Tel Aviv

Trip Start Nov 01, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2008

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Adam and I got to Tel Aviv about 8, and by 10 we were off to a party: the 3rd aniversary of this popular bar, called Riff Raff (see the flier image). It was packed (Tel Aviv is suppose to be one of the best nightlife spots in the world). It had the vibe of an 80's party with crazy hair, overly dark lipstick and eyeshadow, and mullets!! The music had an 80's slant too, good for dancing (or in my case, awkward attempts to jump/bounce up and down with the beat). We met some of Adam's friends there, and had a great time until I had to head back to the apartment around 1 am from exhaustion. I didn't get lost going back! A miracle!

First full day, Adam and I walked a lot. Along the sparkling Mediterranean beaches, through the packed, vibrant market, into a quiet used bookstore where I picked up some Faulkner to keep me busy, and to the best falafel place for lunch. Falafel is so good here, and it comes in a pita with hummus, a plethora of salad options, and sauces. Delicious.

Spent the afternoon at a cafe with one of Adam's literary friends. This guy already had a successful poetry magazine and has a publisher lined up for his first novel. Cool guy too.

The evening we had drinks with a philosopher friend of Adam (yes, Adam has cool friends). I had a mojito and it was good. There was lots of intense philosophy discussion, drifting into Hebrew when things got too complicated. I wish I knew more about generally just ties my brain in knots.

That night, I went to a cafe on my own (Adam had plans) and after a cappuccino, and some light reading (Faulkner's Light in August), I heard someone calling me and saw some of Adam's friends who I had met earlier. Adam wasn't there, but I had an awesome time hanging out with them. Then Adam and Dana showed up, and it was a party! In addition to the writer, here are the descriptions of some of the other cool people I met:

An Adam-like American-Israeli who left to attend NYU right before his draft date, avoiding Israel (and the military) as a conscientious objector for 4 years. After college, he returned to sit in jail for 3 weeks in exchange for avoiding the 3 years of service. Really cool guy. Working on a translation of a political philosophy book from English into Hebrew.

Crazy haired guy who spent the evening sending notes to this table of girls who he had never met. They had no idea who he was either, but seemed unphased when he asked for their full Facebook names. This guy also duped a TV channel into having him as a guest on their show where they talked about the Sudoku craze. He posed as a Sudoku expert, calling himself Capitan Sudoku and describing his training that took place in Switzerland. It was all complete bs, and the clip on YouTube is hilarious. The best line is when he describes Sudoku as much more interesting than the disengagement from Gaza. Classic.

Enjoyed talking to Dana too, and we had a discussion about films...what we'd seen recently...American and Israeli films...etc... Apparently the most acclaimed films in Israel have the following theme: Palestinian oppression...or, if you really want to win awards, gay Palestinians.

Super fun evening, until I tried to go back to the apartment and ended up walking north instead of south on Allenby street. I only realized it when I hit the ocean, and was in the very north of the city (Adam lives in the far south). Got home at 3 am...the streets look kind of different then...

The next day, we went to Jaffa for THE BEST hummus. Had some whole chickpea chunks, lots of lemon juice, cumin, and paprika. You eat it on raw onion sections, which makes it even more delicious. Bought some cookies after that, which turned out to be a good offering to the random guy that let us into his apartment to see the world's largest collection of mosaic portraits that he had been working on for years. Adam's friend knew the guy, and gave him a call to ask if we could come up. The portraits had themes: pictures of everybody involved in Israeli peace agreements, everyone with hospitals in Israel named after them, etc... I couldn't take a picture, but it was pretty beautiful.

Wandering back to Tel Aviv, we went to the Ilena Goor museum, this modern Israeli artist. Basically her work was a collection of rusty farm and industrial equipment arranged into some random shapes. Her metal work was pretty interesting though, and there was a random collection of African art. The building was the best part, an old pilgrim hostel that looked out onto the ocean with lots of porches and courtyards.

Next stop along the coast was a museum that the IDF takes new soldiers too...a bastion of propaganda according to Adam. They show this film that depicts the early history of Israel, and while interesting, it is clearly one sided. They call the early freedom fighters who blew up the King David hotel "martyrs". Sound familiar?

Afternoon was lazy until an email that my flight had been canceled sparked a frantic 10 hours. Until 3 am, I worked on rebooking, speaking on the phone with STA, Olympic Airlines, and everyone else I could think of. Finally, when the 2 am shift started at Ben Gurion airport, I got somebody competent who was able to change my flight in 3 minutes. The whole time I had been thinking (and had been told) that the only flight with space available for the next 7 days was at 6 am the following morning, so I was packed and ready, awaiting the conversation at 2 am. She was the only competent person...STA was useless...their reservation system was down for 6 hours, and despite my request, they did not take the responsibility of rebooking me and worrying about reimbursement later. Idiots.

Back to Haifa: Took the immaculate train to Haifa to see Leila, a friend from Stanford. She's working at the Bah'ai World Center on economic and social development. We had a delicious Thair meal while talking about religion. I tried to recount and verbalize my feelings from traveling through the Middle East...which left me with a pretty cynical view on the destructiveness of religion, at least in practice. The Bah'ai faith is really interesting, especially the focus on the oneness of humanity, and Leila was awesome at explaining it to me and describing the values and community projects.

After that, she took me on a super special tour down the terraces, through the gardens. They're unbelievable...some call them the 8th wonder of the world. They're also pretty much impossible to get into unless you are Bah'ai or with a Bah'ai friend. We even got to go to the main shrine in the center of the gardens, a focal point of the faith. It was so calm, beautiful, and sacred...great place to ponder for a while.

After a sprint back to the departing train, I got back to Tel Aviv and walked to the apartment. It took a long time...over an hour...but was fun to see many parts of the city. I stopped to explore streets and enjoyed some decadent ice cream (they basically force tons of samples on you here, so I could have just sampled everything instead of buying a cup).

Now with some extra time in Tel Aviv, I'm catching up on things...writing, wandering, trying new foods, buying fruits in the market (I always get bananas and oranges, given their peels). I have a feeling this relaxation will be welcome once the family reunites for our blitz vacation in Athens. I've been traveling a long time. They have not. I go slow. They go fast.
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