I think it''s safe to say my fuddy-duddy days are over!To those of you who don''t know, I''ve never been the party animal, per se. Nope. I never loved the taste of alcohol, I''m more of an early bird than a night owl, I am more of a planner rather than a spontaneous koo-koo head. Hey, I''m not selling myself short, those aren''t definitive characterizations. When inspired by someone special or in the presence of amazing music, I''ve been known to be the bell of the ball! But, as a general rule, left to my own devices, my default self is practical, responsible, goody-goody and fuddy-duddy. Well, that was my default until Tel Aviv, the BEST city in the world, came around and showed me how to party like a rock star... or, at least like an Israeli. It began last week when my friend called me. She was on her way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv at around 6pm. Usually, one would head to Tel Aviv early in the day to catch the sun. What was this? It was then that I heard about the White Knight Festival - the day the Tel Aviv stays hopping till dawn with free concerts, tours, open museums and shops - and every Israeli goes out to party.
Oof. The back and forth-ing began: My inner fuddy-duddy piping up to voice her opinion. I had just moved apartments that day, hadn''t met my roommates yet (what kind of first impression would this make?), my head was still reeling from the week in ulpan and I was pooped. Furthermore, my friend was with her husband - total third wheel situation ahead. And besides all that - where exactly would I sleep? I took a quiet moment. My gut said GO. So, despite all the negatives, off I went. I had never heard of anything like this! I got into high gear, called friends in Tel Aviv and boom! I had a place to stay if I needed it. I threw a bathing suit in a bag and ran off to catch a sheirut (shared taxi) to Tel Aviv. I arrived at 9pm and stayed up all night, enjoying the various acts and performances on Rothschild, open galleries in HaTachana and boutiques in Neve Tzedek. Along the way, I had so many déjà vu experiences. Rothschild felt so European! We turned a corner in the Hatachana and I was back on the waterfront in Cape Town, and Neve Tzedek was totally NY''s SoHo! I never knew Tel Aviv had so many cosmopolitan neighborhoods. Awesome!
There was no way to see everything, and we had been walking for ages, so we finally stopped at a beach party to dig our feet in the sand, have some coffee and dance! People of all ages partied together - I love that! Seventy-year-olds danced beside teenagers. Everyone was so carefree and just let go to enjoy the moment. The humidity of the day had disappeared. People splashed in the waves. Fire twirlers threw their batons into the air, illuminating the sky. Every 50 feet another genre of music blasted. We had such fun, and I finally crawled into bed tired and happy at 5:00am.
So, one night is cool. But could I really say I''d broken my inner fuddy-duddy? I wasn''t sure. But now I am.
This week, a friend''s birthday party and something called the "Music Parade" drew me back to Tel Aviv. My friend, Michal and I arrived early on Thursday to spend some time with her sweet family. I spoke only in Hebrew with them (yay!) and became good friends with the cousin''s, four-year old daughter, Ella. What a doll! We played a Hebrew game of Matching (which probably taught me more than it did her) and she told me, "at hachavera yafa v''chachama sheli" (You are my pretty and smart friend). How cute is that? I was ready to forget the party and chill with Ella instead.
But the night awaited! We arrived at the Pier in Tel Aviv for the birthday party. Whoa! So many attractive people! Suddenly, I find myself in a swanky, beachside, open-air lounge surrounded by gorgeous guys. I mean gorgeous - could they feel me staring? And all with accents! South African, Australian, Israeli, English - all Israel lovers! So nice and accomplished and smart and... people, this was a good night!
The hours flew - I chatted and chatted. The venue was great, the ocean breeze kept us cool, we ate watermelon with Bulgarian cheese (yum!), and before we knew it, 2:30a had rolled around. Michal and I were staying at the birthday girl, Hila''s apartment that night, and Hila wanted Aboulafia. What the bday girl wishes, the birthday girl gets! The group that was left headed from North Tel Aviv to Jaffo for the famous calzone-looking pitas filled with cheese and zaatar. After Hila got her cheesy fix, we dropped everyone off, schmoozed at home and finally went to bed at 5:30 in the morning.
The next morning we were up not wanting to sleep the day away. We started off by jumping into the Mediterranean - which is PERFECT right now! A bathtub! You don''t have to ease your way in, it''s mooooshlam (Perfeeeeeeect)! My inner mermaid emerged. I couldn''t have been happier letting the turquoise water rock me and carry me away.
A little more sun and the Music Parade began. Different floats came down the main drag in front of the ocean, each one blasting a different type of music. People would just follow the truck that had the music they liked best. My friend, Michal and I stopped to eat at Yotvata - the amazing dairy restaurant with food straight from the kibbutz. Our lunch came with a perfect view of the parade. After eating, we too danced along the street, following the music as though the floats were pied pipers.
The music ended at the Dolphinarium where a huge concert was beginning. The biggest DJs in Israel were there, taking turns, playing their tunes - and it was all free! Pelephone, who sponsored the event, handed out blue fabric tubes that people were using as hats, tops, skirts, bracelets, you name it. So when looking into the concert, I saw a sea of 2,000 or so blue, bobbing heads, dancing around against the backdrop of the ocean. This was such a blast I can''t even describe it! It is the most fun I''ve had yet in Israel. I didn''t even think I liked some of this music; now, I''m looking for it on iTunes. The energy of the place was contagious! Everywhere you looked there were people laughing and dancing.
How lucky I was to be there! Tel Aviv knows how to party. It must be one of the best cities in the world. I have lived in NYC, LA and Dallas; I have visited London, Cape Town and Sydney - and Tel Aviv trumps them all. No contest!
We pryed ourselves away, and I headed home with such a happy heart. I was so full of appreciation for this place and these experiences.
Now after these stories, the natural question probably is: am I sorry that I''m living in Jerusalem and not Tel Aviv? Especially, now that my inner fuddy-duddy is gone?
The answer is no. If Tel Aviv is like Manhattan or some other great city; Jerusalem is unlike anywhere else. You cannot compare Jerusalem to any other place. It''s that special.
Plus, not having something at your fingertips helps maintain appreciation of it. Tel Aviv is only 30 minutes away, so I can get there when I want to, but the peace of Jerusalem is my home for now. Besides, if I lived in Tel Aviv, I think I''d feel pressure to go out every night - there''s always something happening! I don''t think I''d learn Hebrew, I don''t think I''d learn anything! But, I would have the time of my life. Lucky for me, I''m doing that anyway - and I''m learning Hebrew. So, no complaints here. Jerusalem allows me to just be. The focus on superficiality is gone here. People have higher goals than looking good and being party animals. And coming from LA, that''s a most welcome change.
Furthermore, don''t underestimate Jerusalem. The famous Odelia Shabi visited me in Jerusalem, and we ended up watching the World Cup (woo hoo!) and drinking beers on Ben Yehuda St. with a slew of Israelis and ex-pats.(Yes, I drank beer! The Belgians make a cherry beer that even I can dig. Down the hatch!).
But all that being said - I am totally planning to stay in Tel Aviv during my break from ulpan - if I don''t volunteer in the army...