“And the girl being interviewed said, - I don’t care if the rent is high, the apartments are run down and dirty and crime is rampant, I want to live in Tel Aviv” he recites with the obnoxious and HIPSTER-like intonation of the young lady in question. My Friend is anything but; he lives in the north of the city in what most would call a suburb, he recites his list of annoyances with Tel-avivites as we walk down the main street. He is a tall, strong, idealistic type who grew up in a small town. Black curly hair , ie jew-fro. He makes me think of what the young Clark Kent from the horrendous tv show “smallville” would be like if he was stripped of his powers and moved to suburban LA.
We continued our condescending canter down a tourist street until he led me up a side street into a different neighbourhood, and for what it may have seemed, a different world. We stopped in a little restaurant which seemed as though it had been carved out of a broom closet, as we sat down and the elderly woman who was both cook and waitress came out from behind the counter and asked us what we would like to eat, my friends face uncringed and a smile spread across his lips as if to say “but then there is this side of the city :) ”
I had gone out the night before (my only night in Tel Aviv) with a group of El Al (Israeli airline) gate agents I had met in Hong Kong. In the group was a girl I had flirted with the whole night back in Asia but in this part of the world she had a boyfriend so the conversation was redirected to politics, food, and getting through airport security the next day…
My vaccine to the voracious disease that is Israeli airport security was Neta; A plump, smiley, mother of the group sort of lady. She had been weary of me when we first met or maybe I was too distracted by the blonde hair and cleavage sitting opposite her at the tacky Hong Kong cocktail lounge to notice her much. It was only in our second encounter that I realized the kind of human gem that was hiding in plain sight.
Being, at times, an incorrigibly shallow person, especially when it comes to women, I tend to do this- mainly, miss out on opportunities to exchange with amazing people in favor of distractions of the curvacious kind.
Neta drove me to the airport the next day, which happened to be Saturday, hence a day when nothing, including public transportation, is up and running in Israel.
She was friends with the young lady who performed the initial security categorization, where you get a number from 1 to 6 based on a couple of questions(Arr yu Jewish? Do you hrave family hrere? Did you visit east Jerusalem?) and this decides whether you will be getting on your flight or spending the next 6 hours being interrogated by an aging Israeli customs officer.
I got a 2(low threat) on this exam but was later informed that, had I been alone, I would have been a 5. I would have gotten to know, to a very intimate degree, the previously stated customs officer.
We flew through security and I got to the gate with lots of time to spare. Neta and I talked for a bit, then I thanked her for everything and we hugged out a goodbye.
It was a heart-warmingly clichéd end to a trip that was anything but.