are for the young and beautiful (or the filthy rich). It only takes one painful night of trying to wave down a hot chick with a clipboard to learn your lesson clear through the end of September: Don't show up 'round these parts past 11 p.m. without a friend on the list or a cleavage bouquet for an entourage.
But 48-year-old Israeli politician Miri Regev isn't taking "No" for an answer. The extreme right-winger, who formerly served as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesperson and currently sits on the Israeli Knesset (the country's 120-member parliament), posted an angry rant to her YouTube account last Thursday, calling out beach club Clara for allegedly turning her away at the door. (Not surprising, really, with that morbid shade of lipstick and matronly neckline she showed up with. Don't hate the beach club, MK Regev, hate the game.)
The scene behind her is typical weekend Clara: No clear line, just a bunch of 18-year-olds clustering hopelessly around the entry pen, trying to suck their lollipops and gaze at their text messages just nonchalantly enough to impress clipboard chick and join the cool kids inside.
Ironically, MK Regev is best known around the world for comparing the spread of African migrants throughout Israel to a "cancer," helping incite race riots in South Tel Aviv with her anti-Sudanese rhetoric and reportedly refusing to let an Eritrean enter her chartered bus. Now, she claims to have been personally subjected to Tel Aviv's poshest brand of discrimination: the Bouncer Block.
The Times of Israel reports:
Regev was on a tour of the city’s bars and clubs to examine the widespread use of selection, or denial of access. It’s especially egregious, according to her, when the process prevents IDF soldiers from entering places.
When she reached the Clara club in the city’s beachside Dolphinarium complex, the MK, infamous for her outspoken criticism of Israel’s African migrant community, was blocked by bouncers at the door. Despite her attempt to reason with the guards, Regev was rejected repeatedly.
Finally, after summoning the owner of the Clara club and reminding him that the Tel Aviv Municipality had recently proposed a law to impose penalties on clubs and bars found guilty of selection, Regev was allowed onto the dance floor.
At which point, one would assume, MK Regev promptly left the dance floor.
The guy who takes table reservations for Clara started giggling uncontrollably when I told him about Regev's video, and told me to call Clara's landline for official comment. And the guy who answered the landline sounded annoyed, saying only "Everyone gets in who wants to" before the line cut out; he didn't pick up the rest of the day. (Hey, I tried.)
But the Likud party's outspoken frontwoman claims that velvet-rope discrimination in Tel Aviv goes beyond who's hot and who's not. “When soldiers from the best units in the IDF who protect the country are not allowed into clubs, that is shameful," she says in the video (as translated by the Times of Israel). And Channel 7 reports that Regev "claimed to have witnessed firsthand how a soldier was refused entry into a club after being 'screened' at the entrance." So she has taken action, proposing a local law to combat nightclub selection.
I contacted Regev for more on this alleged anti-army bias — which online commenters call a conspiracy by Leftist nightclub owners — but I have yet to hear back. In the meantime, the only other report I can find on IDF soldiers being turned away from Tel Aviv clubs is one from 2007 on IDF Radio, claiming that two IDF combat soldiers were kicked out of vegetarian queer bar Rogatka after being told by staff that their "uniforms symbolize genocide and violence."
Which seems to be a separate issue than Regev not fitting Clara's mainstream jailbait profile, but YouTube tours to publicize proposed Knesset bills have their limitations.
Across varying media reports, it's unclear whether Regev's new law would specifically ban clubs from blocking IDF soldiers from entry, or if it would ban door discrimination in general. However, not once in her PR rounds has she mentioned the problem of bouncer racism against Africans and other minorities in Tel Aviv — because heaven forbid the cancer spread to the dance floor.
12.4.13 at 2:20 pm | An upcoming role alongside Ben Affleck and Henry. . .
12.1.13 at 4:30 am | Gadot, a former Miss Israel, joined the "Fast and. . .
12.1.13 at 3:00 am | By accident, I walked passed Einstein's very. . .
11.27.13 at 10:00 am | "Open facility," in this case, seems to be a. . .
11.13.13 at 10:05 am | The IDF just loaded about 150 soldiers and 100. . .
11.12.13 at 8:30 am | A small child swishes down the same red plastic. . .
12.1.13 at 4:30 am | Gadot, a former Miss Israel, joined the "Fast and. . . (2212)
12.4.13 at 2:20 pm | An upcoming role alongside Ben Affleck and Henry. . . (1242)
9.24.13 at 1:20 pm | Only in Israel. (115)
September 24, 2013 | 1:20 pm
Posted by Simone Wilson
Today I learned that the little-known bottom half of Tel Aviv's gargantuan Central Bus Station is home to an abandoned arcade, six underground movie theaters, a bunker that can withstand nuclear holocaust and an unfinished bus tunnel so overtaken by bats that it has been declared a nature preserve.
Only in Israel.
I always knew there was something fishy about the Central Bus Station. It's the size of a freaking meteor (almost 11 acres), looks like an African refugee sweatshop to the untrained eye and contains such a dizzying maze of escalators and inclines that you feel as if you've wandered into an M.C. Escher drawing. No one stays at the station longer than they have to: Grab your $5 clubwear from one of dozens of hot-frecha stores or navigate the three stories to/from your bus terminal, and you're out. Linger any longer, and you start to believe you've been swallowed by a black hole, never again to see the light of Levinsky Street.
But it took over six months of living within a few blocks of the station (its hulkish, post-apocalyptic silhouette fills a significant chunk of my bedroom window) to catch wind of the urban legends surrounding its decades-long downfall.
Turns out there's a whole cult of urban-planning nerds dedicated to studying and educating the public about the tragically beautiful failure that is the Central Bus Station.
Yonatan Mishal, a Chicago native who moved to northern Israel as a kid and down to the South Tel Aviv ghetto as a young adult, is one such obsessionado. He works as an art-school instructor by day, but has made a nifty side-business of playing tour guide to the musty, cavernous nether regions of the Central Bus Station. He and a few associates run tours through their company, CTLV. (Architecture students Elad Horn and Talia Davidi run a similar operation of their own, with more of a focus on the building design behind the beast. They've even printed a soft-cover textbook on it.)
Only a few members of the Central Bus Station cult are granted access to its mostly deserted bottom half, Mishal included. So he kindly gave me a personal English-language tour of the station earlier today — and instead of a black hole, I realized I had fallen into haunted-mansion heaven.
Below are the 10 most incredible things I learned about the enigmatic Tel Aviv Central Bus Station on our two-hour urban hike this afternoon.
10. The station's architect, Ram Karmi, was the same controversial fellow behind the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem and Terminal 3 at Ben Gurion airport. His signature mid-20th-century style of architecture has been labeled "Brutalism," and is described by Wikipedia as "very linear, fortresslike and blockish, often with a predominance of concrete construction." Which explains so, so much.
9. The New Central Bus Station was designed to replace the equally terrible Old Central Bus Station a few blocks north, which today is a wide concrete yard with a one dinky psycho-ward-looking structure and sparse graffiti. The stench of urine is so strong that even the Tel Aviv street cats seem to avoid it. However, Mishal said that a local art college is planning to de-blight the historic old plot by incorporating an extension of the school into what's left of the station. This will hopefully gentrify the area a little bit. "People always think that if you bring the artists in, they'll do wonders," he said.
8. Architect Karmi and two initial investors had an ambitious vision for the New Central Bus Station when they broke ground in the late 1960s: They saw it as a thriving seven-story bus-tropolis where 1 to 2 million travelers per day would lounge in myriad waiting areas and browse hundreds of shops while waiting for their bus to leave. (As if an Israeli would ever arrive two hours early to anything.) The station, as planned, had all the grand stature and skinny Jetways of an international airport — and would make history as the largest bus station in the world. However, as funds dwindled and construction lagged due to various setbacks, their vision was butchered in a drawn-out public lynching that stretched over about three decades, until the station's "completion" in 1993.
Today, only the top four-ish floors of the Central Bus Station are functional. Mishal estimated that around 100,000 people pass through per day.
7. The first floor, buried deep underground, has the air and echo of a mega-mall parking lot — but with a series of heavy-duty red doors meant to seal in thousands of people, should Tel Aviv come under nuclear attack. Pipes the size of elephant thighs run overhead; they're capable of supplying enough gas, water and oxygen to sustain those in the shelter for up to three months, according to Mishal.
Today, however, shelter-seekers would be haunted by the faint chirping of thousands of bats on the other side of the wall — because there is now a full-blown, 200-meter bat cave stretching to the east. These spooky little dudes started squatting here when construction was halted on an underground bus tunnel some years ago. They've called it home ever since, and have thrown such a pretty little nature party that Israeli authorities recently deemed the tunnel a nature preserve, said Mishal. He claimed the bats are now protected under this designation — yet another obstacle in the rejuvenation of the decrepit Central Bus Station.
6. There is a service tunnel, studded with worker offices, on the same floor as the nuclear shelter. If you happen to wander back this far, you may or may not see a naked man lurking at the end of the tunnel. I did.
5. The station's super-creepy second story is the stuff of Stephen King. By the light of a smartphone, we shuffled through rooms full of gorgeous old pinball machines, torn-down signs (advertising such vintage joys as direct buses from Tel Aviv to Cairo) and piles of dusty stilettos from abandoned shoe stores. But they had nothing on story No. one-and-a-half — "Yes, they want you to get lost," confirmed Mishal — where a series of six movie theaters, collectively called "The Six Fantastics," have gone unused for 20 years. What's left of the lobby is kitschy Old Hollywood, made even kitschier by the fact that the occasional wild-eyed cat comes screeching out from behind a waterless fountain or fake plant. A central statue of Charlie Chaplin — which, to be honest, looks a lot more like Hitler in the dark — watches over the place, holding the hand of another small statue of Chaplin as a child. Death-of-cinema symbolism doesn't get much more tragic than this.
Mishal said he and his associates recently proposed that a horror-movie series be hosted in the deserted theaters, but Central Bus Station management refused. (Something about a fire hazard. Buzzkills.)
4. Things get a little more light-hearted on the middle floors, where a very alive-and-thriving Filipino market sells traditional foods alongside a branch of Israel's massive Fox clothes chain; a cheap-shoe bazaar rages in the shadow of a McDonalds sign; and other such beautiful paradoxes. Note to self: Come back for the Asian groceries, stay for the glittery coming-of-age dresses that apparently dropped from quinceañera heaven.
3. A quiet section of floor No. 5 has become an outpost for the artist community in nearby Florentin and Jaffa. It houses cheap art studios, a couple fringe theaters, wide-open walls for street art and event space for 'zines and the like. Next door is a Christian church, a preschool for the children of African migrants and a heartbreakingly cute Yiddish museum that houses over 40,000 books and other old-world odds-and-ends. (The little library-that-could even has an underdog story going for it: The museum in danger of closing, said Mishal, because the Tel Aviv municipality took back its utility discount a few years ago, and the museum can't afford to pay full price.)
2. Another not-so-quiet section of floor No. 4 serves as a gathering place for Tel Aviv's small yet determined hip-hop crowd, all centered around an urban clothing shop called Mad Man. "That store is run by the guy who brought hip-hop culture to Israel," said Mishal. Lost tourists have been known to report incredulous sightings of freestyle competitions and breakdancing battles after wandering too deep into floor No. 4.
1. Most importantly: HOW ON EARTH is all this allowed to exist in 2013?
The way Mishal tells it, the station's 1,000-plus storefront owners are entangled in a long and bitter war with the owners of the Central Bus Station, over both the shuttering of the bottom floors and the uncertainty of the top ones. (Don't blame 'em.) So until they can come to an agreement, the station can neither be sold nor torn down, and the temporary solution — as is so often the case in Israel — will stay permanent.
The city's urban-planning nerds wouldn't have it any other way.
[Update: CTLV has now added English-language night tours of the bus station to its Friday lineup. Highly recommended; you've got to see this monster to believe it.]
September 19, 2013 | 12:00 pm
Posted by Simone Wilson
Save for a few stray rockets, it's been a quiet September holiday in Israel. I watched the national stress level plummet on Rosh Hashanah, an extended weekend with a similar spirit as Christmas Break in America (but without all the mall panic). Yom Kippur last week was a rare cleansing of the senses in smoggy, rackety Tel Aviv. Sukkot, which lasts a FULL WEEK, has likewise been breathtaking: Little white tents all over the White City, filled with happy people who have more days off this month than days on. Definitely a concept I can get behind.
But the lovelier that life in Israel's modern beach city becomes, the fuller I brim with Tel Aviv guilt — that sick sense of contrast between our island of calm and the atrocities unfolding a short drive north, south and east. Syrians are dying; Gazans are starving; Egypt and Lebanon are embroiled in bloody civil wars. And here we are chilling in our sukkahs, giving thanks.
There are of course still moments of bomb anticipation in Tel Aviv, too, like during the conflict with Gaza last November, and — almost — last month, when the U.S. was fully expected to set off a chain of aggression in the Middle East. The heartbreak of the First and Second Intifadas, and the wars before them, is never far off. Israel's south is always listening for the next air-raid siren. But one thing Israelis have over their neighbors is the knowledge that no matter what happens, the most powerful military tag-team in the universe will be there to defend them at the first sign of danger. There's a reason Israel has a higher concentration of journalists than any other country: Because it's an eye in the Middle Eastern storm, to which a reporter can scurry back for a good night's sleep after a few weeks in the warzone.
In quiet moments like these, we can hear our neighbors screaming. And although it makes me grateful for all that I have, my sukkah is filled with Tel Aviv guilt.
Jewish Israelis often tell me that they just want to live their life — their Western life — like any other Western person in the world. And I see where they're coming from. The students at my University of California campus who stormed student-government meetings and criticized Israel's violent offensive, and its preventative measures in Palestine (prioritizing absolute safety over the human rights of the trapped Palestinians), seem so silly and out-of-context, in retrospect. How easy it is to criticize another Western aggressor when you're wrapped in your own cozy Western mall culture, just like the one Israel craves, on a land seized from another people.
It's much more difficult to reconcile this contrast when you're living in the middle of it. Especially when you're taking shelter in the eye of the storm.
Who knows — Tel Aviv could come under siege tomorrow. Knock on wood. But over a beautiful string of holidays in the Holy Land, the end-of-summer breeze has been heavy with the hurt of hundreds of thousands of our neighbors, so close yet so far off, fighting for their own peaceful September.
Kind of makes a shiksa want to go all Chris Jeon on this bubble and rush Damascus for the cause.
September 15, 2013 | 6:00 am
Posted by Simone Wilson
Yom Kippur, perhaps for its promise of instant redemption, is the one day that otherwise secular Jews in Tel Aviv impose the hard rules of the Torah upon themselves — and gladly.
They complained about it all through the first two weeks of September, warning of this coming Doomsday where the cafes and corner stores would go dark and the streets of Tel Aviv would fill with the bored and hungry, but I always got the feeling they loved it deep down. Like one loves a snow day, or a rolling blackout.
It was even better than they said.
As dusk rolled around on Friday, the calm set in. Tel Aviv's epic war of car horns faded with the sun, making room for noise that usually gets drowned out: Birds. Dogs. Wind. Kids. (Really, who knew there were kids in this city?) The freeways dried up — a voluntary Carmageddon. Young bicycle gangs who only meet up once a year raced down the empty streets, dodging pets and toddlers. Traffic lights rotated peacefully through red, yellow and green, changing for no one. Five-year-olds ran unattended through the bad part of town. The air on Allenby Street, Tel Aviv's widest and smoggiest thoroughfare, turned sweet and summery. We could breathe again. (And it wasn't just me — it's science!)
Yom Kippur is likely more dramatic in Jerusalem, a larger city with residents far more devoted to the rules of holiday. The scene at the Western Wall is dazzling. But there's nothing like watching a modern, mostly non-observant metropolis drop everything — including its cellphones — to self-reflect. "This is like THE day to remorse and try to get your Jew soul some redemption," a friend told me on Facebook. Even the cityfolk who didn't plan to fast or turn off their electronics found ritual in pre-Yom Kippur runs to AM:PM, shuffling home with enough canned food and bottled water to stock a Cold War bunker, then queuing up an entire TV season on Netflix.
Once the quiet descended, hordes of 20somethings began to roam the streets with their friends. They went to go get drunk in apartments with the music low like they were in high school again, groaning about how boring Tel Aviv is without the bars open but secretly embracing these rare parameters. Sometimes, in a city that spends so much energy rebelling against the cold traditions of Jerusalem, it feels good to give into religion.
I woke up Friday without the alarm of a garbage truck, a power drill or a motorcycle accident. Even the street cats stopped screaming their blood-curdling rape screams for a day. If that's not a soul cleanse, what is?
September 12, 2013 | 10:15 am
Posted by Simone Wilson
The Masada isn't just for Birthright kids on their mandatory Day 4 sunrise hikes anymore: Come middle of next month, it will likewise play sound-wall to one of the world's highest-profile DJs. (And he's not really even a Jew!)
No, David Guetta will not be playing on top of the Masada's 1,300-foot plateau in his headlining performance for the first-ever "Dead Sea Rave" on October 17, because that would be too dangerous/awesome. "The event will be underneath the Masada, not on top of it," said a rave representative over email, as "the top of the mountain is limited to few hundred people only & is used for small live shows."
In case you haven't yet been subjected to The Hike, a little history: Aside from Birthright kids, the Masada was once home to the great King Herod, and hundreds of Jewish rebels after him. The rebels then committed mass suicide when the Roman army surrounded them in what is known as the Jews' last stand in ancient Israel, circa the early 70s AD. And if I know my Israeli welcoming committees, Guetta is in for an at least five-hour version of this story at the historic site before he takes the arena on Thursday night. Masada history: So dorky it's cool? Hipster Jew seems to think so.
Dead Sea Rave promoters are playing up the "lowest point on Earth" thing, and have even nicknamed the rave "minus 424" after its number of meters below sea level. (A concept already sort of taken by that 424 salt company, but I guess it's cute enough to go around.) They'll also have bragging rights to the first-ever popular music event held at the Masada Arena for people who aren't super young or super old: Previously, the arena has only hosted family festivals and classical/opera shows.
September 7, 2013 | 8:15 am
Posted by Simone Wilson
I have this super-American habit I'm trying to shake, because it's turning me into a tick and an outsider in this hot, brutal city: I say "thank you" too much.
Around the Rosh Hashanah table last week, I was at my worst. I pulled a TY every time another dish came out of the oven; every time I was passed a condiment or soda bottle; every time some cousin showed me a gnarly IDF video on his cellphone. (We were taken in from Tel Aviv's lonely heat by my boyfriend's far-distant relatives, who live a few kilometers from the West Bank at the skinniest point in northern Israel — because on Rosh Hashanah, it's no Jew, cat or shiksa left behind.)
It was only after we left, after the final "THANK YOU!!!", that a hindsight of my grinding American politeness socked me 'tween the eyes. My hosts didn't want another "thank you" — they wanted me to pass out on the couch for an eggplant-casserole nap with an apple-honey stomachache.
We have this dance we do back home, this exchange of pleasantries so overused they become white noise. "Please" and "thank you" are like layers of potpourri between each real question or request — and any over-ask or overstay becomes somehow justified, the thicker and sweeter the layers.
Not so in Israel, where the tight-knit and sometimes smothering Jewish community is based on unspoken IOUs. No need to say "thank you" after dinner, because you know good and well that you'll soon repay with a dinner party of your own, a job connect, a friend-of-a-friend discount or a ride to the airport. Even between strangers, there is an eternal game of "pay it forward" playing out on the streets of Tel Aviv. I once stooped over and helped a liquor-store girl pick up an entire box of spilled recyclings. She barely even looked at me afterward — just nodded in wordless understanding that two humans walking the same land, two sisters on the same neighborhood watch, should pick up each other's recyclings when they spill. Pleasantries, in moments like these, are an insult.
I used to absentmindedly thank my Israeli taxi drivers some three times over the course of the journey — until I noticed the twist of disgust on their faces in response. How the hell did I expect them to reply to this shameful show of gratitude, completely out of place in their throttling storefront, where the only language is exchange-of-services?
If you don't get into a shouting match with your Israeli taxi driver about the correct route to take, there is no respect. Not opening your door into oncoming traffic? That's the only "thank you" he won't spit onto the concrete while peeling away.
In fact, I would like to pay momentary tribute to this special look that Israelis get when assaulted with an American "thank you." There is an averting of the pupils, as if searching for another Israeli soul with which to share their pain — and what pain! The nostrils flare slightly, the teeth clench and the lips part without purpose, for there is no phrase in existence that can match the emptiness of what I've just lobbed at them. An awkward silence follows, with the sole purpose of making me sit with my offense. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, they'll take pity on me and throw me a half-affectionate "So American!" — like, you can't help it if you're a void of a person whose mother didn't drown you in tough love and shakshouka, and whose Arab brothers haven't shown you the meaning of life and survival.
And still, the spineless American in me too often can’t resist. Every email I write includes at least two TYs, sometimes three or four. In reply, I've even been known to open with the hilariously insecure: "Thank you for your response." The comebacks I get from Israelis make me look even more ridiculous: strings of uncapitalized, unfinished, misspelled sentences with just enough effort behind them to get the necessary information across. They read like a motherly eye-roll or slap on the cheek. As if to say: Wake up, you big tick — there will be no love or grammar between us until you're passed out on the couch with an apple-honey stomachache.
It took everything I had not to thank the scowling Mizrahi chick who blasted Selena Gomez on her Android the whole sherut ride back to Tel Aviv from Rosh Hashanah dinner. Instead I scowled back, grinded my seat in gratitude and threw a five-shekel piece to the next bum I saw. He just nodded, kind of annoyed I hadn’t thrown him a 10.
September 5, 2013 | 2:30 pm
Posted by Simone Wilson
Over the last couple days, a whole new wave of infuriated posts about President Obama's imminent intervention in Syria began lighting up my news feed, more than a week after America's first battle cry.
It was kind of disorienting. Had my friends really fallen this far out of touch? Were they seriously this reliant on Jon Stewart for their news? (Stewart returned to the air Tuesday night after directing his first film in Jordan all summer, making funny that had just gotten word about Syria.) Or had the Syrian Electronic Army somehow succeeded in overtaking Twitter for the better part of August?
Oh, right — Burning Man.
"So apparently while I was gone at Burning Man, the US decided to step up involvement in Syria..." wrote a Facebook friend who will remain nameless. And when I mentioned chemical weapons to my own little brother, who had just hitched a ride back to the Bay Area, he was like: "Uh, did I miss something violent?"
Bad week to be transported from reality to that harmonious desert sandstorm of furry boots and free trade. Or a good one, I suppose, if you prefer blissful ignorance. "Back from Burning Man and we're about to go to war with Syria — and maybe Russia and China," Tweeted one New Yorker yesterday. "When did Burning Man become the sane place?" Another guy from Oakland also noticed the trend: "My friends getting back from Dragoncon & Burning Man are now reading the headlines about Syria while expressing shock & fear. Good."
And of course, what's a harsh Burning Man comedown/homecoming without a good conspiracy theory in the mix. This one comes courtesy of California's own Dr. Wallace J. Nichols:
"Think they timed hearings on bombing Syria 2 coincide w/ end of BurningMan when many of the most creative protesters r busy 'decompressing'?"
Welcome back, love bugs. To a desert stage where nudity is somewhat less acceptable, "Alpha Bitch" is an evil dictator with a sarin fetish and spiritual differences are the kindling for World War III.
September 2, 2013 | 11:20 am
Posted by Simone Wilson
A Tel Aviv singer and bartender calling herself "Infy Snow" on Facebook sparked an animal-rights firestorm across Israel/the Internet yesterday, when she posted heart-melting photos of a limp little sparrow she found outside an Aroma Espresso Bar branch in Tel Aviv's deep south, apparently unable to walk or fly.
As Snow told it, she went inside the nearby Aroma to ask for a bag to carry the bird in — and was met by a very unsurprised staffer. The employee, according to Snow, told her that Aroma management had been putting out poison so that the sparrows would stop eating the croissants on the shelves. (I reached out to Snow for more details on this exchange, which is pretty key to the story's central allegations, but haven't heard back yet. Update, September 3: More details at the bottom.)
So she ventured out to the sitting area, where Snow said she found dozens more sparrows in varying states of paralysis.
Her post has hit over 15,000 shares on Facebook in a single day, prompting a call for investigation from Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and a big PR scramble the part of Aroma, which in two decades has grown from a beloved Jerusalem coffee shop to a booming international chain.
"As the spokeswoman of Aroma, I can tell you Aroma is doing everything to check what happened to these birds," said Aroma rep Neta Shriki. Employees and management at the Ramat HaChayal branch are being questioned about the incident, she said. (Strangely, in an unrelated news event, an Aroma Tel Aviv cook was just arrested earlier this year for allegedly poisoning a co-worker's salad.)
According to Shriki, Aroma also hired a special company — "an expert in dealing with these specific birds" — to come investigate. After giving the sparrows something that apparently neutralized whatever was in their system, the company released the birds on the beach, said Shriki, where they are now "moving again and flying" like new.
"If you come today, you won't see them," the spokeswoman added. "At least not on the ground. The whole street is suffering from these birds."
Tel Aviv is known for its very unstoppable animal-rights community; animal activists' most recent protest in Tel Aviv, for example, was bigger and louder than the one against chemical weapons in Syria. In response to Aroma's alleged attack on the local sparrow population, graphic artist Neer Rosen created a gorgeous dead-sparrow version of the Aroma logo, and one of Snow's friends declared on her wall: "Infy Snow, the queen of sparrows."
Update, September 3: Snow said the Aroma employee told her, "My employer had dispersed poison for the birds so they wouldn't get inside and bite from the croissants." And when Snow asked him if it was legal to poison the birds like this, he wasn't sure.
"I got the impression he came to realize it's actually sad when he saw how I reacted to it," Snow told me over Facebook chat. "I believe he didn't think about it that way before. He didn't take a close look at the birds until he saw me holding that little paralyzed sparrow."
Aroma has yet to contact the activist, who called for a boycott of the cafe chain in her post — now nearing 16,000 shares.