Yes, it is true. I have returned from Israel after my first visit in a bunch of years. I was in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and even visited with our grand poobah, ck. Although I have no recollection of this, he claims we discussed anal bleaching.

Some brief observations:

I thought the breakfast menu at Lehem Erez is excellent. $10 will get you eggs, cheeses with za’atar olive oil, olives, salad, orange juice, tea, butter, jam, plenty of fresh bread and some granola with yogurt, honey and fresh fruit. Bring good friends.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is in decline. I was disappointed with their current exhibits and the disappearance of their early Israeli paintings.

South Tel Aviv keeps looking better and better.

Yafo can be very cool if your host knows the city’s history.

In Tel Aviv, traffic sucks. Do not miss that turn to the street you’ve been searching for because it will take you another 13 minutes just to get back to your starting point. If you make another mistake, expect to lose another 10-15 minutes of your life making up for that mistake too. Do not get angry because ALL Israeli drivers are meaner than you.

The kiriyah building looks like it’s falling apart. Who had the brilliant idea of putting half of Israel’s officers in one building in the middle of its busiest city anyway?

Israel’s roads have improved markedly over the past several years. Israelis still drive dangerously. And sometimes rudely. Best time to drive is just before shabbat – the roads are empty and Israel feels just like…the Jewish state.

Everywhere in Israel, one sees ample numbers of coffee shops that make Starbucks look small and tawdry by comparison (the coffee’s better, too). New affluence is visible in the many new cars, high-end clothing stores, multi-lane and newly paved roads, upgraded new condos, and construction cranes. Subaru is no longer the primary car one sees on the roads and there are way fewer falafel, hummus and middle eastern restaurants than in the past. In short, the economy appears to be booming.

Ashdod is nothing but new apartment buildings. It is the embodiment of a bedroom community. Endless new buildings greet you at every turn, but where do people work? Nice beach.

In Ashdod, one driver almost had a heart attack yelling at The Middle for not giving right of way in an intersection. I urged him, politely, to see a doctor for his blood pressure. Fortunately, his loud response was lost as I drove off as the light turned green.

Ashkelon is a sleepy town. I prefer the “countryside” around it.

In Sderot, waking up in the middle of the night to a female voice calling in Hebrew for “Red alert” over and over means that some Palestinians have launched a rocket in the last few seconds AND IT IS HEADING YOUR WAY. The bastards are trying to kill you! Unlike The Middle, be sure to know where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do before you hear this warning. Fortunately, I am still alive, and except for some cars that were heavily damaged in the ensuing explosion – I think it took less than a minute from the warning but time did seem to slow down considerably so my estimate may be wrong – nobody was hurt in this explosion or the one that followed a couple of minutes later.

Sderot is otherwise half empty but a cool town. I met Israelis of Moroccan and Kurdish descent, had some fabulous hamin (Sephardic chulent) and other traditional foods, attended services in a dilapidated but warm synagogue where the entire congregation (well, the males anyway since the women are in the back behind the mechitzah) took part in leading the prayers by singing the liturgy. Despite his terrible singing, The Middle was given an aliyah by the way, and was indeed honored!

If ck goes to his sofa, he’ll find a block of chocolate halva that I bought and forgot there.

ck should consider moving to new digs. He was very kind to let me stay over when I had no place to stay. Fortunately, after the anal bleaching discussion at the restaurant (thankfully, the pretty waitress interrupted to give me a drink on the house) we still were able to muster some political talk.

Many ultra-Orthodox Israelis now work for a living. They have to because subsidies were cut by the government. One Ultra-Orthodox friend gave me a talk about how all ultra-Orthodox should be working for a living, and studying only after supporting their families. He had three grandchildren born to him in the previous month…and he’s not even 50 years old yet. Of his 5 children who have been married off so far, none had served in the IDF or done national service. All of them, however, worked for a living and in a couple of cases, their wives did as well. Lovely and warm people.

The ultra-Orthodox are having tons of kids. Their neighborhoods are bursting and new construction can be seen or is being planned in their areas.

The hills of Jerusalem are magnificent, as long as you ignore the endless construction.

I saw perhaps the most gorgeous view from an apartment in Jerusalem ever. I won’t reveal where because I plan to buy there one day and it is still reasonably priced.

On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to have a home with a view in Jerusalem, expect that some government official will allow some developer to build right in front of your building precisely to the height that will obliterate your view. Fortunately, real estate prices are going through the roof so you will be able to sell your property at a profit anyway.

Speaking of real estate in Israel, do not even attempt to understand how people whose average income is far lower than the US can afford homes that are more expensive than homes in our fine capitalist country, the US. I think Jerusalem and Tel Aviv prices are in the vicinity of Boston real estate prices.

Do not listen to the clerk in the cd store when he tells you Shlomi Even’s album is excellent.

Trust your own instincts and buy Beit HaBubot’s excellent second cd instead.

Few Israelis were paying attention to, or concerned about, the Annapolis conference.

Few Israelis even want to discuss politics, preferring to discuss everything from food to marathons instead.

All of the couples I know in Israel are happily married. Really!

All the families I know in Israel would like me to move to Israel.

I wouldn’t mind, for a while anyway. Anybody know how I could make a living there?

About the author

themiddle

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