Charms of Tel Aviv city

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Haifa to work, Jerusalem to pray and Tel Aviv to play.”
That’s what they say!

I was in Tel Aviv (तेल् अवीव्) for 9 whole days! Doing what? Ah, school work, the reason for which I went to Israel in the first place 🙂 As a result, I was unable to see anything worthwhile in the city other than my hotel and the Tel Aviv University and uh the road commute!


Tel Aviv, seen from Jaffa

Happy New Year 2008!!

I can’t believe it’s October already. I was partying at a club in Tel Aviv while having a glass of Champagne for 10 NIS ($2.5) followed by some bar hopping. The reason I mention this is because it is weird to have champagne in a noisy place, never done that before. My Israeli friends said that I cannot return before seeing the sunrise, and I laughed. I am not 19 anymore but that day was different 🙂

Tel Aviv is a party place. The city doesn’t sleep. I walked over with some friends to the beach well past midnight on a Friday night and the place was quite busy. Brazilian drums only make the weekend homecoming from military service more fun. Most Israelis in the 18-22 age group are in the military which is pretty stressful, so imagine their excitement when on break. Needless to say, sex is easily available and Israelis are extremely approachable overall. 😉

The Ha Carmel Market

Ha’Carmel Market
(open everyday except Saturday)

Seen too much touristic stuff? Here is the place where you get to see the real side of Israel. Ha Carmal is a huge bazaar (shuk) with rows and rows of hawkers who put up stands on the street. There are more stores hidden behind those on display in the middle of the road. It makes for an excellent walk – very noisy, smelly and crowded. The market has clothing, footwear in addition to fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, desserts, fish and meat. There are stores that bring spices from Asia and Africa. It is amusing sight to watch women haggle over stuff with the vendors 🙂 This market is very small compared to an average bazaar in India but still enchanting enough.

Boreka is a Turkish-Bulgarian puffed pastry filled with cheese and potatos (and other fillings). I had fresh ones at a place and they were heavenly. I also bought a bag of assorted candies which have a universal taste.

Vegetable vendor भाजीवाला

Nachalat Binyamin
(open Tuesday and Friday)

Arts, crafts and street performances. Those words are enough to describe Nahalat Binyamin, the artists’ bazaar. Blame me for not carrying enough batteries but I will try to paint a visual image of this place.

A street plaza dotted on both sides with colorful people exhibiting very interesting wares. A painter who drew landscapes, next to him a craftsman who made designs from broken pieces of glass, next was a Guitarist playing Kletzmer music. Suddenly I was stopped by a man dressed excellently like Lord Shiva who said ‘Om’ and left after I handed him two Shekels. An interesting array of delicate jewelery, handicrafts like glass wind chimes, woolen dolls, furniture crafted from bark of a tree, matchstick models of houses and ashtrays shaped like birds.

It is such a pleasure to walk through this market and stop by to appreciate their art. I must have spent a couple of hours picking up souvenirs 🙂

Safety

I must mention that Israel is one of the most safest places in the world to travel – when talking about petty crimes on the street or problems to tourists. They seem to have only big scale problems – like wars and bombings.

Unlike Peru or Russia (hearsay), policemen are invisible in Israel. Except at places where you expect them – bus and train stations, entrance to the university, and ofcourse the border checkpoints with West Bank. I haven’t been to Gaza because it was risky (almost prohibited) for tourists to enter that area. While in Israel, there were rocket attacks and retaliation and stuff like that which is seen as ‘normal’. Security largely depends on intelligence reports and is tightened if required.


Neighborhoods

Tel Aviv streets are great for walking – since I did not go to the crowded downtown area. I loved especially the area around Allenby and Rothschild streets. That is an area with a young population and consequently has good places to eat, have coffee and drink. My hotel was on the beach close to the Tel Aviv port – now remodeled to an entertainment block. A walk along the sea is always pleasurable. I understand that to the reader this may make no sense 😀 oops.

Bene Israelis

The Jewish community living in Maharashtra, India, predominantly the Konkan coast are known as Bene Israelis. Most of them have emigrated to Israel but they maintain a strong link to their roots, including annual India festival, danceforms (lavni, kathak etc) and even a quarterly publication (मायबोली). They speak Judæo-Marathi (जुदाव मराठी) which is Marathi characterized by a few loanwords from Hebrew and Aramaic.

I had the pleasure of visiting a Marathi Jewish family for dinner. It was indeed a pleasure to have a delicious traditional meal – with खोब-याची चटणी, पुरी, बटाट्याची भाजी, उसळ, श्रीखंड (some traditional foods of Maharashtra). And little did I imagine that I would be speaking Marathi in Israel !


Tel Aviv is like any other international city. It has both, upscale and fancy – and rundown and boring areas. The airport is located about 30 minutes from downtown and is conveniently connected by comfortable train. The city is served by a very good bus network called Dan.

The Mediterranean Sea is very beautiful. In December-January it was OK cold and I saw people swimming. Tel Aviv beach is very long and beautiful. There is a nice promenade along the coast that leads straight up to Jaffa, the old port town. I will be heading there next, my last stop.

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery