Greetings from Israel!
I landed in Tel Aviv yesterday, after a 20 minute flight from Amman. After leaving the plane I was immediately accosted by Israeli security forces and grilled on my passport and travel intentions. Only in retrospect did I realize that it might not have been smart to wear a Palestinian kaffieyh (scarf) and try to rush through security and passport control in Israel following the current tensions between Palestinians and Israelis (woops!).
I met up with my parents here and we immediately began enjoying the luxury of Tel Aviv. I hadn’t expected much culture shock coming to Israel but I guess I hadn’t really understood how different life is like here. Tel Aviv is a very liberal, modern city right along the Mediterranean. Immediately I was accosted by peoples exposed flesh, knees and shoulders everywhere! Girls walked around alone wearing shorts and sundresses, no one stared at me or hollered at me along the streets. Signs were all in Hebrew and while it sounded like people were speaking Arabic, they were speaking Hebrew and I couldn’t understand a single word. I was extremely taken aback when at the public beach girls were sitting alone in bikinis drinking beer. Israel is nothing like Jordan and Tel Aviv is definitely nothing like Amman.
However, I LOVE IT HERE! I am extremely taken with this city, with its endless amounts of graffiti on every wall, the peeling paint on the blue doorways, the quiet back streets with flower trees overflowing into the streets, the cafes that stretch on for miles transporting you to Europe, the large meandering souks smelling of fresh mint and spices, sticky piles of baklava and fresh warm falafel. Tel Aviv is a modern intersection of the Arab world and Europe. People meander down shaded streets on bike paths buzzing with bikers. Around 7 every night people gather in cafes for an espresso or beer before a light night dinner. I want to move here someday and do work with the Palestinian movement. Tel Aviv seems like an easy place to live, the sea breezes blowing through every street, international cuisine on every corner, historic quarters and modern high rises. This might be my favorite city I have ever visited.
We spent our first day at the beach, in the winding markets, shopping in the crafts fair, walking slowly through quiet haded back streets, watching the sunset over the beach and eating delicious delicious food.
Our second day was spent in Jaffa, the old quarter and its tourist targeted markets overflowing with cheap costume jewelry, flowy Israeli pants, brass goods and endless antiques. Jaffa features mosques and churches, open air souks, high end boutiques and thrift stores and small crowded musty junk stores with everything from old gramophones and records to piles of antique scissors. We walked all the way back down the beach side promenade after our mid afternoon drink and caught an early dinner (nine o’clock) in a tiny Italian restaurant boasting a plethora of reviews. The food here is stupid good but also stupid expensive. However, I have avoided eating nothing but hummus for a couple meals now! Israeli cuisine is much different than Jordanian but with still many similarities. One of our favorite meals has been our breakfast on the second day at a small hipster brunch spot down the street from our apartment where we ate a twist on a traditional Israeli dish, shakshuka, poached eggs in a stew. The traditional dish includes a tomato like sauce and was a quick favorite with my parents. This one, however, was cooked in a creamy bechamel sauce with spinach and celery in a sourdough bread bowl. We also ordered a full Israeli breakfast which includes eggs, a chopped salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and a big basket of breads. Quite a change from the traditional Jordanian breakfast of hummus, falafel and foul with pita!
We’re off to Haifa next a various other sights along the coast.