Tel Aviv of yesteryear

A translation of "Petty Business" provides comedy and nostalgia.

By AARON LEIBEL
May 16, 2018 18:35
3 minute read.
PRIME MINISTER Yitzhak Rabin and Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat walk down Herzl Street in Tel Aviv in 1

PRIME MINISTER Yitzhak Rabin and Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat walk down Herzl Street in Tel Aviv in 1975. (photo credit: YAACOV SAAR/GPO)

 
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Petty Business is the fix that nostalgia addicts crave. It will appeal to those who yearn to return to the Tel Aviv of the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s. Then, it resembled a European city – gracious but with a low-key, small-town feel, a place where you would go to have cake and coffee and watch the Med, not the metropolis of 2018 with its cutting-edge architecture, its hi-tech bustle, its super highways that turn into elongated parking lots each day.

But this novel is set not only in the Tel Aviv of mayor Shlomo “Chich” Lahat, but in an Israel in which Menachem Begin’s first two finance ministers, Simcha Ehrlich and Yigal Hurvitz, would feel comfortable. In that pre-“start-up nation” era, grocery store owners, such as this novel’s Yosef Zinman – rather than today’s software moguls – were among the country’s most prosperous citizens. A trip abroad featured a travel tax – the author rightly refers to it as a “travel ransom” – and holding foreign currency, except for that purchased from a bank and for the trip, was verboten.

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