Sunday, October 21, 2007

Taking A Nap To Tel Aviv

Because our older daughter Tina is now living and working long hours in Tel Aviv – such that she is rarely here in Maale Adumim for Shabbat or the Hagim to partake of her daddy’s cooking – there is nothing else for her dutiful parents to do but to get on an Egged bus and cross the country to Tel Aviv to visit her. One of our trips was a week ago Thursday. Barbara, Natania, and I got on a bus in the mid afternoon, after our Ulpan, and began our journey. Now some of you know that one thing I unfailingly do on a bus is take a nap. By the time we left the Takanat HaMerkazit (Central Bus Station) in Jerusalem, past the two gas stations at the edge of the city, through the Jerusalem forest to the west, I was ready to close my eyes. By the time they reopened, we were entering Tel Aviv.
A great deal has been written about how tiny Israel is, especially from east to west. But this is ridiculous! I got from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in the time it took me to take a nap on a bus! (The same nap I used to take going back and forth from Teaneck to New York City.)There are people – some well meaning but clueless, others our enemies – who believe that Israel is too big and needs “a haircut.” Imagine if the country were any smaller. I could probably make the same trip in a couple of yawns and a few good stretches.
Anyway, there we were, entering Tel Aviv, a city which always makes me smile (apart from our familial happiness.) Perhaps because I grew up in New York City, I appreciate the brashness and sophistication of Israel’s second city. Tel Aviv contains the largest extant collection of wonderful white Bauhaus buildings with their simple, flowing lines (between four and five thousand buildings, depending on who is counting), and there is something wonderful about this marvelous irony of history: that The Bauhaus, the twentieth century’s most influential school of architecture and design, which was started in Germany and was expelled by the Nazis, would find its champion in The Jewish State. Then in the middle of the city is a series of imposing towers, the most prominent being the Azrieli Center, (where Tina works) home to many of the hi-tech companies which have thrust our tiny Homeland into the forefront of the world technological revolution.
The last time we got to Tel Aviv, we had time to visit the wonderful art museum before heading to the beach. This time we were more pressed for time, so we headed straight for Frischman Street – where Tina lives – and straight to The Mediterranean Sea. Now it’s true that all the water in the Mediterranean and all the water in all the oceans, seas, bays, and rivers in the world are like a tear drop to Our G-d. Nonetheless, there is something both soothing and exhilarating about standing on the shore, looking out into what seems to be never ending body of water. There is a sense of unlimited possibility out there beyond the horizon that almost everyone seems to respond to. The official swimming season had ended the day before, but the beach was filled with people, and Barbara, Natania, and I took turns walking up and down the beach by the water’s edge until it began to get dark, and it was time to meet Tina for dinner (Somewhere along the way I lost my cell phone.)
This being Tina’s turf, she was in charge of selecting a restaurant, and, as she has done before, came up with a winner, a Turkish restaurant called Pasha. (In case you’re curious, the cost of a good meal in a kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv seems to be about $20 a person.) The four of us sat, ate, and talked. These moments are infrequent and precious.
It was about a forty minute walk from the ocean to the restaurant and about a half an hour walk back from the restaurant to where we would get the bus back to Jerusalem. Walking through neighborhoods and commercial areas, I began to notice something very distressing: you see, in Tel Aviv the streets are clean, but the T-shirts in the stores aren’t. I don’t mean the clothing needed laundering, but their messages do. In this lovely city of Tel Aviv with its pristine architecture, there are dozens of stores that publicly display rude, suggestive, misogynistic, and pornographic slogans that the citizenry supposedly wants to wear on its clothing. Of course, there is little here that can’t be found in thousands of outlets in America, but I do not feel responsible for what is going on in Pottstown, PA. We in Maale Adumim are, however, living only a scant few kilometers from where The Torah indicates Sodom and Gomorrah were situated.
I stayed awake on the bus ride back to Jerusalem. From the Central Bus Station, we took our local bus “upstream” back home. (Going into the city everyday for our Ulpan, we go “downstream.” The bus turns onto Jaffe St. at its beginning, where it seems like any number of other unimportant thoroughfares. Soon it passes the large municipal complex on the right. Then it becomes a wider, two-way street and passes the area around Ben Yehuda and Yoel Salomon Street, with its cluster of shops and restaurants – unquestionably the best place in the world to do Jewish people watching – and then continues past King George St., getting wider as it goes, past where we get off the bus, at the Clal building [a medical complex so ugly that its chances of having been built would have been zero or less than zero], and then on past the Mahane Yehuda market, {the shuk} -- a subject so fascinating that it will require an blog entry all its own -- past the charitable soup kitchens which feed thousands of indigent people every day, supplied in large part by the leftovers from the market -- and finally on to the Central Bus Station.) It was well after 10PM when our 174 bus going the other way went past the shuk, which was still filled with people – some paying customers, some collecting whatever was leftover for themselves or others. We passed the Ben Yehuda area which was still crowded with young people. It occurred to me that it’s almost impossible to find any kind of a T-shirt with a message in Jerusalem. (even “Somebody went to Israel and all I go was this lousy T-shirt.) In a tourist haven like Ben Yehuda, kippahs yes, mezuzas yes, t-shirts no.
Our 174 bus continued its route, turning off Jaffe St., and going by the Old City before it turned off to go through the tunnel and climb the hill to Maale Adumim, which, as you all know by now, is “A Little Bit East of Yerushalayim.” We would wake up Friday morning and look out over the dunes that are between us and the sovereign state of Jordan. There would be no one admiring the sand, because no one does, there being nothing soothing or exhilarating about what seems to be only a vast nothingness. I, of course have my own “take” on the dunes. If the sea represents space, then the sand represents time (as in an hour glass.) These Judean Hills are the Collective Past of The Jewish people, for some of us our Present, and, for those who will have it, our Future.

1 comment:

Valentina Berkovits said...

beautiful blog, daddy...or maybe i'm just biased :)