Yesterday (Thursday) I went with Itai first to Tel Aviv University and saw the campus…which is more of a resort, really; not that serious academic work doesn’t get done there, just that the campus looks and feels like it should be a part of Club Med (couches, coffee bars a plenty and palm trees are everywhere). There are gorgeous buildings and a breath taking synagogue on campus designed with beautiful wood furnishings.
There are also a lot of Campus Cats that just sort of lounge about the way that cats manage to do and I can imagine provide much needed distraction and comfort during exam times (something that I personally think UB should start to think about…we can start by adding some Cats to the libraries, and if that works well, then we can add them to the Student Union as well).
After checking out the campus and looking around we made our way down to Jaffa.
Jaffa is south of Tel Aviv and has wonderful old buildings and stone steps; signs are in Arabic as much as they are in Hebrew and the smell of coffee is always on the tip of your nose. Here too, scooters and motorcycles whiz by and dogs and cats walk freely around (all quite friendly and wanting to come up and say hello with a wagging tail and a licking tongue). With a history that includes Napoleon, there are signs everywhere documenting the past to modern day/present and there are countless restaurants to choose from if you should get hungry (though I’ve found, overall, that I much prefer the street food; not only is it cheaper and healthier — depending what you eat — but it’s tastier too!).
We stopped inside a little cafe/bookstore which I’m told is owned jointly by an Arab and a Jew; which in its own, quiet way sends a message. As we were walking back to where we needed to catch we randomly got caught up in a street festival! There were performance artists and dancers and vendors and everything you should expect from a street fair. There was also a wonderful fresh fruit drink stand where they would mix whatever fruit you wanted with ice water for you to drink on the spot (I recommend Plum and Cantaloupe) which is something that, while delicious, for the sake of my waist I think I’ll be only having as a rare treat. I also sampled some Almond Juice which was on par with Ambrosia, should you have the opportunity to try it.
Hopping on a bus to take us back to where we needed to go, the bus driver asked my friend where I was from, and when he heard I was from New York he told me all about his family in Queens. We spoke at some length and he was proud to tell me how he learned English by speaking to travelers and all about his wife and children (whom he clearly adores)…and it was wonderful. His English was top notch too.
Arriving back into the area where I’m staying I dropped off some of my things and Itai went to rest while I headed out to Club diva where the bartenders are fun and welcoming, the music nice and loud and a mixture of Israeli Pop and 90’s Pop from the U.S. are spun.
We woke up and had breakfast and headed down to Rabin Square and then over to Gordon Beach for Gay Pride. The Rainbow flags flying next to the Israeli flags were flying everywhere, beautiful people of all genders and orientations walking around and music was playing (music, I’ve found, is an integral part of life here in Tel Aviv, it’s playing wherever you go) and it was just awesome to see! Apparently 15,000 people attended which is certainly something.
After seeing the sites we came back up and went to the Shook before it closed to get food for the weekend and to make Shabbat Dinner (the produce is so fresh and the bread that I described earlier is flaky and just far too tasty to be anywhere near good for you!). We’ll be heading to Synagogue for services shortly and then back to his apartment to eat.
On Sunday I’ll be saying Goodbye to Itai in Tel Aviv for awhile and heading East to Jerusalem where I’ll be staying for a little over a week by train (the 10th through the 18th) and then heading up to Nazareth on the 19th where I’ll be staying with my friend Shirah (who I went to High School with and who I took Arabic with at University) who is living there now…and then I’ll work out the rest of my game plan!