© 2018 by Debbi Perkul | Cleveland, Ohio

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Israel at Last, First Stop: Tel Aviv

November 18, 2017

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Israel.

 

In fact, it’s been 13 years.

 

Jay and I calculated: while we haven’t been here for 13 years, within those years one of our kids has been here once, and a second of our kids has been three and now four times since. We clearly have spent our money sending our children to Israel, and now we are thrilled that finally it is OUR time.

 

I was very excited to be going back, and got kind of emotional when I saw this sign. I felt like I was coming home after a very long absence.

 We were overwhelmed with happiness and joy when we came out of the baggage claim area and saw a familiar face bounding over to us. It was Giga, my beloved cousin, carrying a balloon to welcome us! What a wonderful surprise! When I saw her, realizing that she had come from Tel Aviv to the airport just to welcome us I burst into tears. I was really touched. What a wonderful cousin!!!! What a surprise! 

 

With Giga helping us navigate the purchase of the train tickets to the city, we were on our way to our next wonderful adventure.

 

I have a complicated relationship with Tel Aviv. My great grandfather lived here, my grandfather lived here, and my father lived here. Our cousins (my grandfather’s brother’s family) are still here. The city is part of my history, and while I have historical and emotional ties to it, I barely know it. In fact, despite the many times I’ve been to Tel Aviv, the only parts I feel that I really know are the few blocks where all the cousins live. In fact, when I got to Diezengof Street, I again felt like I had returned home. Things looked pretty much the same. 

 

The next day my parents and sister arrived from Cleveland. My dad must have felt the same way about the city, as he didn't hesitate to walk down the street to go visit his cousin!

My hopes for our two weeks in Tel Aviv were to reconnect with our family, and to get to know the city better. I hoped that we would walk around and discover different areas and neighborhoods and find out what everyone has been talking about.  Tel Aviv is VERY hot right now. (in vogue, not temperature) and everyone is raving about how fantastic it has become. I wanted to see if I felt the same way. 

 

And finally, I was anxious to see some history, my family’s, as well as the history of the city, particularly in connection with the time period of my book, the very earliest years of its existence. For my family history, I had Dad, who would walk us through his old stomping grounds.

And for the history of the city, I had the research I had done for my book.  With all there was to do, my hope was that this was going to be a wonderful two weeks.

 

Mission Accomplished: We had a phenomenal time.

 

Jay and I were reunited with my parents and sister who came for an epic two week visit, 

 

 

and got to hear and see my dad’s history in Israel, which I had done many years previously, but this time I was able to see it through my sister’s eyes, who had never been to Israel before. I loved that she loved this tour.

And dad was so excited to show us around.

 

Here are some of the highlights for me: the spontaneous joy dad showed when he discovered the playground where he used to play. Now a smaller yard, but still in the exact same place, tucked away on a side street. Obviously different equipment...  Photo courtesy of my sister Stacey!

 

And the police station that we walked by: it was in the exact same place as in the 1940’s. He was pretty astounded to see this.

 

And we took a day trip to Jerusalem (more on that later) and visited the kibbutz that dad had run away to when he was 15 years old. The honor and respect the people who worked at the kibbutz hotel showed my dad, and the short tour the head of security took us on so we could see the building where my dad had lived, was just amazing.

 

The bullet holes are from the 1948 War of Independence that have been preserved as a memorial and the blue circle is the basement apartment dad lived in. Photo and titles by Stacey...

 

I think it was an emotional journey back for dad.

 

 

A major highlight of our Tel Aviv visit was getting to spend a lot of time with the Israeli Perkul/Perkol cousins.

 Over the two weeks we shared many meals.

Rachel, the matriarch of the Israeli family allowed Jay to help her cook, which was thrilling for him.

 and we went to lots of different places together.

 

It was a historic moment with the two families converging. We even met another branch of the Perkul family. It was really great. 

 

Jay and I explored the city and discovered very interesting neighborhoods. We walked for miles each day and had a marvelous time looking around.

We got to see neighborhoods and sights that people have been talking about for ages, but I have never seen.

 

While walking the streets, we saw they are alive with lots of action. They are full of young families, tons of children, babies, dogs, and cats. It’s a city that doesn’t go to sleep (at least not before 11 PM, which is when we usually are headed in for sleeping).

 

Google maps is liberating and freeing and a miracle. You can go anywhere and see anything and not worry about getting lost. If I would have had Google Maps in the '80's and '90's, my relationship with the city would be very different now. Back then, the few times I got lost discouraged me from walking around. I took buses everywhere. It is much easier now. I LOVE Google Maps. 

 

Jay and I were fascinated by the changing city. The history and the dynamics of this evolution were in evidence everywhere we looked. Tel Aviv is in an active state of renewal. The old is quickly being replaced by the new, but we were happy to see that there were many places where elements of the old were being retained.

 

Old neighborhoods are being restored: Sarona...

 and old buildings are being torn down and replaced by high towers.  Next to Sarona...

 

The place is crazy alive. Very expensive, and being compared to New York. And it does have that happening vibe. I love TLV!

I would love to be a part of its evolution! 

 

If only I had a cool million or two to spend on a tiny apartment. We stayed in one of those tiny apartments in a great neighborhood

and we got to know our neighborhood very well. I was thrilled about this, since now I have expanded greatly the comfort level I feel here.

 

I had the great fortune of reuniting with some friends I hadn’t seen in many, many years. And yet we all look exactly the same. 😊

And Jay and I were able to meet with a dear friend who lived with us many years ago. He used to be a child, and now he is a mature, accomplished adult.

Crazy.   

 

Tel Aviv is super expensive. Really super expensive.

 

Tips for tourists:

If you have to rent a car because you are leaving the city the next morning, park in the free lot in Reading in the north and then take a bus back into the city. Super easy, fast, headache free. Otherwise, you could spend hours finding a street parking spot or spend way too much money for overnight parking in a lot (or car park). People get quite creative when parking here.

Walking is a great way to see the city and you might be surprised at how close together things are and how easy it is to walk from one place to another.

 

Download the app Moovit (thanks Danny) to find the bus you need to take.

 

Fun places to go:

 

Levinsky Spice Market

 

 

Florentine

 

and Yafo

 

 

The best way to know the city: Walk, walk, walk!

 

How I feel about Tel Aviv: I am very passionately in love with the city. I absolutely love it.

 It’s fun and exciting and dynamic and changing. It’s a combination of new

 

and old.

 

it’s dirty, and flashy,

and it has a lot of character. I can’t even find the right words to describe what I feel about the city. So instead, I’ve posted a lot of photos so you can get a feel for the city.   And as always, the best most beautiful photos were taken by Jay. 

 

 

 

 I LOVE TLV!

 

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