Cats and guns – Tel Aviv, Israel

It is a little strange always getting checked everywhere by security guards with detector wands (even at the Blockbuster and coffee shop) but other than that things seem pretty safe. I am getting used to opening my bag everywhere and having them nose around for anything suspicious.

There are young soldiers everywhere carting around huge guns (which are apparently not loaded) but things are relaxed for the most part. It is mandatory for everyone to serve in the military in Israel when they turn 18, girls and boys, for at least two years. Usually, when I have met Israelis travelling abroad, they have just finished their service and will travel for some time before beginning a job or studying.

We took a trip down south to Beersheba stopping at a roadside tent stand to eat some olives, labane (like a creamcheeselike spread over a pancakey pita), and sample some wine. It`s really hot here and I shutter to think what this drive would be like without the luxury of air conditioning.

I watched all the signs go by for Jerusalem and Gaza noticing they are all written in Arabic, Hebrew and English. They also have automatic toll takers which beep a little box (looks like a garage door opener) in your car electronically registering that you went on that highway. Apparently, Canadians financed this Cross-Israel Highway a few years ago, one of the largest privately financed infrastructure projects in the world. I thought there was something familiar about it…haha.

The next day Tammy and I took a trip to the beach where I could have stayed in the water all day. It was so warm altho the current was quite strong pulling us along at a quick pace. We envied this guy who was just walking around the not very busy beach taking signatures for some cause. What a cool job would that be? I didn`t understand anything that they were talking about and because I don`t have an Israeli ID card I couldn`t participate anyway, so I just laid back basking in the sun. We had falafels for lunch before home for a nap. All this hard work relaxing, you know.

I found it so strange that Friday and Saturday are like the weekend days and Sunday is treated like a Monday. Usually on Sundays everything is closed and people are not working but going to church or resting. But here it is called Shabbat and it is on Saturday so by Sunday everything is in full swing again.

One day, we went through Tel Aviv into Jaffa where we visited a market full of clothing and furniture. I bargained with a man for some wrap pants (trousers) which I commented reminded me of a big diaper. Efrat told me that is exactly what they are called which made me think twice about buying them but comfort won and I paid the 30 shekels ($9 Canadian) for my one size fits all “fat pants”.

Next we sampled a bunch of baked goods before heading up to watch the sunset over Tel Aviv. There are these tall towers all over which emit a bright green glowing light (look like lighthouses kind of) and I was told these are where the mosques are. At certain times everyday, a singing can be heard everywhere and it is signaling for Muslim people to come worship. I tried to capture it on the video (a cool feature of my new camera) but I don`t really know how well it turned out.

There are so many cats everywhere here but they are not healthy so I couldn`t pick them up as much as I wanted to. Tiny little kittens that could fit in the palm of my hand cowering under dumpsters with sores all around their ears and eyes were crying for their mothers, food, or relief from the heat, I don`t know. Made me sad tho.

We stopped in at a hostel to see if I could get some info on trips around Israel and things were pretty quiet. Not too many tourists here at the moment, I guess. I tried “smiling at strangers” (my test experiment in each country) everywhere and got some really warm and surprised smiles from the older people, some even stopping to chat. I wonder if I really look that different but I would get alot of curious looks and sometimes upon hearing my accent people would say “welcome” or say something kind in English with a heavy Hebrew or Arabic accent. I noticed that despite the deep lines etched in their weathered faces telling of the hardness of life, the elderly seem more generous (and genuine) with their smiles than the fresh dewy faces of youth.

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