Today marks a week since David and I arrived here in Tel Aviv. I have to say, this city has me under its spell: warm breezes, sunsets over the Mediterranean, beautiful people (seriously, they’re all tan, fit, gorgeous), delicious food (I just had made-to-order falafel for 5nis, about $1.25), even the calls to prayer that mark the passing of time… Staying here has been a dream. It’s been a relaxing, perfectly balanced entrance into Israeli life. It’s been eye-opening, too, in many ways.
Israeli life is a unique mix of Western and traditional, and the two do not always combine gracefully. While Tel Aviv is considered one of the top cities in the Middle East for high-tech business, entrepreneurship, nightlife, even gay and lesbian lifestyles, it’s also located smack in the center of the conservative, traditional Middle East.
Simultaneously progressive and stagnant. Western and Eastern. Religious and secular. Young and old. All these opposites combine to create Tel Aviv’s indefinably unique dynamic. Here’s what Dave and I think Westerners should know about traveling to beautiful, weird, Tel Aviv:
1. Tel Aviv is DIRTY.
Apparently this is a Middle Eastern thing. The streets are cleaned every night, which makes it bearable, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that people throw all their trash into the street. Plastic bags, cigarette butts, coffee cups, almost anything.
David visited Cairo last year to visit his former room mate (who was working there at the time), and talked about their similar trash problem. Apparently, David and Paul saw a boat with a wedding party on board toss 10-15 garbage bags full of refuse directly into the Nile. Gross.
2. Space is at a premium.
This might just be a city thing in general. People’s apartments tend to be really tiny, so everyone spends a lot of time outside on their stoops, on their balconies, or sitting in the many outdoor cafes. The apartment David and I rented for the week is just big enough to fit us and our luggage. The outdoor terrace attached to it, though, is at least twice the size of the entire apartment!
Tel Aviv has recently gone through a crazy real estate boom and property here is at all time high, with prices per sq. ft. reminiscent of expensive NYC neighborhoods. Out of curiosity, David and I looked up the price of an apartment for sale down the street from ours: 4,000,000 nis or $1,000,000 usd!
One crazy aspect of real estate here, though, is that people can buy the right to build additional floors on the top of preexisting buildings. Many families add a new story for each new generation!
3. EVERYONE loves the beach.
Seriously. The shores of the Mediterranean are the common thread that binds everyone here–Arab and Israeli, religious and secular–together. On a nice day you’ll find orthodox Jewish families with their black suits and many children barbecuing next to a group of scantily clad Israeli teenagers with tattoos and dreadlocks tossing a frisbee, or a young Arab-Islamic couple on a first date next to a group of German tourists flying kites. Oh, and they’re pretty much all nice days.
Today, David and I took it easy. We woke up late, took a bus to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, walked down to Rabin Square, ate some sushi for lunch, walked around a bit, and came home. We worked on fixing our improperly unlocked iPhones for at least two hours, then went and walked along the water. Even with the phone frustration, it was an awesome day. It’s hard not to have a good day when you can end it watching the sunset, sitting on the beach, drinking beer with David 🙂
Figured out how to make the photos bigger! Win!