A Snail mail lover confession

   In first grade I got punished for writing ‘they fucked’ in a story in my little yellow memo pad. I was trying to describe something I saw on TV, got sent to the principal office but was so scared I hid in the bathroom instead. Eventually a shrink stated that I was bored and should attend second grade.

  I find the artistic form of writing creative snail mail letters on old typewriters the most efficient, fun and effective way to politely tell my first grade teacher ‘fuck you!’. Whatever shame or other issues she had around sex, she didn’t manage to stop me from enjoying to write like a little boy who just learned that craft, though after that experience it took me twelve years to explore creative writing again.

  I enjoy writing letters. Especially in the past few years, as the Internet is developing so rapidly, I’m constantly exploring this ancient way of communication. I see text as material, like a toddler sees clay and letters and envelopes are one of my main playgrounds.

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במקום גניזה Instead of Gniza

 
(English after Hebrew)
 

 אינני שומר מצוות

אך יש במצוות הגניזה

משהו נוגע ללב, מרגש

ביחוד לחובבי ספרים, כמוני

פעם

מול התחנה המרכזית החדשה

בירושלים

היה מבנה נטוש, מאוד נטוש היה המבנה

היו מגיעים אליו כלמיני

 בעבר היה המקום

בית מדרש

אולי בגלל זה היו מוטלים בו

אלפי ספרי קודש

על הרצפה, משכב לחסרי בית

יורם אמיר, ידידי הצלם, הכיר לי את המקום

הייתי בא, תולש ספרי קהלת מן התנ”כים

ומבצע בהם מעשים אמנותיים

במקום גניזה

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I’m not

an observant Jew

but the Gniza mitzvah

in which we are commanded

to bury holy text

when we’re done using it

is very exciting to me

Once

in an abandoned building

in front of the central bus station

in West Jerusalem

thousands of books

Bibles, Talmud, Mishna

laid on the floor

as beds to homeless people

The building used to be

a Beit-Midrash once

My friend Yoram showed it to me

and I would come

 tear the book of Ecclesiastes

out of old Bible books

and make all sorts of art with them

instead of Gniza

Ecclesiastes text glued on an 18th century Jewish Musar (morals) book Mesilat Yesharim (path of the righteous) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzato –

1Meaningless! Meaningless!
    says the Teacher.
2 Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.
3 What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.

Alfassi Books

PLEASE VISIT ALFASSI BOOKS NEW (AND MUCH NICER) WEBSITE at alfassibooks.weebly.com

For about five years I lived in a beautiful old building at 31 Alfassi St. in West Jerusalem. The house was falling apart. Balconies got dislocated from the building, walls had scary cracks in them and leaks occurred every time it rained. The owner wasn’t interested in renovation and tried to cut the cost of basic maintenance. Our building was populated mostly by students who shared the 6 apartments and was known for its great roof parties and Shabbat potlucks.

Once an architect student pointed out to me that the cursive stairway created sort of a pier that wasn’t usable for living but only for aesthetics, and today no developer would build such a space. Soon after that conversation we brought some chairs and speakers and hung some artwork on its walls and the old stair room became one of my favorite places in the building. New stair rooms are often narrow, ugly and functional while the old ones are often beautiful and give an ease to the soul when you’re using them.

    When the owner demolished 31 Alfassi St. and turned it into a condominium, I was already in Brooklyn. Like all of my friends who used to live there, I felt sadness in my heart, almost as if a friend passed away. The building had personality, the walls could tell our stories and we had so many precious moments that took place within those old brick walls. On my next visit to Jerusalem, it was already a construction site and I couldn’t get in. Jerusalem has lost many of its most beautiful buildings over the past decade, often to much higher and uglier buildings than the luxurious condominium that is now 31 Alfassi St, which is ugly in its own unique way.

Alfassi Books is a named after that building and it’s a publishing company that celebrates the opportunity of having old and new dwell together. It offers an artistic metaphor of what a renovation of 31 Alfassi St. might look like. Alfassi Books is devoted to writings and art projects that combine old and new ways of creative expressions like typewriters and Facebook, old records and ebooks. Alfassi Books offers services that seem to disappear, like snail mail writing help, but doesn’t hesitate using modern technology such as this website in order to show them.

Alfassi Books is an independent publishing house based on the gift economy model. 

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    Alfassi Books products are offered for free via snail mail (what?? Are you serious? yes! let me explain)

Alfassi Books is based on the model of gift economy. The blood bank, Wikipedia and Freecycle are examples of gift economies, where people give their knowledge, blood or belongings not in order to receive money but for other reasons, usually to help strangers they’ve never met who might benefit from their action. There are many variations of gift economy. I chose to offer both a sliding scale if one wish to pay for a book/service and offer an option of giving some of your own time/money/talent to another cause you’d like to support. I wish to value art not as a commodity and I believe this model reflects that. Using that model I managed to raise $500 to Doctors Without Borders from the sales of the first Magic Bagel book, that I dedicated to a friend of mine who passed away a short time before he was supposed to start practicing medicine. I do have costs and spend a lot of time making this art, and I wish to at least cove my costs.

I don’t want to price the booklets and the services – each price might be too much for those who can’t afford it or too little for those who might not value something that is cheap. As for the letters writing service, some letters were rather silly or light and some were equivalent to a therapy session, some were very meaningful and helpful to the writers and some weren’t as much. I leave the pricing of such service to the receiver to decide how much it was valuable to him or her.

An average booklet cost me about $0.50 to make plus postage ($0.50-$0.70 within the US and $1.15-$2.20 abroad). Magic Bagel booklets are pretty fast to assemble while creating a sketchbook using a record cover is pretty time consuming. You can decide for yourself how to price such art based on how much you might pay for it. In book stores such booklets can go anywhere from $2 to $20. You’re welcome to either give something based on the hypothetical price you’d made or try to imagine the worth not in terms of money but in other terms that may speak to you depending on your point of view – love, energy, creativity, art, ideology, faith etc.

    I’ve decided to give that model a try. If you’re interested the booklets, you’re welcome to order them and either make a paypal donation that’ll help me make more booklets or support a good cause that’s important to you by giving some of your talent/money/time for free. creating these booklets is a true joy to me and I’d like to explore the idea that art is, after all, priceless.

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Sketchbooks and journals made out of old record covers

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“Facebook Statuses”, a collection of my writings on Facebook. Mailed inclusively via snail mail.

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“The Incredible Story of The Magic Bagel”, and “Around The World with The Magic Bagel”, interactive children’s stories that takes place in Beacon NY and feature a special kind of bagel with special powers. 

10177238_754648517911371_8574805603373609050_nThe Magic Bagel booklets

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A thank you letter from “Doctors Without Borders”

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Talking stamps

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 Part of “Letters, of all sorts” and a free service I offer occasionaly

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Learn more about The Magic Bagel at themagicbagel.com

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2 letters from an on going art project, more details at “Letters, of all sorts”, a new snail mail letters collection. . Available through Skype as well. Please contact if you need help in writing a letter and for more details

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families

 

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From “A Jew Killed”, a short picture book memoir by Ori Alon

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Work day at Alfassi Books

 

Coming soon – “Letters, of all sorts”, a collection of letters and artwork by Ori Alon

 Alfassi Books products are available by snail mail upon request (you can fill up this form or email oribeacon@gmail.com)

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Alfassi Books by Ori Alon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at themagicbagel.com.

מזמור לאוריה החיתי

לחן וביצוע : ירין אבני

מזמור לאוריה החיתי

 אני רוצה לשיר את שירו

של אוריה החיתי

לא זה המת אי שם

אלא זה החי וקיים

יש וביציאה לקרב

מסתתר מעשה אהבה

אסור

תאווה

ואחד הנשלח לקרב

כשה תמים אל החזית

והמלך

.נלחם בו

אני רוצה לזכור אותו

במותו

את המבט שהיה על פניו

?האם ידע

 

PERSPECTIVE

5

I was gathered with my kindergarten class and hundreds or thousands of other kids in some stadium. Each child got a cheap plastic cloth with a Jewish star between two blue stripes on a white background, attached to a plastic straw. That  was our national flag. I liked the smell of it and wasn’t sure what it symbolized. The texture of the flag made it possible to see through it, a little bit. I was putting it over my face, inhaling it deeply, so I could see whatever happened on the stage through it. It smelled like a dollar store. Kipi was on the stage, my favorite character from the Israeli Sesame Street show. But since we had flags, it must have been Independence day or Memorial day, days in which tanks and army jeeps usually gathered in some plaza for kids to breathe in the mixture of metal, sand, oil, rust and adventure these cars represented. Kipi was my hero, but he wasn’t a soldier, he didn’t belong to a national event in a small town in the north. He was a walking porcupine, as beloved as Elmo. I’m probably confusing two separate memories, so I might never know what happened in the show I saw with blur blue and white plastic effects.

10

The morning after they signed the Oslo accord, I walked to school confused. I didn’t realize the value of peace. I remember being upset that my country would become smaller. Parts of the country I’d never been to would now come under the control of the Palestinian Liberation Organization new government. I looked at the big map that was on the wall of our classroom and wondered why Arabs would take over these parts of the country. I didn’t know the names of these places, just that Arabs would soon take them. I felt betrayed. I felt ownership over these lands. Being in 5th grade, often bullied, I knew better than Arabs how to govern, better than Jews too. Only years later I learned to define “Arabs” and “Palestinians”, “Right” and “Left”. I wasn’t the only one who was upset at the peace process that started at the White House on the afternoon of Sept. 13th, 1993. On the evening of Nov. 4th, 1995, someone shot Prime Minister Rabin, who initiated the process, three times in his back.

13

I answered the phone while I was eating dinner. It was Arik. He was a close friend of mine during elementary school, but then, in the beginning of eighth grade, we weren’t close friends anymore. Now he’s an accountant with three kids, a neighbor of my mom. On Sept. 26th, 1996, he called and asked if I heard what happened in the surfaces that day (Israelis often refers to the West Bank literally as HaShtakhim,“the territories”, literally “the surfaces”, disregarding the fact that there are also people there, not just lands.) I didn’t know what happened but I said I did in order to sound knowledgeable, and he said that Lior’s father got killed. In elementary school we had been a triangle, Lior, Arik and I. During the three days of riots that started because of the new Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s one-sided decision to open the wailing wall tunnel, Lior’s dad was on duty in Tul-Karem, about 15 minutes from where we lived, in Kfar-Saba. A sniper got him and another soldier who came to his rescue. I was there in the parking lot after the funeral behind Lior when he was screaming “why?” In the evening, the TV narrator reported coldly: “And what’s left, just a boy’s question, why”, and a long shot of Lior entering his house and wailing that one question. Nowadays, there’s a wall between Kfar-Saba and Tul-Karem, and Highway 6, Israel’s first toll road, theoretically connects them.

19

I didn’t want to supervise Palestinians so the officers told me to do some office work instead of manning checkpoints. The office was a trailer with an old couch, a broken chair and a table. The soldiers who did checkpoints told me over the distorted radio ID numbers of men they had arrested and I was supposed to call someone who would decide what to do with them. I might have misheard some numbers.

The first time I was supposed to shoot a gun I started crying intensely. I couldn’t control it. It was the most intensive cry I ever cried and I don’t think I ever saw someone crying like I did that day. I couldn’t stop for a very long time. I still remember the beating sound of guns shooting while I was outside, someone offering me water. It was the most meaningful event of my army service; I wasn’t meant to be a soldier. For about a week they didn’t know what to do with me. I remember talks about transferring me into another unit. Then I just started shooting, shooting and not crying anymore. For long periods of time during my service I told my officers I couldn’t shoot a gun and they had nothing to tell me besides sending me to do kitchen or office work. I was a coward, but a brave one.

25

I was doing some Bible class at a public school in Jerusalem. It was part of the studies for my certificate in education. Once a week I was supposed to teach third graders for about an hour and observe their teacher too. My instructor recommended I try and make the class fun. It wasn’t that hard. Their teacher was very rigid, similar to the way my third grade teacher had been. Compared to her, almost anyone could have taken the role of the cool guy. We made a pretend exodus march from Egypt, the classroom, across the Sinai desert, the hallway, and into the promised land, the classroom.

A few weeks after Independence day, Israel celebrates the reunion of East and West Jerusalem, even though forty something years after 1967, both parts of the city are still separated, like Harlem is separated from Wall Street. It’s called Jerusalem day, and around the Jewish parts of the city parades are being marched. I was observing the kids during the preparation for their ceremony in school. They made them march like soldiers in the basketball court, the sun was strong. Some held flags, all wore white and blue. I remember thinking to myself – “this is fucked up. Ten year olds shouldn’t march anywhere”.

30

There was never a time in my life in which I read more about the Israeli Palestine conflict as the first few years after I left Israel. Every day I checked the news and a few blogs. I learned about what was happening in and under the surfaces of the West Bank, what happened in 1948, how the Israeli occupation of Palestinians started in 1967 and how it’s still vibrant. “Israeli porn” my wife called it.

I learned not to divide it into the usual two sides. Now I divide it into the violent side, whoever chooses to act in violent ways in order to achieve his goal, and the non-violent side, whoever chooses to act humanely, regardless of his nationality, my side.

אשר יצר את הפלאפון בחכמה וברא בו

ברוכה את יה, אשר יצרת את הטלפון החכם בחכמה ובראת בו אפליקציות אפליקציות וחילקת אותו מכשירים מכשירים, כל אחד שונה רק במעט מרעהו וכולם משכילים, מכשיר מכשיר לפי דרכו.  ואת שעשית חלילה לא מפני צמצום חכמתו של האדם אלא מתוך העצמת סגולות המכונה, אלה וגם אלה זקוקים לחסד. על כי נפל האדם הראשון מגן העדן ואבד יכולתו לנווט או זכרונו אינו משג מספר טלפון אחד אפילו נתת בידו את הטלפון החכם אשר נתן באדם סימנים לרוב, החל בסרטן וכלה בהפרעות קשב וריכוז. ויקומו המלפפונים ויכו את הגנן, ותעלה חכמתו של הטלפון החכם על פני חכמת האדם הממוצע, ויגע גם קטע היתולי זה, אשר נכתב בעודי מטייל ותינוק על גבי, מתנמנם לו, ואני שקוע במסך, יראוני רעיי ודאי יאמרו, הודעת כתב שולח הוא, לא ידמיינו ברוחם כי שירה היא.

מאיפה אתה בארץ?

מאיפה אתה בארץ? שאלה שתמיד איכשהו נשאלת במפגש עם ישראלי בתפוצות, לרוב בחמש הדקות הראשונות של הפגישה. לא שאם התשובה תהיה עלי ד’, מעגן מיכאל, דימונה או סביון ישנה הדבר חלילה משהו מהפרספקטיבה של השואל על הנשאל אבל בכל זאת, שואלים

האמת היא שאני לא כל כך יודע מאיפה אני בארץ ולא נתקלתי במדריך רשמי המסביר איך לענות על השאלה הזו

אם לענות על פי המקום בו ביליתי את התקופה הארוכה ביותר אני מנצרת עלית, שם חייתי עד גיל עשר, שם הרכנתי את ראשי מפני הסקאדים של סדאם אשר החלו לרדת דווקא ביום הולדתי אשר בוטל ואני שרוי בצער המהול בשמחת ביטול ימי בית הספר

לאחר מכן כפר סבא, שם הכרתי את דילן, סיגריה ראשונה, אהבות נעורים, שאלות קיומיות של תיכוניסט ונסיעות בקו אגד 567 לתחנה המרכזית בתל אביב לקנות דיסקים מזויפים של פינק פלויד והביטלס

הייתי גם במקומות שלאו דווקא נמצאים בהגדרה המקובלת של “בארץ” (זו שאלה פוליטית לא פשוטה מה בארץ ומה לא). בחורים נידחים ביותר במהלך השירות הצבאי שבאחד מהם, כמה קראוונים על גבול מצרים, נכבה הגנרטור פעם והסתכלנו על הכוכבים בלילה מדברי צונן והשקט שיכר אותנו. במוצב אחר, על התעלות שחוצות את ים המלח לשניים, מצאנו חתולה גוססת וקראנו לה צאפי או פייפי, על שם המוצבים הירדנים שנמצאו מהצד השני של המקום הנמוך בעולם. החתולה מתה ושלחו את כולם לבאר שבע למרפאה הראשית לבדוק שלאף אחד אין כלבת

שנתיים גרתי בנתיבות וחמש בירושלים. בנתיבות יש את החמסה הגדולה בעולם, שהיא גם מגרש החנייה לקבר הבבא סאלי. אנחנו היינו בני גרעין שהחברה להגנת הטבע שלחה ללמד ערכי טבע ונוף לאוכלוסיה המקומית שממנה יותר למדתי משלימדתי. ובירושלים הרגשתי בבית, הכי בבית שאי פעם הרגשתי בארץ, שם ראיתי לראשונה שלט אדום ענק המתנוסס מחלון שיכון וקורא “שמאלנים בוגדים”, שם יצרתי והכרתי, ומשם גם עזבתי

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את שאהבה נפשי

מה רבו מעשיך ה’ ורבים מהם הפקדת בידי עבדים סינים להנחיל להם בינה מלאכותית בגוף פלסטיק זול.

על כי קצרו ימיו של מכשיר ה ZTE

שלי (גם אני לא שמעתי על החברה הזו קודם) מצאתי עצמי משוטט בין בריות מלאכותיות שונות עד אשר נחה דעתי על הארץ המובטחת,  עלותה ע”ה דולרים וצ”צ סנט (נדר נדרתי לא להוציא מעל מאה דולרים על חתכ’ת פלסטיק שנשברת פעמיים בשנה). ואת שביקשה נפשי, לא בדיוק נזר הבריאה אבל בכל זאת סמסונג, מצאתי, תודה לשואל, באמזון. השבח לאל על נפלאות ועסקאות אתר זה, לתפארת מדינת ישראל. עד אשר לא ידעתי את אמזון הייתי מכתת רגליי בעת אני אוחז בילוד רך בין חנויות ומוכרים מפוקפקים בעודי נצרך למוצר צריכה כלשהו אותו איני באמת צריך. כעת הנני רוכש מוצרים בלחיצת כפתור בעוד ראש עולל כבד מונח ישן על כתפי. אף על פי שאיני חש הבדל טכני בין השניים, מוצא אני את אחיזתו של ידידי הישן נעימה יותר למגע והמוזה היתה יותר מזדמנת איתו. אולי צריך לתת לזה עוד זמן, אולי השילוב של כתיבה במכונת כתיבה וסריקה של התכנים לפלאפון מצריך עוד מעט השגחה פרטית. תמהני אם גם כותבי ספר הספרים היו ברי מזל בכדי להשתמש בתוכנה מופלאה המנחשת עבורם (וגם מאייתת כמובן) את המילה הבאה אותה באו לכתוב. הכל מאלוהים.