I don’t think I knew what to make of Tel Aviv when I arrived here on Monday. I had driven through the city (at least on the freeway) and then into Jaffa last year, when Roger and I went to the Peres Center. But I really didn’t see Tel Aviv. Oh, I saw lots of buildings and skyscrapers. This week I am staying in a hostel, a block from the beach. Its not as nice as the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, but its pretty cool opening the windows and smelling the salty air of the ocean. The area is filled with hotels, and a mix of shops and restaurants, but in the immediate vicinity it isn’t the nicest place. Oh, its not dangerous (or doesn’t feel dangerous), but there are more upscale areas.
I have done a lot of walking, along Allenby Street, King George Street, Rothschild Blvd, Frischman Street, and Denzaghoff Street. Each night exploring many of these areas, often just looking for the cafe or restaurant that I wanted to visit. It is a city of young people. A city of attractive young people. A city where people ride bikes on the sidewalks. A city where there are pets everywhere. People walking dogs, usually on leashes, sometimes not. A city where cats roam, but only some are feral. There is something wild about seeing a little dog just walking the block, and then heading into the store where his owner is.
It is a city with shops everywhere. Israelis really really like to buy boots apparently. Between Jerusalem and here, I have seen more shoe stores than anywhere. They also like cell phone accessories. These stores are everywhere. Candy shops. Ice cream and froyo shops. And fruit stands. There are large urban malls. The Derzgoff Center has a multiple, four or five story mall, with food carts spread out within it. Tel Aviv is a city of book stores. Lots of book stores, most appear to be independent private shops. It is a city with lots of bike shops, and lots of music stores.
Tel Aviv is famous for its night-life. I’ll admit I haven’t explored that aspect. Hell, when the bars open (around 10) I am getting ready for bed. I know, I know… old man. It is also a city with a seedy side. There is only one other city (Las Vegas) I have ever been to where the streets (all the streets) are littered with what in Vegas we jokingly called “porn cards” for female “escorts.” This is not something you find in Jerusalem. Definitely not. There are strip clubs as well (including one on Allenby Street).
Tel Aviv is very very different from Jerusalem. For one, it is the rare person you see wearing a kippa. It is certainly secular Israel. I have seen just one synagogue (“the great synagogue”). In Jerusalem, you are surrounded by religious jews; in particular by Orthodox and utra-orthodox. It is sometimes called “The state of Tel Aviv” and it is very different. Its a fun city. It lacks the history (other than Jaffa/Yafo) that Jerusalem has. It is young, and it attracts the young, and business people. In many ways, the neighborhoods remind me of Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan in Washington DC. I like Tel Aviv, more so than I did when I arrived. But it doesn’t have the magnetic appeal of Jerusalem. It is also very different from Haifa, which while a big city, has a more sleepy feel. But sleepy in a good way. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Haifa. Both cities are definitely worth visiting. Together Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv provide three really different aspects of Israel.