Am now a resident of Tel Aviv! I’m sitting at a café across the street from our apartment building. Between sips of ice-coffee and bites of Israeli salad, I notice that the music playing is Erykah Badu. This brings a smile to my face, along with the realization that this is a city that I can dig.
And it’s not just the music that is endearing the city to me (although since I’ve been here, I have heard Van Morrison, Al Green, Leonard Cohen, Sade, Thievery Corporation and Erykah Badu playing in various cafés and Laundromats around the city). It’s the people, it’s the energy…and ok, so maybe it’s also the beach!
After Jerusalem, Tel Aviv feels like the cold shower that snaps you awake from a dreamy sleep. Jerusalem is a city that radiates religious reverence and is ruled by tradition. Its streets are full of bearded men in black with dark hats. These life-long students of the book have grave demeanors and prodigious families. Even their eerily well-behaved children exude an air of studied self-restraint (note to self: Must never let my parents see these children. These well-disciplined kids would only serve to make my 23 year-old self look AWFUL in comparison and add fuel to my parent’s ‘Its time to be an adult’ fire.)
In a stark contrast, the streets of Tel Aviv are bursting with nose-rings and dreadlocks. Young 20-somethings rule the streets, wearing neon colored clothes and showing daring strips of skin. In fact, since sitting at this café, I have seen two well-put together cross dressers walk by, which is not surprising as I live in a gay-friendly district. And while there are many children in Tel Aviv too, these children are screaming at their parents for glida (ice-cream in Hebrew and yes, one of the few words I have mastered!) in displays of unabashed pleasure-seeking that I find refreshing after the freakishly well-behaved kids in Jerusalem.
There is a youthful energy here that I love. And I’m lucky, because our apartments are located in a bustling street in the heart of the of the city. I exit my front door and BAM, I’m in the middle of it all.
It’s a little like living on State Street home in Madison…that is, if State Street was a ten minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea, not Lake Mendota! My apartment is surrounded by cafes and restaurants and clothing boutiques. Also, I’m a mere five-minute walk from the Shuk (the out-door market that sells everything from knock-off Tommy Hilfiger to fresh produce to Hamsa’s and post-cards to whole fish that still have eyeballs).
But perhaps best of all to me, is the fact that I am only a ten-minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea. The beach is white sand and stretches for as long as the eye can see in both directions. The water is crystal clear and seriously bathwater warm. There is a boardwalk that runs along it, and you can walk to Yaffo (the fabled biblical city) and enjoy the view of the sea and parks, restaurants and hookah bars that dot the path.
I’ve taken to going to the beach after Ulpan (Hebrew School). I lay in the sand and enjoy a book while I soak up the rays of the sun and listen to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore…and ok, maybe I hum the lines of Atmosphere’s song ‘Sunshine’ to myself. Around 5:30 the sun sets in a blaze of colors that has not yet once failed to take my breath away.
When I walk home, no matter how hard I try to avoid it, there is sand in my bag, caked in my hair and in various crevasses in my body. Regardless of a shower, this sand will get tracked all over the apartment and make appearances in my bed. But with sunsets like this, I know I’ll be back tomorrow.