Among the many things I love about being in Israel, is Shabbat in Israel. We arrived two hours late due to a series of bizarre delays at Newark Airport. When we got out of the taxi and met the woman who takes care of the apartment we rented, her first concern was that we be able to get food for Shabbat. It was 3:20 and Shabbat was going to begin in two hours. She showed us where the Shabbat candles and matches were in the kitchen, along with the candle lighting time chart. We quickly went out to the mini-mart a few blocks away, and found something else I love about Israel, the fresh, healthy food. It was a mini-mart, but the produce was fresh and delicious, as were the various eggplant salads and cheeses we bought. I wandered down the block to a little flower boutique and a lovely young man made me a Shabbat bouquet, while reminding me that “There is no Shabbat without flowers.” We began the typical language dance done here. (This is one of the things that annoys me in Israel!) When you speak Hebrew with an American accent and look American, Israelis will answer you in English, which they love speaking. After a few exchanges with the flower man where he spoke English and I spoke Hebrew, I told we were living here for awhile and I would appreciate it if we could both speak Hebrew! He enthusiastically agreed, also letting me know there’s a discount if you buy flowers every Shabbat and he can have a bouquet ready for me at whatever time on Friday we set. Two exchanges later, I had to remind him to speak Hebrew. We both laughed. Everyone we met, buying food, flowers and wine wished us Shabbat Shalom, which is the standard greeting on Friday and Saturday for secular and religious Jews. I do love Israel.
Chuck and I had a lovely Shabbat dinner in our cute little apartment and we said the Sheheheeanu prayer, thanking G-d for protecting us and bringing us to this moment of spending Shabbat and this month in Israel. We have an enormous roof top patio (That’s the good news. Bad news is our apartment is on the roof- four stories up and no elevator. I am going to have very strong legs when we leave. My fit husband carried my 50 pound suitcase up, but even he was sweating.) and a back patio where the washer and dryer are. Our little street is very quiet, but it is right in central Tel Aviv- a few blocks from the sea. A perfect location. Neither of us slept well- both up around 2 a.m. wandering around the apartment. But we went back to sleep and slept until after 8. I hear it was very cold in NJ today- here it was 86 degrees and sunny. We walked and walked today- over 4 miles- and took part in a free English walking tour of the Bauhaus buildings in old Tel Aviv. One thing we learned is that the brown marks in the stucco of the buildings on tree lined Rothschild Blvd. are from the bats that feed on the trees at night. Yuck. Some of the beautiful buildings have been renovated, others are quite dilapidated. Since Tel Aviv was named a Unesco Heritage Site, the buildings can only be renovated to match their original plans, with the exception of adding floors that can’t be seen from the front. Our building is one of the original ones and our apartment is the penthouse, added in 2005, but it can’t be seen from the street. Often high rises are right next to 3 story buildings, creating the kind of visual contrast Chuck loves to photograph.
Everywhere we wandered we read and tried to understand signs and menus. The latter was comical. One menu had a list of sandwiches, with ingredients, and every one had geebatah as the first ingredient. What was geebatah?? It was Ciabatta bread! We haven’t yet figured out what Petrozilla is though. We played the language game a few more times, but on occasion, much to our delight, the Israeli in question just spoke Hebrew with us.
Although Jerusalem is completely shuttered on Shabbat, Tel Aviv is different. Most restaurants (obviously not the kosher ones), coffee houses, and some stores are open. Everywhere we walked, we saw young couples with babies, pregnant women, and gay men. Those groups dominated the outdoor scene dramatically. This is not your grandmother’s Tel Aviv. We love listening to little kids speak Hebrew and we also love that they don’t answer us in English if we speak to them in Hebrew!
Israel went off daylight savings time a few weeks ago, so Shabbat ended early. The doors to our porch are open and we hear the sounds of little children outside. We just Facetimed with our grandchildren at home and spoke to Mom and Gene. Lovely to hear and speak to them. We walked the iPad around the apartment and showed the kids- Lior approved but mostly wanted to know about cars in Israel. Asher said, “My want to go there with Saba and Savta.” It is such a contrast to my year long sojourn in Israel in 68-69, when I had no phone all year and had to make an appointment at the Central Post Office to call home! We came with an entire suitcase of electronics- three computers (Chuck has his own and his work one), two iPads, various connectors, and three phones (two Israeli and Chuck’s work cell phone.) When Chuck and I came to Israel together in 1972 as part of our 10 week honeymoon, we each had one back pack for the whole trip. Just my toiletries would be too much for that backpack now!
Love to you all from Tel Aviv- we are off to dinner on Sheinkin Street.