Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tel Aviv

A friend told me about Tel Aviv that there are many more beautiful than her, but none quite as beautiful like her. The city, Israel’s biggest, is located on the Mediterranean Sea in the middle of the country. Considered the first ‘Modern Jewish’ city, Tel Aviv’s history spans back over 100 years. Known for its beach culture, night life, and shopping, Tel Aviv is the place to be… and after a week and a half of VIP meetings, skill buildings sessions, lectures, workshops, etc., I was ready to be there.
Intercity travel in Israel is a breeze, assuming your Hebrew is decent. Buses run from the central bus station in Jerusalem to that of Tel Aviv every 10-15 minutes. I instead opted for a bus that let me off a short walk from Azrieli, a large corporate tower and mall, to meet Shiri, a close friend of Kinneret Nahamani, who moved from Israel to St. Louis seven years ago. At the Azrieli mall, you are immediately struck by…how similar it looks to any American mall. Sure, the people are skinnier, the music favors techno over hip hop, and a few stores have unfamiliar names, but other than that, we are talking about the same terribly over-stimulating consumer experience. I did, however, have a big Shawarma, which helped sooth my aching senses.
From there, it was pretty easy to hop a bus over to the beach, where I met Mike Simmons, a Cincinnati native in town for a Krav Maga seminar. Krav Maga is the fighting system used by the Israeli army and Mike, who started a Krav Maga studio in Cincinnati, was there to advance his training and bring new innovations in the field back to the 513. Mike and spent the afternoon on the beach, soaking up the intense sun, sipping Goldstars, (Israel’s Budweiser) and playing a game called Matkot. Matkot is a game that can be used as an analogy for the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Basically, two people hit a ball back and forth between each other using paddles. You don’t keep score, and when someone misses the ball, you just pick it up and start smacking it again. In short, it is pointless, but everyone is obsessed with it.
After the beach, I dropped by Ariel’s place. Ariel is a friend from Washington University, where we studied Hebrew together. She moved to Israel after college and has been living in Tel Aviv with her boyfriend for a few years now. We went to her boyfriend Eran’s parent’s house for Shabbat dinner, where I was stuffed with food by an Eran’s mother. To be fair, the watermelon was potentially the best I’ve ever had in my life.
We managed to take our leave before any weird family moments could occur, and back at Ariel’s we caught up with a few of the other PresenTense fellows who had decided to make the jaunt to Tel Aviv. As we sat enjoying drinks on Ariel’s rooftop patio, it was hard not to imagine how much fun it would be to live there. Around 12:30 we made it out on the town, walking down Rothchild, a famous street with a pedestrian boulevard down the middle. We ended up at a champagne bar, where we listened to some amazingly remixed music that combined Balkan horn riffs with pounding Electronic drum beats. By the time we got to bed, I didn’t at all mind sleeping on the couch.
Saturday morning, I met up with Lee, a friend who had been a soldier on the Birthright trip of a few good camp/NFTY friends. We had kept in touch and she accompanied me down to the beach to connect with Noa and Yogev. Noa and Yogev are Israelis who work in St. Louis for AmDocs, an IT company. They just happened to be in town for a few weeks. This time, we went to a totally different beach, much further North, with a more young adult population. It is worth saying at this point that Israeli women are devastatingly beautiful, but even more so on the beach.
We actually went in the water, but quickly left after hearing that there were ‘medusot’ (jellyfish) nearby. Noa and Yogev convinced me to stay another night (not that much arm twisting was involved), and over the course of the night, we managed to eat some amazing ice cream, catch up with St. Louis native, David Lizzo, see a Michael Jackson impersonator, and make a stop at Tel Aviv’s best Shawarma place.
Tel Aviv is in many ways, worlds apart from Jerusalem. You see far fewer Haredim (ultra-orthodox), or Kippot at all for that matter. Far more people have tattoos, there are more bars, and far more Hebrew is spoken. At all hours of the night there are people out on the street, usually sitting at cafes.
Also, there is a totally different energy. Whereas Jerusalem has a spiritual energy, a holiness, and a piousness, Tel Aviv has a young frenetic energy, a more visceral energy.

A trip to the white city is highly recommended

1 comment:

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