Tel Aviv does not feel like a foreign city.
Perhaps it’s the airport arrival protocols that match those of any large international terminal. Or perhaps it’s the five familiar Vancouverites who met us at the airport.
Perhaps it’s that the foreign-looking squiggles on the signs are simply Hebrew letters. Or perhaps it’s the English, Arabic, and Russian translations on every important sign.
Could it be the western dress, the graffiti on the city walls, the cautious but casual jaywalking?
Could it be the large, well-groomed dogs, walked on leash by their owners? Or the sleek, thick-furred, well-muscled feral cats hunting and socializing on the sidewalk?
Perhaps it’s the small but visible minority of people in modern Orthodox Jewish dress, normal in any Jewish gathering I attend. Or perhaps it’s a beggar’s theatrical chant, a string of familiar religious buzzwords:
!צדקה תציל ממות! תזקו למצוות (Tzedakah tatzil mimavet! Tizko l’mitzvot!)
Perhaps it’s the crowd of run-down buildings, stuffed with old gift shops and new cafes. Or the lovely urban surprises, like the hookah bar stashed between a beach hut and a basketball hoop.
Or maybe it’s the city’s obsession with parking. Everywhere you look, signs proclaim variations on a theme. No parking. Employee Parking. Permit Parking Only. Enter here for pay parking.
Perhaps it’s the chill of late afternoon, signaling to surfers to trot back to shore, wearing wet suits and carrying their boards. Or the sun humbly disappearing behind turbulent surf, oblivious to its own beauty and glory.
Or the buses and bus stops that seem to fade into the urban landscape as Shabbos settles in, with a quiet that touches even the least observant among us…
…a quiet that comes to an abrupt end about 9:00 p.m., as the street fills with sounds of pop music, pedestrian shouts and motorbikes, winding down only after the late-night bars close.
Welcome to Tel Aviv.Photos by Charles Kaplan & Laura Duhan Kaplan