I’m back from Israel, and feeling completely exhausted and disorientated. A holiday is basically a break from the usual routine of life, and it often feels very alien to get back into that routine. It’s also a bit depressing coming back to the ultra quiet, insular lifestyle of Perth after visiting Israel and my family – especially a city like Tel Aviv, which is really like a mini New York, as it never sleeps and people live their lives on the streets, in cafes, in restaurants; surrounded, packed together like sardines, busy and fast-paced. An altogether polar opposite universe to the spread-out, spacious, enclosed, steady and slow-moving lifestyle of Perth. Even though I’m an introvert, I prefer Tel Aviv; I prefer the theatre of it, and its eclectic nature. And most of Israel is like this, not just Tel Aviv.
I had meant to summarise my trip into one post, but looking through my photos today, it seems impossible. So it’ll be a series of posts instead, starting with this one. Be warned though, these will be long posts, with many photos. I’d also like to record some general personal impressions for my own benefit with each post – things that occurred to me on my travels that I don’t want to forget. So if you’d like to hear about my trip, read more.
I often forgot to take out my camera on my trip, so there are many gems and cities that I can’t share with you through my own photos. One such city is Jerusalem. I spent most of my time in Jerusalem working, and what I took with me from that city can’t be measured in images, or even words. So I’m not even going to attempt to explain what it was like. I worked in Yad Vashem, and amongst other things, discovered exactly how my family died in the Holocaust. I saw long lists of their names, their ages. All the cold facts. But none of the details that made them my family: who they really were, what they were like, what dreams they had before they were killed, what that terror must have felt like. There were moments when it was all too much, and I would step out of the library for some air and glance at the city of Jerusalem. The photo above captures such a moment. It looks like a pretty scene, but I didn’t take a snapshot of this Jerusalem landscape for its prettiness; I took it to remember my family, if that makes sense.
Like I said, the city that never sleeps. It’s crowded and noisy, and beautiful and interesting. It also has the best food in the world (a grandiose statement, I know). I ate a lot of falafel in Israel, but the best by far was in Tel Aviv. I can’t even remember where I bought it from – it was some dingy looking restaurant, the kind that doesn’t make it into travel guides and such. As is often the case, the places that aren’t swanky or cool enough to be mentioned in guides have the best food. You really can’t go wrong with food in Israel though, anywhere. I didn’t do touristy things in Tel Aviv, I mainly visited family and friends and ate a lot. Which was brilliant. Oh and I also stared at the many handsome waiters who populate this city.
I took hundreds of photos in Jaffa, it was hard to narrow them down. I think the reason I went on a snapshot-spree in Jaffa was mainly because I was there during the first few days I arrived in Israel with family I hadn’t seen in ages. I was taking photos of everything to convince myself that this was all real, and I wasn’t dreaming. Plus Jaffa compels photo-taking, it’s absolutely breathtaking. It’s one of my favourite places in the world, and even though I know it so well, and it’s so familiar to me, I’m still surprised by its atmosphere each time I visit. If you ever visit for the first time, make sure to stroll into all the narrow lanes and streets. They may not look like much from the outside, but they hold many treasures and a multitude of artisan shops and galleries. You’ll also find many kitties lounging in artists’ spaces near statues and sculptures. The Ilana Goor Museum is a must, and as an added bonus, it is ‘guarded’ by two affectionate and adorable pooches who will more likely ask for a good scratch from you rather than ‘guard’ the museum. Keep your eye out for all the incredible street art too.
Ein Hod is an artists’ village which, you guessed it, is mainly populated by artists who live and work there. I met some wonderful people there and bought the most stunning pair of gold earrings that were handmade by a local artist. As the daughter of an artist myself, I appreciate the work that goes into these pieces. My mum told me about this artist and her jewellery, and as usual, her taste is impeccable. I’m more than happy to give this artist a plug: her name is Lea Ben-Arye, and she runs her shop with her husband, Dan Ben-Arye. I also bumped into some artists who seemed straight out of a Dickens novel – there were twin sisters whom my mum and I called ‘the Havisham twins’. You’ll have to visit the village to find out why.
: : General Impressions : :
I spent a hell of a lot of time in a car during this trip, as we rented a car rather than using public transportation for the first time. This meant I got to listen to a lot of radio, and I found this interesting. Some of the most fascinating personal impressions I noted in my head throughout this trip came from my reactions to the programs and ads on the radio. I never thought I’d actually say something like this, but it’s true. Here’s why:
Books and authors are everywhere on the radio in Israel – and not on select radio stations, but on commercial and popular ones too. There are long (as in an hour or more) programs devoted to interviews with authors, literary discussions and even a special program on a prominent radio station where listeners call up and ask book and literary experts to find special editions or translations of particular books for them. And there are actual ads for books – countless ads. Yes, that’s right, for books. Who would have thought?
I realised during those long trips in the car that literature and reading are part of everyday life in Israel – part of the culture and the texture of normalcy. This is so different to Australia, especially Perth. What we have here is an anti-intellectual culture where I regularly get told with pride by people that they don’t read books. We rarely interview our authors or academics on a popular mainstream public forum (that is not a literary festival), and I personally have never seen or heard an ad for a book on TV or on the radio. Words like ‘postmodern’, ‘modern’, ‘dada’, etc. don’t make it onto the radio here. And our bookstores aren’t packed like the ones I saw in Israel. I can’t help feeling like we’re missing out on so much in Australia by not encouraging this kind of literary culture alongside sport culture. Sport, for example, is very popular in Israel too. There are equally long programs on the radio devoted to it (and politics too, of course). But it’s taken for granted that books and art are important too.
More to come soon ...