Ani Po…Hineini!

Shalom, chaverim! It’s four in the morning here in Tel Aviv and I can’t get myself to go to sleep – my internal clock is somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Hopefully by the time I finish this entry I will have put myself (and not you) to sleep! My layover in Philadelphia proved to go by fairly quickly and by the time I realized how soon my flight was, I was actually speed walking (not quite running) to my gate – only to find a slightly silly lineup of Jews waiting to board for Israel. My ‘Duty Free’ whiskey was delivered to me at the gate (such service!), and it proved to be quite useful in both meeting my seat buddies and getting some sleep! The eleven hour flight flew by (not really), but I did manage to get in about 3 hours sleep and a few episodes of “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm“. I still haven’t finished “1984”, but I think that may be an activity for the beach tomorrow.

I love Tel Aviv.  A sunset trip to the beach near Hertzeliya welcomed me to Israel, as the rich orange sun dipped below the horizon. Although I arrived on Tuesday and had many special experiences, today was my first day of real exploration. I went to the shuk (by Jaffo), hit the beach, ate a shwarma, pita and cherries, drank Nestea and Gong (Grape drink with the tagline ‘Fun with the cap!’), bought some Bamba (Like a cheesy poof, but peanut butter instead of cheese), and wrote a bit of a rhyme with Or Ben David, my gracious host here in Tel Aviv. OBD is an up ‘n coming rapper in Israel and has recently finished producing his second album and first music video (“The 6th Day“). You can check him out on YouTube and ReverbNation. His apartment is in a building owned by his family that his grandfather built a LONG time ago. The scrappy external appearance and industrial location make it uninteresting to thieves, but its really quite a space to live in! The view is clear and showcases the Azrieli Center (three very large skyscrapers – a triangle, a square, and a circle). The door opens up into the living area and kitchen with modern-looking drawers (No cupboards – cups are in the drawer). To your left is Or’s recording studio, a small cinder-block room that looks like it was built for music production. This is where Or’s computer, keyboard, mixer and preamp hang out waiting for his creativity. It is also where I am sitting as I type and it’s very, very hot. I will probably be taking breaks to beat the heat. I can’t wait for my truly HOT journey that awaits…

I met Or on my last trip to Israel in 2006, he was a soldier paired up with my birthright bus that Summer. I stayed with him after the trip ended and a couple months later, he finished the army and came on a trip across the US with two other friends, Noa & Nati. Natan Hassid (Nati) lives in Jerusalem but came up to Tel Aviv to hang out this evening and tomorrow, until his radio show which is at 9pm – He is one of only three radio shows that focus on the global hip-hop scene, highlighting Israel’s new talent (he is also a rapper/MC).

Unfortunately, Or speaks incredibly good English, and I often forget that I am here hoping to improve my Hebrew. The chances I do get to use my 30-word vocabulary, I seem to be understood which is very gratifying! I have been able to ask for directions, ask about the trains, purchase stuff, and even tell someone what time it was. However, I have also been laughed at (this is the reaction that I am generally expecting). These are learning experiences and I only wish that it had been explained what was so funny about my broken, grammatically incorrect Hebrew.

I want to talk about my beach experience today. When I hear people exclaim that Israel is expressly apartheid and discriminates against Arabs, I wish they could simply be shown the Tel Aviv beach scene, a popular social gathering place for every demographic of the local (and tourist) population. I took several pictures, but am having trouble uploading, so here is my description. Walking out to the beach, from our especially rare no-fee parking spot, I noticed families, couples, groups of friends, surfers, windsurfers and fisherman all enjoying the natural recreation. I  jumped in and instantly remembered exactly how warm the Mediterranean is.  Bothered only by a barking dog, I observed several groups of Muslim women and their children swimming, chatting, and hanging out around the beach. They are not bothered, despised or ridiculed for their presence. However, in how many Muslim/Arab countries would you expect to see the same level of accepted cultural integration? This is only one example of integration of cultures in Israel. Every street sign proclaims its message in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Welcome to Israel, Shalom l’Yisrael, Salamaa! Israel is truly a unique and special community. I expect to compare these experiences with my travels through Egypt and am excited to take note of the differences AND similarities.

I am still enthralled by the uniqueness of many aspects of every day life in Israel, and could write another couple pages solely based on my 30-minute trip to the shuk!

Please feel free to send me an email at if you have any comments or requests as I embark on my trip to Sinai. This blog is for you and I hope to keep it interesting! I will be keeping another regularly updated blog at if you are interested in reading more about this trip and my last six-month adventure through Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Peru. Todah v’Shalom!

About Josh Zeldner

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