New York on the Mediterranean
In Tel Aviv I was staying in a pod hotel. The third pod hotel on this trip. This one is very slick and hip, and also not cheap. Though I discovered that Tel Aviv is insanely expensive, perhaps even more so than Jerusalem, making the cost of a night in this pod hotel relatively affordable.
It’s on the fourth floor of a 20 story building on the beach, with views of the sea. I arrived at sunset, the hotel providing a stunning view of the sun sliding behind the horizon.
Tel Aviv is a World Heritage Site for its modernist architecture. The city ran with it, and now has quite a bit of impressive architecture. Then, also a lot of culture, good food, and a community with strong ties to the rest of the world, particularly the United States. I thought the city felt a bit like it was New York on the Mediterranean.
Then, the biggest scare of my trip: I woke up in my pod hotel without my passport, and without my immigration card, which is what Israel uses as opposed to stamping your passport, in case you’re afterwards traveling to one of the countries in the Middle East which Israel is not on good footing with.
It made no sense; I carry my passport with me, in a hard to reach pocket, and I very regularly check whether I have everything on me that I need to have on me.
I turned over my pod three times, looked in every corner of the hotel, retraced my steps through town, but found nothing. Though the restaurant I had eaten at the night before was closed.
There was nothing to do but to get a replacement document from my embassy.
Which turned out to be closed, but supposedly responds to an emergency email address.
I jumped through the hoops, and, realizing I now could only wait, resigned myself to my fate, and headed out to see a bit of the city.
First, retracing my steps once more, then heading to the police to report my documents as disappeared, I decided to check the restaurant again, just in case they had opened up. They had, and I found they had my passport and immigration documents.
Life is an adventure.
The highlight of my trip was my bumping into Uri Geller. He has a museum that is located next to a somewhat famous museum that was on my map and I was considering visiting. His museum wasn’t on my map, but that’s the one I bumped into.
I walked in, the door open, but a banner was blocking the way.
“Does this mean the museum is closed.”
“Yes”, someone inside said, “We run scheduled group tours, and VIP tours. It’s 270 USD, and we donate the money to sick children.”
I asked another question. Then, the kicker:
“I’m Uri Geller, I run the tours.”
The man is looking good, though I didn’t recognize him.
He asked where I was from and what I did.
“A walking artist from Iran! That is amazing! What shoes do you walk with?”
Three woman walked up, giggly, clearly enchanted, perhaps even shy, with seeing the man. He asked where they were from.
“We are from here.” Though they spoke Russian with each other.
They had a few back and forths, and I said my goodbyes.
“Hey, come back, I’m going to show you something amazing!”
He conjured up a 10 cent coin.
“Do you have one? I prefer to use one of yours, but I’ll use this one if you don’t have.”
The women started grabbing for their purse, taking out a coin, but Uri was already rubbing his fingers on the coin.
It came back bent like a saddle.
I took it very easy on my last day in Tel Aviv. The view from my hotel, overlooking the Mediterranean, was stunning, so I took the opportunity to catch up on some lost work while enjoying the view.
It was the day before Israel’s celebration of independence, and the Air Force was doing practice runs along the beach, I suppose in preparation for an air show.
Considering Israel is in regular conflict with a handful of nations, this did not make me feel comfortable.
When hunger overtook me, I started walking in the direction of the train station. Restaurants close to the shore are horribly priced, but, when I had walked to the hotel from the bus station, which is close to the train station, I walked through a neighbourhood that was clearly more affordable, perhaps even alternative. And, very close to the bus station, I had noticed a number of Ethiopian restaurants, too.
I found a nice place, which turned out to also be very gay friendly, it indeed was more affordable and served good food. Afterwards, I walked into a nearby park to finish two beers I was carrying around and (I assumed) wouldn’t be able to carry through security.
What seemed like a bunch of Ethiopians had also settled on the grass around me, though they also seemed more like the refugee kind.
Almost finished with my beers, two young men walked into the park, dragging a stroller around. When they came up to me, they asked, in Hebrew, if I wanted a sandwich. I thanked them, having just had lunch, and we had a chat. Indeed, they were providing a simple but filling lunch for the homeless in the park.
I asked them why they were doing this, and one, the one not speaking English too well, responded:
“You know, happy happy!”
At the airport, I made sure to finish my big bottle of ice tea before going through security. To forget I was also carrying a small bottle. The security people didn’t care.
The blue card, the immigration card, was checked by no one. My passport was checked by ‘security’, then a woman guarding access to the departure area, then someone at the luggage check, and, finally, a biometric gate.
At the first security check, the women needed to know what kind of name mine was.
Just before the departure of my flight, nicely bookending my visit, another air-raid siren, this one to commemorate ‘fallen IDF, Israeli Defence Force, soldiers’.
Virtually every one stood up. Most of the few that remained seated, foreigners, also stood up when they realized they were the odd ones out.
It had been t-shirt weather in Israel over the past week. I was going to have a 12 hour stopover in London, where the temperature that was going to welcome me was 3 degrees. Below zero.