Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tel Aviv miscellany, part two

Being a further round of meanderings and babblings from the southeastern shores of the Med.

Sitting today at my favourite cafe (I already have a fav. cafe, the imaginatively named Espresso Bar on Dizengoff at Ben Gurion; I have breakfast there every day and sometimes an afternoon/evening latte) it occurred to me that there are no mosquitoes in TLV. The explanation is simple given a moment's thought: their life cycle has an aquatic phase that requires pools of stagnant water, which are not common in deserts. Call it an unexpected advantage.

Thinking about being an obvious tourist, one subtle clue is the matter of facial hair. There are only two styles of facial hair to be seen in Israel: either completely clean-shaven (not even what the rest of the world would consider fashionable stubble) or else a ZZ-Top diaphram-length full set. My soul patch is even more exotic than my pale skin.

I am (pleasantly) surprised by the secularity of Tel Aviv, I was expecting something rather more like my uninformed notion of Salt Lake City or the backwoods of the Bible Belt. The overtly religious are a minority here, the great majority wear no signs of religious affiliation that I can recognize.

I wonder what percentage of tourists to Israel are Jewish? Pretty high, I'd guess. My impression is that many, perhaps most, tourists do speak Hebrew. Sitting next to a table of touristy-looking people debating local politics in German, addressing the waitress in Hebrew and English, brought this to mind. I don't know why I should be surprised, given the size and historical age of the Diaspora it does seem pretty logical. Thinking back to my flight from Munich, I would say that the great majority of passengers were Jewish, and many of them were overtly religious in the way that the locals are not. (My friends nod and tell me that TLV is not Israel, that the rest of the country views the city as a pit of depravity and temptation.)

The military is less present than I expected, although having said that I did notice a destroyer cruising a few miles off the beach and a patrol boat circling near the breakwaters and a helicopter flying up to the second airport by the harbour, while having my midday drink at a beach bar. I heard a pair of military planes fly over the city towards the Med last night, about two minutes apart, flying fast and high in the darkness. Soldiers in uniform are a common sight, the train from the airport to TLV was full of kids going home on leave (with their guns on their laps pointing casually at each other); but again there are fewer of them than I had expected.

The local corvids are the same slim-bodied grey and black crows that I first noticed in Russia. The local pigeons are very pretty, reddish and beige-grey. Sparrows abound, of course. Haven't seen any rats yet, though I am told they are also common. (Eh, it's a city. What do you want already?)


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6 Comments:

Blogger Shari said...

What a great description of TLV!
I can tell you're having a great time. Sitting in a cafe and watching the beautiful people go by seems a great way to have a holiday.

October 28, 2009 at 7:47:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Does sound like you are having a good time, and a nice rest.

October 28, 2009 at 9:16:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Dale said...

(o)

October 29, 2009 at 7:01:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger Savtadotty said...

Shari - he said pretty pigeons, not beautiful people! You're projecting (I happen to agree with you).

October 29, 2009 at 10:19:00 AM GMT+1  
Anonymous rick said...

"Shalom Israel, it was wonderful being here and is pretty sad to be leaving. This won't be my last visit."

Ja, ich weiß genau was du meinst... wenn alles klappt, bin ich im januar zurück. warst du nur eine woche in tel aviv?

October 31, 2009 at 3:24:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Hallo Rick, wilkommen an Bord. Ja, nur eine Woche -- diesmals :)

It was a wonderful time, and it will not be my last visit to TLV.

November 1, 2009 at 7:36:00 PM GMT+1  

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