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(en) Israel, Tel Aviv, MEDIA: Salon Mazal - The Anarchist's Playground

Date Mon, 15 Aug 2005 23:23:23 +0300

Anarchists with experience know that plotting the next
revolution requires energy. It is perhaps for this reason
that Tel Aviv's Salon Mazal has opted for an in-house
restaurant and bar that serves good, inexpensive vegan meals.
Pictures of ape heads with electrodes welded to their brains
and flyers of bloodied chickens, however, don't seem to phase the
handful of diners munching away on noodles loaded with tofu chunks.
Some Tel Aviv residents may remember Salon Mazal from Rehov Montefiore off Allenby.
Two years ago, the bookshop, library, and meeting ground for
some of the country's most prolific activists picked up and
moved to the homier locale on a quiet cul-de-sac seconds
away from the frenetic King George bargain-basement shopping
zone and minutes away from the fashion maven's Rehov Sheinkin.

For those who hanker for university campus-style activism
and anti-establishment activities, Salon Mazal's collective
offers one of Israel's very few pit stops where all this is
happening under one roof.

At the newer location, Salon Mazal has doubled in size --
half of the shop is the vegan bar and a free Linux-based
computing and surfing galley that serves groups of activists
who converge daily; the other half is an alternative
literature bookstore and library.

For a small fee, locals are invited to partake in the
library, which offers reading material on how to be a woman
pirate up to more modest endeavors such as growing one's own
organic vegetable garden. Literature runs the full gamut
expected in an anarchist/activist's playground. Subjects
include feminism, globalization, and the environment. Of the
thousands of books, about half are in English.

Books for sale are mostly in Hebrew, covering local issues
which are bountiful. It's All Lies is among the collective's
favorite. The large poster book attempts to expose the State
of Israel's history of propaganda, starting from the Sixties
and includes fodder on the controversial nuclear
whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. Another featured fave is
Rise Up for Direct Action, written by Rony Armon, one of
Salon Mazal's founders.

"We need a deep social change in this world where people
take responsibility for what they do," explains Armon, who
believes that books are a good way for people to get the
tools to initiate this change.

Armon is one of some 30 local activists working at Salon
Mazal. Others converge from groups such as Anarchists
against the Wall, Indymedia, and the radical environmental
group Green Action to volunteer their time running the
kitchen, selling books, and organizing workshops.

No one except Rosana Berghof, 28, who has managed to assume
a managerial role without the title, receives payment for
their work. She may get a small stipend for the work she
does, but eschewing capitalism is one of her priorities.

The bespectacled petite woman, who retains a thick Romanian
accent, has gone so far as to live in a squat on Rehov
Yehuda Ha'levi in Neve Zedek to espouse her ideals. She and
some friends cleaned up an old apartment and lived there for
a few months despite having no running water or electricity.
Today she lives in the lower income Yad Eliyahu neighborhood
with four roommates. She doesn't buy organic food usually
"because it is expensive," but she cultivates her own
vegetables in the backyard. She started her activist career
as a supporter of animal rights, the environment, and human

Today, like Salon Mazal volunteer Uri Ayalon, 26, she has
anarchist tendencies and is against the establishment of
both a Palestinian and an Israeli state.

Berghof and Ayalon believe in a world free of borders.

Ayalon defines himself as part of Anarchists against the
Wall. He has done extreme maneuvers in the area of civil
disobedience and direct action to sabotage the existence of
Israel's security barrier. He was most affected by the death
of American activist Rachel Corrie, who in 2003 died in a
bulldozer-related accident in Gaza. After that, Ayalon
decided to throw himself into more serious activism -- or
anarchism, as he calls it -- going so far as to be a human

"When a soldier knows a Jew is in front of him, he won't
shoot," says Ayalon, who has darted from the occasional
bullet. He identifies himself as a religious Jew -- a brave
statement while working among a group of left-wing radicals.

Ayalon has little contact with government-mandated policies,
refused army service, and doesn't use state facilities. His
dream is to see a world of borderless communities not
defined by nationality, religion, or race. Ethics and rules,
Ayalon and Berghof agree, should come straight from the soul.

The two therefore help educate the soul by organizing daily
workshops and lectures that are filed under monthly topics.
In June, lectures were on animal rights; in July, it was
crime; in August it's ageism.

Although invited speakers tend to hover around the
politically left, the collective is interested in hearing
other points of view, such as that of Moshe Feiglin who gave
a talk at Salon Mazal recently. Feiglin founded the
right-wing Zo Artzeinu (This Is Our Land) movement in 1995
to protest the Oslo agreement.

Talks have included Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson for
B'tselem, who works to document crimes mainly against
Palestinians in the disputed territories and the Gaza Strip.

"This group is considered radical to the mainstream," says
Ayalon. "But they really aren't," he adds, explaining that
among activists there are definite degrees of radicalism.

Vegan terrorists was the topic of a recent workshop, which
attempted to show the difference between direct action
versus terrorism and crime. There was also a talk led by
Spain's Yomango, a group that is attempting to liberate
people from the power of corporate logos.

On any given day at Salon Mazal, customers come in all
shapes, sizes, races, and religion. One customer, a former
neighbor who lived across the street, is Jackie Levy, 20.
She was drawn into running Salon Mazal for a stint, and
found that she could spend up to three weeks at a time
without leaving "the bubble of the neighborhood."

Whether one is a seasoned anarchist or a curious newcomer,
Salon Mazal offers something for everyone.

Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m; daily
workshops start at 8 p.m. Salon Mazal closes at 3 p.m. on
Friday and remains closed on Saturday because "Shabbat is
for resting," says Ayalon.

After all is said and done, even anarchists need a break.

For information about workshops,
call (03) 629-7734 or visit
Simtat Almonit 3 (across from Gan Meir)

Aug. 15, 2005

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