Photography by Emma Krasov, runway images courtesy Gindi TLV Fashion Week
While traveling in Israel, I noticed one striking detail of local life. People perceived time differently than I. They said, “That was long ago! Three years…” In my mind, and in my more or less balanced life, three years ago sounded like yesterday. In a long stretch of my travels, writing and teaching work, publishing deadlines, holidays, seasons, and other repeatable events a few years in a row following one another were hardly discernible.
That’s how very young people feel the passing of time, I thought. In fact, it seemed that the majority of hospitality workers, as well as other industries’, business venues’ and municipal and governmental institutions’ were young people. Fresh-faced and bright-eyed, they all looked like 15-year-olds to me, granted I’m used to my native Californians’ puffed up Botoxed and collagened visages of “traveling boys” and “yoga gals” well in their 50s…
I might guess why so many kids are holding positions of responsibility in Israel. It can be party explained by one of the many unfairnesses of the young age – children learn foreign languages, no matter how hard they are, without actually trying. By the time our brains mature enough to understand the need to communicate better while abroad, we lose our natural ability to stay attuned to other people’s tongues.
Despite the amount of traveling to Europe I do each year, I can’t utter more than elemental greetings or apologies in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Forget reading a street sign in Hebrew. I wouldn’t know where to begin… (It’s written right to left).
Being a young and fast growing country, since its Declaration of Independence in 1948, Israel had absorbed Jewish refugees persecuted in their places of birth, who spoke Arabic and Farci, German and Polish, Russian and Ukrainian. Some of them spoke Yiddish, some retained the knowledge of Hebrew, and just a few were still able to learn English and other languages necessary to work in the contemporary globalized environment. The first-generation immigrants were not always able to do that. Their children, thanks to their young age, were up to the task.
The ancient land, with two thousand years of history conveyed in the Bible (which is as much a folklore, traditions, customs, and historical reference as a book of faith) continues to fascinate travelers with its symbiosis of everlasting culture and contemporary everyday life.
An overwhelmingly young crowd attended the Tel Aviv Fashion Week at the site of future Gindi TLV Fashion Mall scheduled to open in spring 2016 with 250 stores of leading local and international brands. Young Israeli designers presented an array of trends ranging from flowing patterned gowns – the kind one sees on Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch Bauer and Hilde Roth – to bold incarnations of wool and linen, military khaki, denim, and leather.
Old and new were visibly intertwined in the booming Carmel and Levinsky markets. Tropical fruits only recently planted in the multi-climatic Israel were displayed next to olives, pomegranates and citrons (the sacred Etrog) known from the Biblical times. The assortment of cheeses, hummus and halvahs was mind-boggling!
A tour of Tel Aviv included the White City – the largest in the world cluster of Bauhaus buildings from the 1930s built by German Jewish architects who immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine from the Nazi Germany. A remarkable round building with plastered sycamore tree on its wall is actually a “mirror” reflection of a real hundred-years-old tree that grows next to it on Rothschild Boulevard next to King Albert’s II Square. Pristine-white boutique hotel the Norman, surrounded by palm trees, is a study in geometry with its strict golden cut measurements and sharp angles in window design.
An Italianate former residence of an American Jewish family built in 1924, in the 1970s, ironically, housed a Soviet Embassy.
The largest hotel group in Israel is a family-owned chain of Dan Hotels. Founded in 1947 by the Federmann brothers, it boasts 12 luxury properties in different cities.
Dan Tel Aviv is located in the city center and overlooks a wide Mediterranean beach. Dan Accadia is also overlooking a palm tree-lined beach in the town of Herzliya. The town is named after Theodor Herzl – a famous journalist and writer born in Austro-Hungarian Empire, the visionary author of “The Jewish State.” Tel Aviv is named after another Herzl’s book, “The Old New Land” with two words “tel” meaning “archeological mound” and symbolizing the old, and “aviv” meaning spring, and symbolizing the new.
Tel Aviv has a nickname “the city that never stops,” and lives up to it. Espresso kiosks on many street corners sell strong coffee day and night. The bustling night life concentrates in neighborhoods where artists and young entrepreneurs dwell in simple apartment buildings. Art galleries and boutique shops line the ancient streets.
In colorful Jaffa, by the old port there’s a contemporary Port Gallery next to the overflowing flea market. At the Israeli Center for Wine Culture called Grape Man, one can try miniscule production labels and get a crash course on Israeli climate zones and different wines produced in them. Ilana Goor museum – a house and studio of a world-famous artist and collector showcases an architectural pearl of a building with amphorae ceiling, filled with 500 sculptures, paintings, antiques, furniture and tribal art pieces, video art and design items.
In one of the little squares nearby there’s a Ran Morin’s sculpture “The Hanging Orange Tree” – with a live tree hovering above ground. A symbol for Jewish people uprooted from the Biblical land, the tree continues to grow, blossom, and bring fruit all the time longing for its native soil. This place is often visited by school groups and educational tours… From Jaffa, a view of Tel Aviv at night reveals a treasure box of lights along the tide line of a glistening sea.
Piano Festival at the architectural complex of Tel Aviv Museum of Art (with an incredibly rich collection – Renoir, Chagall, Klimt, Picasso, etc.) and Dance Festival at the Suzanne Dellal Centre were happening among other entertainment events during my short visit.
The restaurants are usually filled by the early evening hours. Messa, a “chef’s restaurant” is one of the very best, with great ambiance and creative menu offerings, like purple calamari with lemon cream, relish and foie gras. Port & Sons serves dozens of artisanal beers from Belgium, Germany, and Israel, and substantial meat and fish courses with interesting sides.
Social Club, Herbert Samuel, and Pacific Bistro all have a contemporary vibe and a good kitchen, while a widely popular Dr. Shakshuka has a funky old tavern feel with traditional sausage-and-egg dishes served on cast iron skillets, communal tables, antique murky mirrors on the walls, and dozens of rusty tea kettles suspended from a high-beam ceiling.
And then there’s Jerusalem – the living legend of a city with a perceptible air of eternity and narrow hilly streets paved with limestone bricks – polished over the centuries by so many feet that they look like made of ivory.
The Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as well as the mosques on the Temple Mount – the holy sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, attract thousands of tourists and contemporary pilgrims from all countries of the world on any given day.
King David’s mountaintop capital, the center of three monotheistic religions has it all – the iconic panoramic view from Mount Scopus, the walls of the Old City, Roman arches, Byzantine moats, Crusader walls and Ottoman ramparts surrounded by lively little restaurants, fruit stalls, and souvenir shops, constantly awashed in human ebb and flow.
An overnight at King David Hotel – the flagship of the Dan Hotels – where all the world leaders ever visiting Israel were (and are) staying is a treat all its own. Overlooking the Old City, the grand dame of Israeli hotels is decorated in 1930s style with abundance of light, colorful Art Deco architectural elements, a luxurious outdoor swimming pool, and a breakfast spread of freshly squeezed juices, seafood, cheeses, and pastries fit for a king.
Descending from Jerusalem through the arid Judean Mountains, one reaches the lowest point on earth, 1200 feet below sea level. Here lies the gem of Israel – the Dead Sea known for its healing properties. The high barometric pressure and filtered sunlight create unique no-sunburn, pollen-free atmosphere, beneficial to all.
With about eight million inhabitants (the size of a small town in China) Israel is the Jewish State with a quarter of its population being Christian and Muslim. Called “Silicon Valley East” Israel is the second largest creator of IT software and systems. There are more cell phones, laptops, and also museums and bookstores per capita in Israel that in any other country. Israel is known for its tremendous achievements in agriculture, medical field, and new technologies. The green movement began in Israel. More trees per acre have been planted here than in any other country. Solar power has been in use for 60 years. Water-saving drip irrigation was invented in Israel (as well as cherry tomatoes).
With 10 nonstop flights from North America daily it’s easy to travel to Israel to experience its rich history and culture, its amazing nature with six climate zones, its hospitable open to communication people, and to take advantage of its well-developed tourism infrastructure. More information at: www.goisrael.com.