SHAKING blog

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shana Tova!

Shana Tova is what the folk song was saying that they piped through the plane's speaker system as the El Al flight landed shabbat morning at BenGurion, and the plane full of religious men coming back to the holy land for the high holidays twirled their curls back into place, put away the prayer book, and tossed the empty bottle of Israeli merlot they snatched from the drink cart as it came by with dinner.

And shana tova is what the juice man at the Shuk Ha Karmel market says as he hands me my current daily constitutional of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, and what the bread guy says as he hands me my bagel, and what everyone's been telling everyone here all weekend: happy new year! It's a holiday, and the country is on vacation. Which is why my Israeli friend Dana took me straight from the airport to the beach. Practically--first we stopped by her spacious, spare, totally zen apartment in Neve Tzedek, a Mediterranean village in the city, with winding streets and cascading bougainvillea.

Eighty degrees, brilliant sunshine and bikinis--and it was September 30th. Dana's beautiful people friends met us at the beach: they are gorgeous, speak perfect English or French because they all studied in New York or Paris, and they all live in spacious apartments by the beach. Under the parasols, we had a lunch of grilled eggplant and goat's milk cheese, and everyone played backgammon and passed around a joint. I was digging Fridays in Tel Aviv.

The next day, Dana and her boyfriend, Aluf, took me to Jerusalem. Aluf is the diplomatic and national affairs correspondent for Haaretz, and to say that Aluf knows everything about history, politics and national gossip is an understatement. He was an amazing guide to what is the most surreal melting pot of religious real estate I have ever experienced in my life. Such a miniscule amount of land, such unbelievable conflict. Jerusalem was mighty and confusing and beautiful, but even more surreal and confusing is the mixture of moonscape and forest that covers the rocky hills surrounding Jerusalem, and the Palestinian towns and Jewish settlements that dot the hilltops all around the green line. We stopped by a remote place called Sataf, a goat farm in the terraced hillside between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and made a lunch of half a dozen goat cheeses, from creamy wedges made-that-day to salty shards aged 8 months, along with honey-marinated olives and farm-made sun-dried tomatoes.

Oh--and then there are Tel Aviv's open-air clubs with teak patios and outdoor bars, and the cafes that come at least three to a block...but more about the iced cappuccino and the Jaffa hummus joint later...

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