PUTTING IT IN MY FACE.

The very best friends are the ones who won’t stop until you come to hang out with them in Tel Aviv and then when you’re finally there, a car ride, train ride, and bus ride later, present you with the very best stuffing-my-face-now-nom-nom-nom

Red Velvet. For months, I’ve been hearing about it and salivating over the pics on their Facebook page. And they’re total cuties, updating it often with new flavors, new goods, and new deals.

The kind of lil bakery you see in movies. But in… Israel!

Americans and anglos of all denominations, you won’t be disappoint.

They are that good. Like, go to there. Go to Tel Aviv. Ibn Givrol 9. Right. Now.

(Sweet new year!)


Life lessons in Tel Aviv.

I was in Tel Aviv today for the Bird Brain Unconference. The event was great, thanks for asking, but then three things happened that left me feeling like I learned about more than just Vardi awesomeness and actual birds.

1. Cabbie culture.

I don’t take cabs often because I hate the experience of feeling waited on and for me the ultimate being waited on is sitting in a cab as someone drives you somewhere. Maybe it’s exacerbated in Jerusalem; maybe it’s not like that everywhere.

But I had a pretty good experience in Tel Aviv today. Dude stops by the road to let me in and his daughter or niece or granddaughter, I don’t know, is in the front seat. He tells me he’ll just drop her off nearby and then we’ll go. And he was really sweet with her, all ‘boobah’ and ‘metukah.’ It just made me happy. He was also just an honest cutie.

I’m thinking based on past experiences, Tel Aviv cabbies rock the socks off of Jerusalem cabbies.

2. The foxes of the hills.

Said cabbie guessed I am a Yerushalmit. He also thought I was in high school, so 1 out of two isn’t bad.

It made me realize how Yerushalmit I actually look: I rarely have any product in my hair, never a fleck of makeup on a weekday, I wear sandals in any weather above 9° Celsius, and my jeans aren’t ass-hugging tight. So yeah, I get it.

Anyway, it came up that I live in Tzur Hadassah. He couldn’t understand where it was, so after a few other indicators, I threw in, ‘it’s in the hills around Jerusalem.’

So… It would be an understatement to say he flipped out.

“The hills??? You live in the hills? How can you live there? With all the FOXES? You live with all the FOXES right around you? The FOXES are everywhere in the hills! How can you do that??”

“I… I live in a house… With walls…”

“But the HILLS! The FOXES! How? FOXES!”

“I live in an apartment building… It’s nice… Trees, the view… It’s beautiful…”

“But the FOXES!”

Seriously, that is how the conversation went. Every time he said שועלים (foxes) he emphasized it like it was the Devil.

I stand by living in the hills, though. It’s lovely out here.

3. Coming off secular.

This was a fun little exercise in self-identity. Not once, not twice, but thrice did I have conversations with folks today where they assumed I was secular and bashed religious people. Fascinating experience!

Of course, I can’t blame them for assuming I was a safe listener. I was in Tel Aviv wearing jeans and a capped-sleeve shirt, hair uncovered and, well, I was in Tel Aviv.

One of the people was my beloved cabbie, who gasped when I told him I was taking the train to Beit Shemesh (to get to the HILLS with the FOXES) and told me: “How can you do that? Don’t you know, it is filled with religious people? Ichs, Beit Shemesh, it’s disgusting! And the train will be filled with religious people! Take the bus, it’s quicker at least…”

There is so much work to be done in this country. Maybe starting with the foxes.

My own Israeli Australia.

Just left the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv. If you happen to be an Australian married to an American and you have children together, then I don’t have to tell you how much more of a pleasant experience it is to acquire Aussie citizenship and passport for your tri-citizen child.

The embassy is located at the Discount building in central Tel Aviv, a building which actually made me a little homesick for New York City (mainly due to the complicated elevator system).

When you step through the glass door of the embassy, the security is… a guy. With a metal detector. The check is as laid back as the atmosphere of the embassy itself. The corridors and stairwell are peppered with Australian photographs and imagery, mostly places I recognize and animals I just want to cuddle.

The view from the tower windows is a bird’s eye of Tel Aviv and the beginnings of the Mediterranean. My Aussie half said it reminded him of Melbourne and the bay.

At the reception window, a guy best described as a ‘good solid bloke’ was hanging around with some paperwork. He must have taken this embassy job because of the location; he was the perfect fit as an Australian relocated to Tel Aviv: light cotton shirt, beaded necklace, shoulder-length blonde-highlighted curls, and the accent we all associate with the late Steve Irwin.

My husband took care of business and I wandered and wondered if either of us could get a job working in this paradise. Imagine hanging out in a little piece of Australia every day, just 40 minutes from home?

As we wrapped up, the Aussie passport clerk told us how much my husband’s preparedness was appreciated; you see, the application was not only complete, but he even brought back-up copies. He shared with us how most people don’t fill in all details, bring documents with mistaken information, or as one applicant did – take the photo details too literally (it says to submit the photo face down; the man tucked in his chin and pointed his eyes to the floor).

“Y’see,” the clerk said, “some people just don’t realise at first they get the birth documents with misspelled names… then they get he-yah and it boomerangs back at ‘em.”

I guess the best thing, aside from the whole thing taking about fifteen minutes, was sitting at the little table by the window with the view and reading a pamphlet about immigrating to Australia. “Retire the Australia way!” “Start your own business in Australia.” “Watch your kids grow up Australian.”

My little Australian paradise. And then… my paradise broken in half and shattered into a million pieces when a guy walked through my happy hallway dreams and yelled into his cell phone, “Yossi? Yossi! Shomea oti? YOSSI!!!”

At least I’m leaving Tel Aviv today with two Australians of my very own.

And now, a little bit about Gsus…

Since I’m already on the topic of religion and conversion, and since Israel is a ridiculous place even without all that, here is an image courtesy of Tel Aviv’s Ibn Givrol that you can feel free to nail into your head…

Gsus industries

Does the crown of thorns come in extra small?

Gsus Sindustries. Based in Amsterdam. Sold in Tel Aviv. Go figure.

Tel Aviv might be hi-tech, but Jerusalem is Online.

Last night I spent a lovely evening at a hi-tech geek party, otherwise known as MashBash. I love it when my hi-tech self and my Israel self combine into one crazy combustication of awesomeness.

There are so many reasons I love these gatherings:

  • They are parties with a premise, so the drinking is casual, the conversation is lively and everyone is just about on the same level of awesomegeek; there’s pretty much one wavelength.
  • It’s a chance to network for business but also to meet Israelis and other immigrants.
  • And usually, the drinks are free.

Of course, the center of hi-tech in Israel – or at least, hi-tech parties – is Tel Aviv. Jerusalem does have a fair effort (like my company, among others) and it’s blogosphere can stand on its own. Bloggers usually meet at each other at parties or events and it’s always fun to see the face behind the URL.

So last night I met the owner of Jerusalem Online, which is

“the first video news update from Israel in English sent directly to your e-mail on a daily basis. This short, to-the-point, balanced update is brought to you by Israel’s leading television news source, Channel 2 News.”

It’s a great way for Jerusalem bloggers to keep Israeli news on their sites and a convenient tool for people outside of Israel to get direct news in English. You can get the video code by pressing “Get this” under the video and embed straight into your blog.

Like so many others, I’ve fallen deeply in love with the Israeli hi-tech scene, whether Jerusalem or Tel Aviv style. Next time I’m at one of these events, I’ll raise a glass (of free alcohol) to hi-tech, to the Israeli brain and to the wealth of the new-age Middle Eastern oil machine.

City feature: Namal Tel Aviv

The area of the Tel Aviv port – נמל תל אביב – (right before Beach Mezizim) is one of those situations where ugly warehouses went for cheap rent, so trendy designers and cafes opened shop and now all the trendy wendys go out there a beautiful day to shop, eat, chat, ponder life, and whatever else a trendy wendy does. At least, that’s my theory, anyway.

One Friday we sort of walked into it by accident, but after strolling around we realized it would be the perfect place to take our ‘posher’ friends next time they come visit.

Warehouses can be beautiful.

Tel Aviv Port

Sip cappuccino with this view.

A shady view.

The streets are paved with gold tiles.

Aroma for kids

I’m not sure when it’s ok for kids to start drinking coffee, but the Aroma at the port has it’s own kids section with Aroma play house. Never to early to start working a cash register.

It’s flag season in Tel Aviv.

Spent the afternoon walking around Tel Aviv. It was the first time I noticed that the flags are out for flag season, or Yom Haatzmaut, which is going down next Wednesday evening-Thursday. It’s Israel’s 60th anniversary this time, so it’s actually more than just personal flags – storefronts, advertisements and highways are more decorated than usual.

Tel Aviv Ibn Gibrol Israeli flags

Ibn Gibrol Street in central Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv municipality flag

Tel Aviv municipality

Residential Israeli flags

Private residence

Steimatsky storefront for Israel

Steimatsky book store

Bank Hapoalim Israeli flag marketing

Bank Hapoalim

Bank Hapoalim Israeli Independence Day marketing

Bank Hapoalim

Elite bus for Israel 60th anniversary

Elite chocolate

Kikar Rabin for Yom Haatzmaut

Kikar Rabin preparations

Karaoke: The good, the bad, the Jerusalem.

Spread the word: I am in the market for good karaoke as opposed to Jerusalem karaoke.

A friend wanted – uncharacteristically – to get her sing on, so we all ventured out to Capricorn, which is apparently Jerusalem’s only karaoke bar.

Actually, it’s more like a portable karaoke machine + arse DJ + bitchy waitress + funny mistake on the drink menu (see if you can find it on this Zodiac Cocktails list):

Zodiac drink menu

Anyway, Capricorn is located at that odd corner at the end of Yaffo/Shlomtzion in the city center and my advice is to stay far away. Not only did the service and karaoke quality suck, but they wouldn’t start up the karaoke until we had been sitting there for over an hour (after midnight). Jeez, were they embarrassed by our voices or something?

I’d love to find a New York-Korean style karaoke place, where you have private rooms and your group gets to control all the songs and do whatever the hell they want.

I’m assuming at this point that my search has to start in Tel Aviv. Taking suggestions.