Tel Aviv — Old versus New

Shalom!  Or shall I say “!שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם”  I have rented a laptop from the hotel, and it has taken me 18 minutes to figure out how to type on it in anything but Hebrew!

It was a long trip, as I had about a 12 hour layover in Barcelona, putting me into Tel Aviv at 4:00am, what seemed like the middle of the night as I had to bang on windows and doors to try to wake the hostel night watchman.  I fell out like a zombie, awakening just in time so as not to miss my free breakfast!  As many times as I have visited the Middle East, seems I will never get used to tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese as breakfast fare.

Nothing cures a case of jet lag like a trip to the sunny beach.  Tel Aviv looks very much like a European version of Miami Beach with one high rise after another, and lots of beach-side cafes and restaurants, color-coded umbrellas, kite surfing, wind sailing, and even a few sailboats. The wind is hellaciously high here, so the water is a bit rough beyond the breakers, but thankfully there are jetties spaced pretty close together which make for a pretty pleasurable swim in spite of the stiff breeze.

But first before my swim, I hopped the city bus bound for the old Arabic town of Jaffe. (No, not Gaza, Mom!)  This incredibly scenic old town right on the waterfront overlooks a port full of old fishing boats and nets, bustling food and flea markets, and lots of interesting history, with it’s natural port in use reportedly all the way back to the Bronze Age.

Lonely Planet recommended a local restaurant as having the best hummus in all of Israel — I can’t speak for all of Israel, but it was certainly the best I had ever eaten!! It was “roll eyes back in the head” good! It sounds strange, but in addition to pita bread, they gave you big, sweet onion wedges to dip in the hummus like tortilla chips. MAN, was it good!

It is brutally hot here, more so than I expected, but also gets dark earlier, so twilight was my preferred time of day to swim in the beautiful Mediterranean sea.  The water temperature, depth, and wave action were all just to my liking, and the perfect setting to watch the sunset while gently bobbing in the waves, as the crowds moved from the beach chairs to the candle-lit outdoor cafes along the water.

It is an interesting contrast to experience two areas of the city so different from each other, yet in plain sight of each other, only about 3 miles apart. Tel Aviv is all concrete and glass highrises, while Jaffe is old stone, mosque minarets, and looks more like an old fort jutting out toward the sea.

It was interesting to ponder this contrast while swimming in the ocean this eve, as I could see the old clock tower in the distance, just beyond the high rises. Then, you have to think what lies just a little further south than that….Gaza, where they are not even allowed concrete to build, or spices for their cooking. I couldn’t help but wonder what swimming was like along their beach.  Hardly think it would be the same expensive ice cream shops, chaise lounges, and posh mirrored hotels reflecting back the sunset.  It is an interesting study of contrasts in a country only the size of Vermont.

Ice cream obscurity, six bucks a scoop!

I am eager to get on to Jerusalem — as much as I love the ocean, I have never really been the “Miami Beach type!!”