Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bye Bye Miss American Pie, Shalom Tel Aviv

I arrived in Israel with only an hour of sleep during my 10 hour flight. Instead of heading to Jerusalem, I had previously decided to stay in Tel Aviv for a few days, both seeing friends and sleeping off my jet lag before I had to start working on the schedule of the yeshiva. For my first Shabbos in Israel, it was very relaxing…save for one minor detail: unable to use the elevators in the hotel, I had to walk up and down eleven flights of stairs.

While not as obvious as in Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv does slow down on Shabbos. As the population is largely unreligious, most shops and cafes are open, but the streets are not as packed as during the week. During Shabbos, I took walks around the neighborhoods of Bauhaus apartments and buildings, down the narrow winding streets lined with small trees. Even with the moderate flow of traffic, the Shabbos was still very relaxing. It came to an end with a very impromptu havdala made with whatever I could find at the AM:PM around the corner (beer, birthday candles, and cinnamon sticks).

Today, I woke up early and found a nice spot to sit near the corner of Dizengoff and Ben Gurion, a major intersection. There, I sat nestled among the trees and cafes, reading “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut. As I watched the people, not hearing the noise around me because of my playing ipod, it was easy to imagine myself in any Mediterranean city, the breeze just enough to chill the pace of the city. I started thinking about how much more there is to Israel than what people see. For those outside, Israel is either the Land of the Bible, or a war zone. Truly, neither is felt in Tel Aviv. It has a feel unique unto itself.

Tel Aviv is famously known as HaBua, The Bubble. “There’s Israel, and then there’s Tel Aviv”, they say. That can certainly be felt when going around the city. In Tel Aviv, religion and war take a backseat to cafes and fashion. The only way to know that Israel recently fought in Gaza is by seeing people welcome back reservists, recently returned after a month away. Even the reservists in Tel Aviv try to get back to the Bubble mentality as soon as possible. When I asked one reservist what he did in Gaza, he responded, “Watch the T.V. if you want to know.” People in Tel Aviv cannot be bothered by current events, whether globally or in Israel. This lifestyle was summed up best by a friend in response to Hamas rockets getting progressively closer to Tel Aviv during the recent conflict: “They keep shooting at us and the rockets get closer, but all I want to do is sit on the street and sip my coffee.”

In “Cat’s Cradle”, Kurt Vonnegut uses the (fake) religion Bokononism to express his own philosophical outlook. Today, while reading, I happened upon a quote that fit my wanderings around Tel Aviv: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from G-d”. Every corner in Tel Aviv offers something new to see. From the signs claiming that the Zionist dream of Hertzel has become an unneeded reality, to innovative boutiques offering styles that will not be seen in America for years, to a restaurant icon that reminds one of Barak Obama, Tel Aviv is an ever eye-opening city. If these wanderings really are lessons, Tel Aviv has a great beat for dancing.


  1. Hello to you in Tel Aviv. I am glad to read your words and hear you are well and enjoyed your stop over to rest and regroup yourself before heading out to your final destination. I can see how different and yet beautiful Tel Aviv is. Be safe and G-D Bless. Mom

  2. Hey!

    Nice post.

    Glad you enjoyed your first shabbos in Israel.

    Keep 'em coming!


  3. Wow!! Great pic's!! love the havdala!

  4. I will be following your journey and find your writing very interesting. Blessings...Cousin(christi)