Day 5: Living and Learning in Tel Aviv

Monday, 30 May, 2011 - 5:43 pm

When we last spoke, Mayanot 357 was fresh off of a night out on the town in Tel Aviv. After a long night of dance and drink, the only viable solution was to spend a cool hour in the morning on the beach. The beaches of Israel’s Mediterranean coast are a far cry from my stomping grounds, Tobay Beach. I mean, they both contain mostly Jews, but that’s about as far as the similarities go. The water was a deep, deep blue, and the waves crashed with a consistent calmness. Some were swimming, tanning, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool, and taking it easy at the Mediterranean Sea. As this trip goes though, we had to rush out from the beach, check out of the hotel, and make our way into Tel Aviv.

Our first destination in Israel’s bustling metropolis was Independence Hall, the site of the conference that declared independence for the state of Israel on May 14, 1948 (as if I needed to make it clearer as to why it’s called Independence Hall. Get a grip readers! I don’t need to spell it out for you!)

We sat in the very same room-a converted art gallery-that independence was declared, listened to an audio clip of an uber-emotional David ben-Gurion, and sung along with the meeting’s rendition of Hatikvah. I know it was Memorial Day back in the U.S., but in our temporary home, it was all about Israel, though when it finally hit our still jet-lagged heads that it was Memorial Day back in the states, we broke out into a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on the bus.

After Independence Hall, we made our way to a marketplace in Tel Aviv where we got to eat and shop for a few hours. Today for lunch, I went with schnitzel. I almost opted out and fell back on some falafel, but the cashier advised me to stick with the schnitzel. I think I made a good choice. Afterwards, I made my way about the marketplace, looking for gifts for my family. Ben, if you’re reading this, then congrats! You were the first one to get a souvenir from me. Wear it proud at Fredonia next year. You’ll be a baller. Mom, dad, and Alex: stay posted.

Rabin Square and Yaffo rounded out our afternoon in Tel Aviv. We learned all about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, a little bit about the political system of Israel, and caught some incredible panoramic views of Tel Aviv, Yaffo, and the Mediterranean Sea. I have this weird fascination of seeing the conglomeration of ancient and modern architecture, and sitting atop a hill in Yaffo, taking in the view of ancient and brand new cities alike was like eating a satisfying meal.

And finally, after we couldn’t stay awake any longer, we hopped on the bus and headed eastward for Jerusalem. Our hotel is on the outskirts of town (I think) and the digs are, well, interesting to say the least. I’m in no place to complain about the hotels on a free trip, so I’ll wrap this part up now. The hotel had wi-fi. Let’s focus on that.

The night consisted of two activities with our friends from Lehigh and U of Colorado on Mayanot 358. We first had a small information session about signing up to become bone marrow donors through the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. We even got an opportunity to register if we so choose, which I did. I’m a frequent flyer at the NY/Penn Blood Services, so if I’m giving blood, why not give a little more, right?

The second activity of the night was a talk with Neil Lazarus about the current state of politics and goings-on in the Middle East. Revolutions, Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and Israeli/Palestinian conflict were the talk of the night. Lazarus, a British-born Israel citizen, was a charismatic, funny, informed guy who definitely enlightened a whole bunch of us, however tired we may have been. The night rounded out on the hotel’s patio, where we mingled with some students with another Mayanot group, most of whom were from Washington University in St. Louis.

Depending on when this gets posted and how the time difference works out, today (May 31st) is Kat’s 22nd birthday! Happy Birthday to Kat! I know I said for Alexa’s birthday, that there was no better way to spend it than a night out in Tel Aviv, but a trip to Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall might put up a pretty good fight.

Next time, in Jerusalem! 

Hall of independence
at Hall of Independence

Jaffa 01 

Jaffa 02 

Jaffa 03
at Jaffa

Kikar Rabin
at Kikar Rabin Square

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