June 24, 2008

Tel Aviv, Israel

Having my passport filled with stamps and visas from my Middle East Adventure, I fully expected a security delay at the Tel Aviv airport, but what I did not expect, though, was a four hour interrogation that had me second guessing myself if I really was moving arms or terrorist information through the borders; I scanned my memory and all I could come up with was a few sundresses, a pair of jeans and a book or two in my backpack. After surviving the intimidating Israeli police I can now look back on the experience with a little humor, but at the time I knew that the pressing questions for all my contacts in the region while being told “we know everything, so you better start talking” was not a joke. A young American boy in the airport security pen with me didn’t quite understand this and during the first round of interrogation started to cockily express his political views to which it took the police no more than five minutes to reduce him to a shaking pile of tears. Welcome to Israel!
I arrived safely at my friend Yuval’s apartment next to Jaffa, where he lives with his lovely wife Lorraine and young son Gavriel. Spending time with them in the apartment, being involved in the beautiful rotation of domestic life was a welcome feeling after three months on the road. At last, I was in a place where dinners were cooked at home while the muted sounds of children’s learning videos played on in the background and conversations included updates about mutual friends and of the days that were spent together living in the same neighborhood in New York rather than the constant travel talk of where you have been, where you are going next and how you got from one place to the other.
Tel Aviv, like many other parts of Israel, is a strange mix of rich cultures that has produced a city whose architecture and vibe is as layered and confusing as it’s political history. Walking the streets in the Arabic influenced Jaffa, eating a falafel sandwich while shopping the afternoon markets, then heading to the beach where, if you are lucky to survive the many flying paddle game balls, you will see kids in skimpy bathing suits, smoking cigarettes on their phones probably making plans for the evening. And there is plenty to do; bars, clubs, nice restaurants and music festivals line the streets of the city.
We chose to take more quiet time and while there I was included in the celebration of Shavuot, similar to a Jewish thanksgiving, with Yuval and his family. It was a lovely evening where I was able to show off my new 2 year old Hebrew skills after spending time learning the language with Gavriel. I made an intellectual impression rattling off the words for “bottle”, “good job” ,“red man”, “green man”, and “where is monkey?”. Another visit and I might even learn my A, B, C’s.

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