Tel Aviv--- Ok, well, that title might be a little misleading. We have one more day left in Tel Aviv, and while Saturday and Sunday had some frustrations, overall our time here has been really great.
We were a little taken aback when we arrived at Florentine Hostel, namely because it is much smaller than we thought. We reserved a private room (as opposed to dormitory/camp style bunk beds), but we didn't realize that it is one of only three, and that one of the others is occupied by the owner and manager of the hostel, Rafi. The space is filled beyond maximum capacity, with what we think must be 30 people sharing two bathrooms and one refrigerator. People sleep on bunk beds, mattresses on the floor, and hammocks and couches outside on the roof terrace, everywhere there is a patch of free space. This took a little getting used to, but we are finding that most everyone is really nice and shares a general "traveler's mentality" of openness and wanting to learn about and help each other.
This community feeling became obvious on Friday night. That morning, we mentioned to Rafi that we would be observing Shabbat and were going to the Carmel Market to buy food. He suggested we buy enough ingredients for chicken shakshuka, a dish he would prepare for a communal meal (enough for about 10 people, he thought). We happily obliged after a quick walk through the artist's market on Nachalat Binyamin. Dinner was called for 7:00, but they didn't even start cooking until 10:00, all the while more and more people joined in. At 11:00, eighteen of us sat down to enjoy a truly communal meal. We all contributed in some way: buying the food, preparing it, setting the table, cleaning up, making a beer run, etc. After Rafi's speech about the sabbath and appreciating other cultures, Ben explained and made Kiddush, and I made Motzi.
Even though we had had our doubts about the meal, it ended up being beautiful and truly meaningful. I think that everybody really enjoyed and respected our traditions, and liked being a part of them (they ALL got up to wash!). Rafi contributed his own wine, hummus, and challah to make sure we had enough food, and we ate, drank, and got to know each other. Now some of those guests have left and we actually miss them.
After Shabbos, things started to go downhill. After some computer trouble delayed us Saturday night, we walked for an hour to an Indian restaurant off of Dizengoff Square , only to find it had closed two hours early. Defeated, we trudged back to our hostel half-heartedly searching for another place, but with only bars and clubs open, ended up eating cereal for dinner. Our bad luck continued today. A sherav had moved in overnight leaving the city hot, dusty, and completely unpleasant. We lasted only ten minutes at the beach--which was so windy we could not keep our towels down--and angrily sought refuge on Rothschild Blvd . Ben had his choice of Bauhaus architecture to draw and I had a snack and got our journal up to date. We had yet another disappointment tonight. Shortly after Daniel arrived for one last dinner together, restaurants began to close (no kosher chinese for us, boo). We soon learned that tonight begins Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day), and all businesses must close or risk a 100,000 shekel fine. We scrambled into a convenience store as it was closing and Daniel had the presence of mind to snag some tuna and crackers (If it were left to Ben and me, we would have eaten Pringles and ice cream!).
Every time we hit a bump, we were able to pull through. Even as we had our (mis)adventures, we were able to make them fun. We know there will me more to come and hope they all work out as well as our time in Israel has.