A few of my favorite (Tel Aviv) things

Judith Goldstein, one of the founders of TasteTLV.com, gets nostalgic before leaving the country and looks at the 5 things she will miss most about Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv beach  (photo credit: Judith Goldstein)
Tel Aviv beach
(photo credit: Judith Goldstein)
Over the last two years I spent each week preparing for a bi-weekly top 5 column about food in Tel Aviv. Therefore, as I set off on a new adventure abroad, I couldn't think of a more fitting way to commemorate my time here and the city that I called "home." The city that became a symbol of so many things to me and most importantly the city I've always hated to love, but love with every part of me.
Here's to you Tel Aviv...
1. The City Cats
If you know me well, you'd know that I have quite a disdain for felines, but there is something endearing and special about the Tel Aviv cats. They are as much a resident of the city as any other person and each crew of cats define our neighborhoods as anything does.
The cats play the important role of keeping the trash and mice at bay, but the most important role that the cats play is to remind us all how to chill out. Day or night, hot or cold, rain or shine- it's not an unfamiliar site to see a cat spread eagle in deep slumber on city sidewalk, curled up on a bench, or snuggled on a window sill.  These feisty felines illustrate the art of relaxation and the beauty of letting go. Ultimately it's the kitties that symbolize the true thread of Tel Aviv culture: "Work hard, play harder, and relax hardest."
2. The Day Nights
My brother came once to visit me in Tel Aviv and after spending a week between the days and the city's night life he proclaimed, " They call New York the city that never sleeps, but in reality Tel Aviv is the city that never sleeps." One of the most incredible and unique things about Tel Aviv is that you can go out of the house any time in the night and the energy around you feels like it's daytime.
It's not the city that never sleeps only because there is a thriving nightlife, it's literally as if the night time is equivalent to the day. People of all ages fill the streets to go on a walk, meet for coffee, or have a late night dinners. The lack of division between night and day creates a flow in life that feels different than being anywhere else in the world. 3. The Beach
With the matkot players along the coast, the beautiful, young residents in their tiny bikinis and swim trunks, the bustling beach cafes, and the temperate, clear water- it's no surprise that for all of the country's attractions, the Tel Aviv beaches stand out. For the city's residents, it is truly an oasis.
Good day, bad day, long, short, hard or easy, hot or hotter, the sea is always there, always calming, always refreshing and it's what makes a great city incredible.
4. The Food
Whether it’s the  juice stands located every thirty feet, one of the thousands of cafes in every corner, doing a falafel taste-off, browsing Shuk HaCarmel, or trying the newest high-end eatery, in Tel Aviv one can experience the depths of the culinary scene and meet some of the most inspiring people through food.
Since almost all Israeli produce is grown locally, the quality of much of the food is extraordinary. Furthermore, since Jews hail from all parts of the world, in Tel Aviv you'll find some of the most authentic Iraqi, Yemenite, Ethiopian, Persian, and Polish restaurants, just to name a few. Couple that with this "new" country trying to create it's culinary voice and you have so much inspired cuisine all around you. From the Israeli breakfasts that come with a basket of house baked bread and ten different condiments, salads and cheeses, to high end chefs experimenting with Middle Eastern and international flavors, Israel truly has offered a dynamic culinary experience.
5. My Friends
Ben Gurion once said that he was born twice in his life, once during his actual birth in Poland and a second time when he made aliya to Israel. Although I am far from the Zionist Ben Gurion was, I must agree that I was truly reborn in Israel. This rebirth happens in Israel, because I think that there is no other place in the world that challenges you, your identity, your faith, and your spirit quite like Israel does. From the political, to to the cultural, to the social, to the economic, to the day to day life, there are not many other places that will make you ask the questions about war, identity, love, life, death, spirit, and relationships quite like Israel. Whether you're completely left wing or completely right wing or somewhere in the middle, it's a challenge to be here on a moral level and questions will rise inside of you that you've never thought to ask before.
The people I have met here: Israeli, Arab Israeli, Palestinian, immigrants, and mostly many of my friends who made aliya from the US, England, South Africa, France and Australia,  have been some of the most courageous, strong, deep, and adventurous people I have known. It is with these friends that I did my soul searching, that I struggled, that I learned, and that I grew up. Together, hand in hand, we steadily and tediously ascended towards a higher being, asking ourselves the difficult questions, finding the difficult answers and working to make peace with it all. Living in Israel provides people with realities that foster in understanding about life, love and true friendship.
Judith Goldstein is one of the founders of TasteTLV.com and a lover of food, culture, travel and life. She will be moving to Italy in September to pursue a second degree in Food Studies. If you'd like to follow up on her year living in an Italian village and learning about food you can follow her blog at http://jujugypsy.blogspot.co.il/