Yesterday I spent roughly twelve hours in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
The bus station we arrived at looked like something out of a military complex. It was huge. We, a group of five, walked through metal detectors (something I’m an old hat at now having to walk through them everyday at University) and made our way into the station. There were food stalls with pizza and pastries lining them and many people from all sorts of places wandering around. Our German friend wanted to stop at a Yiddish book store he new of that was in the station.
So, after looking and seeing how ridiculously expensive Israeli McDonald’s are, we found the book store on the fifth floor of the station. Two out of the five of us had background in Yiddish and they were loving it, finding books of poetry they could read.
One of us could play the guitar and she happened to find one towards the back of the store where the chairs had faces on the back of them. I’m not sure who they were but they must have been some relevant folks. The place smelled like dusty books and smoke, the unarguably pleasant smell. And the windows that lined the roof were very shaky, so every time the wind blew, it sounded like a passing train. In fact, it took me forever to understand that it was the wind! We kind of got lost in the station on our way out, but when we did find the way, we started our trek into Tel Aviv.
The buildings here are blocky, they are pale colors and stained with years of wear and graffiti.
The streets are full of cars, pedestrians and in various places, lots of litter. There are also several several people riding motorized bicycles and scooters on the sidewalks and in the streets. Both places I worry for these people’s lives and the lives of others. They’re jut zooming around with nothing to fear, however. There are stands selling beautiful fruits and veggies and, honestly, I had no idea where we were headed. I was told there was going to be a beach so I was more than along for the miles of walking. The heat is not as intense as you would think for it being Tel Aviv in the summer. It is bearable, if not pleasant. For whatever reason I always ended up walking behind the group. Whether it was because I was taking pictures, enjoying the scenery or I was just slow.
We had lunch beside a very large Synagogue. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant or the Synagogue, but I had there a brilliant minute steak in tahini with tomatoes and spicy peppers. I could have married the flavor. It was delicious.
After sitting there for a while discussing Russia, Switzerland, and Germany and talking in various languages to one another (me staying out of most of it and preferring to listen as I am ignorant of many things) we left for the beach. It was another thirty minute walk if I gave it my best estimate, but it was incredibly worth it.
As we got closer to the beach the town started to get, well, beachier. There were more plants growing and flowers and more cutesy shops. I could smell the ocean, the Mediterranean sea. I could feel it as we approached and began spraying ourselves with the preventative sunscreen I had just bought. I was repeatedly telling everyone how much I absolutely adore the beach and how much I needed to get there!
When we finally arrived, took of our shoes, and stuck our toes in the burning sands, it was heavenly. There were just the right amount of people. And just the right amount of dogs and that was several, more than I’d ever seen on a beach before. They would stand at the edge of the deep water and howl and yowl and it was kind of funny. The water was amazing! So warm and so clear. We even saw some little fish swimming about. I laid out and sunbathed for a while, just mediating to the waves and the sound of evening prayers at a nearby Mosque. It was peaceful.
I wish I could have stayed longer, to write, to soak up sun, to laugh and to talk, but I was getting a bit tired and ready to hit the road.
So we walked away from the ocean and back into the streets of Tel Aviv. By now it was reaching evening time and the sun was starting to set and the streets began to glow artificially. Horns were still honking and people were still walking and motoring around. We found a bar where it Happy Hour was just starting and we perched there for a bit. After watching three out of the five of us talk for a while, and another one sit rather quietly and patiently at the end of the table, I started to get hungry and the rest were too. We walked a few paces back the way we had come and found a wonderful spot for dinner that served various combinations of meat and vegetables in soft, fresh pita. We were all getting tired, it had been a long day, but all of us also wish we could have stayed.
On our walk back we traveled through the market. There were vendors selling beautiful assortments of meats, nuts, fruits, olives, and spices. The smells were overwhelming and blended together in such a way that you knew this was a place you could get just about anything. The people were shoulder to shoulder and speaking Hebrew, Arabic, and English to one another. Some of my favorite places I’ve experienced on Earth, besides the beaches, are Israeli markets.
We walked all the way to another bus station that would take us back to Jerusalem. It was another thirty to forty five minute walk there. I was getting tired and grumpy so naturally I took Giorgia and began to listen to her to calm me down. It was getting dark and my feet hurt from walking several miles. I was so excited when we sat down on the bus. I was so happy when I got to my bed. I was so thrilled to go to sleep. It was a beautiful day with beautiful friends and I cannot wait to go on more adventures out in Israel!