A friend of mine, who also happens to be one of the founders of an online publication of award-winning journalism, once gave me a tip: to write anything and everything that comes to mind for the first three days when you are in a new place. Your mind and sense of observation are freshest then. Taking into account that this is now my third day in Tel Aviv, this is a casual list of my first impressions on what I’ve managed to witness and observe here.
- We arrived into Tel Aviv on Thursday night. My first impression from the plane was one of a buzzy city and its surrounding areas.
- On the taxi drive from the airport, it felt a bit like Abu Dhabi, with smooth, new roads and palm trees dotting the landscape. Once in town I got the sense of vibrant, proper street culture.
- The area our apartment was located in was mixed with glossy, shiny skyscrapers, all banks at the street levels and high-rise luxury offices up above, and scruffy, crumbling, disheveled-looking architecture.
- The UAK Crew have tagged themselves quite prominently around the city.
- Hebrew is an enchanting-sounding language.
- The script renders me completely helpless.
- Black African men make up the city’s janitorial labor force.
- There are signs of unevenly distributed affluence. Piles of not-really all that used clothes and shoes being left out on the street and homeless men sleeping on patches of grass along Rothschild Boulevard.
- The hummus is like eating a cloud of soft loveliness.
- I’m not going to dip a layer of raw onion into it though. Not now. Not ever. Sorry.
- Signs of the wide Jewish diaspora are prominent. One minute I felt like I was walking down a leafy Parisian boulevard with classically French cafes all around, the next I felt like I was in North Africa with hamsa talismans at the entrances to homes; still again I felt like I was in New York City and once more transported to a shop that could have been equally at home in Moscow.
- I didn’t realise just how widely the Jewish diaspora extends.
- To be eighth-generation Israeli, on the mother’s side, is something to be proud about.
- The perfume, that both men and women use, is alluring and I want some. None of that big brand, celebrity-peddled toxic stuff out of Duty Free. It’s poetry.
- Fashion is cosmopolitan and enticing, especially in the Neve Tzedek neighbourhood.
- Signs of Judaism are clearly around but it doesn’t feel like an omnipresent factor, at least to a visitor.
- There are quite many Asian-folk on the street. I wasn’t expecting that.
- It was nice to exchange hair care tips with some of the yoga students after class. Curls and texture for days.
- People were friendly. Only one or two times did I experience some harsh, severe looks.
- Don’t put Russia and Israel in the same sentence.
- It seems to be quite an open, friendly, tolerant place for gay men in particular.
- Dogs are popular as pets.
- The girl and boy scouts were out in full form in Yarkon Park the other day.
- Surf culture is a thing here.
Lastly, and this was by far the deepest impression, on our second evening, we went to a rather nondescript fast foody street restaurant to get some falafel. A rather shabby man came shuffling towards the street-side tables and asked a middle-aged man with short dark hair and glasses for some food. The man with glasses said no and so the hungry man moved on and approached a young man with a glorious Jewfro, all halo of wavy, golden curls, and an open, pleasant-looking sort of face, and asked him for the same favour. The young man consented, stopped eating his meal, went into pay for the hungry man’s food. He came back out and continued with his meal and after sometime, the second man joined him with a generous looking amount of food on his tray. When the kind young man was finished with his meal, he got up, shook the man’s wrist in farewell, threw out his garbage, came back out and gave a final salutation goodbye to the grateful recipient of the meal, crossed the street and walked off. I was fully impressed by this interaction. From start to finish. I mean, you hear of people doing such deeds, but to actually witness this act, which reads like the Good Samaritan out of the bible? I mean, it was utterly decent.
Then that same restaurant went ahead and charged us three times the amount for the food we actually ate. It was the most expensive street food I’ve ever eaten, that’s for sure. Ah well, good and evil nicely tucked side by side…there’s something appropriate about that too.
Shalom friends and, as always,