Today we wandered through the Yemenite neighborhood, built 100 years ago when Tel Aviv was founded. It’s a warren of narrow streets named after famous Rabbis and founders of the community, along with one street named Al Konfei Nesharim (On the wings of eagles- referring to the line from Isaiah that those who trust in the Lord will soar on the wings of eagles), which was the name given to the airlift of Jews from Yemen when Israel was established. The neighborhood is a mix of very old, dilapidated one story buildings, and new and renovated buildings. It was so interesting just to keep turning up and down the streets.
(Actually, that kind of mix is everywhere in Tel Aviv. Chuck took pictures today of two buildings side by side, which were clearly identical once, but here’s how they look now, with one newly renovated and additional floors added on. Speaking of floors, we are floored at the prices of apartments in Tel Aviv. Everywhere we go we see real estate offices with ads for new or renovated two bedroom apartments for $1-5 million- that’s dollars, not shekels.)
On some of the narrow streets, there were restaurants taking up the whole street with outdoor tables, with the kitchens truly holes in the wall. There were lots of customers at some of them, so we decided to try our luck. When we asked for a menu, the waiter said he was the menu. It was a hummus only restaurant. Chuck had hummus with masbacha (with whole seasoned chickpeas) and I had hummus with mushrooms. Both of us had Yemenite hard-boiled eggs with it- they are cooked many hours in a pot with other foods and the whites are dark. It was an adventure in ethnic eating. Here I am.
The leisurely pace we have adopted given our lengthy stay allows us to observe and learn as much as we can. For instance, as we sat at the outdoor restaurant, we saw four different elderly Yemenite men- two religious with kippot, one in cut-off pants with a Florida shirt with palm trees, and one dressed conservatively- but they all kissed the mezuzah on their doorposts as they left their houses. Tradition transcends present practice. For Chuck and me, it was sweet to see because his Dad, Leo of blessed memory, used to kiss the mezuzah outside their apartment every time he went in and out. Another example of our watching and reading was a notice taped to a pole offering Tutoring in Mathematics from an experienced teacher, with good interpersonal skills and an MBA. It had the usual rip-off tabs with her phone number and we could translate the whole thing. We are always proud of ourselves when we can understand every word in a sign or flyer- it doesn’t happen that often!
Our apartment is about 1/4 of a mile from the sea. For those of you who know Tel Aviv- we live on Mendele St.- which runs west from the beach right at the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel. We can walk anywhere from here except to North Tel Aviv where the University, Kibbutzim College, and the river where Chuck wants to row are. Here’s the view of the sea we see as we approach from our street. Notice the lovely man in the bikini Speedo bathing suit. What you don’t see is that right before him, a Hasid in full black regalia passed by. Too bad we couldn’t get a picture of that Israel contrast.