|So, after sleeping a full 8-hour night on Thursday night, I woke up and got ready to take my first excursion with the Boy. The kibbutz has cars that are communally available for the use of all kibbutz members, but we found out that they have a per-mile charge, so we decided we would go with Budget Rent-a-Car. We went back to the airport to get a car, and got a Ford Fiesta - appropo for our family! (My stepfather worked at Ford for more than 40 years). Then we went back to the kibbutz to get Galya (Ari's girlfriend), and two other girls, Orit and Kara, and the five of us set off for Tel Aviv.
From the kibbutz, it was about a 25 minute drive to the city. On the way, Galya explained to me that the city is full of Bauhaus architecture - the style that was in fashion in the 20's and 30's. The city was founded in 1909 by European immigrants who were very assimilated in Europe and were fleeing to save their lives during the many pogroms* of the time - but who considered themselves Europeans first and Jews second. (*There were pogroms in Europe for more than a thousand years, a pogrom is an "ethnic cleansing" (killing) of Jews from an area, and during the 19th and early 20th century, pre-Hitler, they had become unbearable and were the reason so many Jews fled to America during that time). The Bauhaus style was part of the art deco thing, very rounded edges on buildings and ornate, rounded windows. The newer buildings don't reflect that style, and so the older Bauhaus buildings really stood out for their color, style and age. Anyway, I digress.
We had only a few hours before we needed to be back on the kibbutz for Shabbat, so we decided to go to the shuk (outdoor market) and an outdoor arts and crafts shuk. If you've ever been to an outdoor market of any kind, then you will understand the atmosphere - a bit of madness and lots of activity. There were lots of street performers, musicians as well as some very religious people exhorting people to return to God (Tel Aviv is known for being almost completely irreligious). The shuk was awesome for all the many fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as spices that filled the air and made my mouth water. In the end, all we bought was maple tobacco - Ari and his friends have succumbed to the unfortunate habit of their generation, the hookah. This tobacco was dripping wet, soaked in a maple solution, and was sold by the gram and scooped into plastic bags. Interesting... Anyway, I have not yet smelled it being smoked, but I have to admit it had a very aromatic, sweet smell as the man was scooping it into the bags.
Next, the moment I had been waiting for - I got my first Israeli shwarma! For those of you who have never eaten shwarma, trust me when I say you are missing an important life event. Shwarma is meat of some kind (lamb, chicken or beef) sliced and put onto a spike with the fat of the meat on the top - and it is rotated around in circles with the heat cooking from all sides. It was absolutely delicious! I got a mixture of beef and chicken on my shwarma (per Ari's advice) and have been spoiled - now our Maryland shwarma will pale!
After we all ate, Ari wanted to take us to his favorite cigar shop, which was a bit of a walk and next to the beautiful Mediterranean. For those of you who know Ari, it comes as no surprise that he has a penchant for fine Cuban cigars. So, we walk into the shop in Tel Aviv, and Ari's tobacconist, Freddie, greets him at the door like he's his oldest and dearest friend! He ushers all five of us in, sits us down and opens a bottle of Chardonnay in honor of Ari's tekkes, and of course, brings us olives. Ari picks out his Cuban and we spent the next 45 minutes letting him smoke his victory cigar, while he told me that the outside of the cigar had a creamy taste, the middle had a full-bodied flavor, and towards the end it began to get sharper. That's my boy, macho to the core!
At this point, our Tel Aviv visit was wrapping up. I must admit, there was little about Tel Aviv that captured my imagination - it seemed to me to be largely just a metropolitan city of indeterminate flavor, aside from the smattering of Bauhaus architecture. This is the only major city in Israel that doesn't observe the Sabbath, for instance. All my companions assured me that there was little else to see there and so we piled into the car and headed back to the Kibbutz. Still, it was awesome to people watch and to contrast the city with what I had seen so far in Israel. By this time, however, I have begun to long to see Jerusalem and to experience an entirely Jewish city. But first, it was time for Shabbat on the Kibbutz!