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Home » Middle East » JEAN SHEPHERD- Travel. Middle East, Tel Aviv (1)

JEAN SHEPHERD- Travel. Middle East, Tel Aviv (1)

tel aviv waterfront

Tel Aviv Waterfront

I’m walking along this waterfront street in the ancient city of Tel Aviv.  The time is now one A. M. and you can hear the ancient waves of the Mediterranean laving the beach below me.  I’ll tell you, coming back to the subway, coming back to Nedick’s after Tel Aviv is a rather sharp delineation of values.

There’s a high seawall—maybe chest-high, concrete and heavy stones.  As you look over the seawall it drops sharply down maybe thirty to forty feet, and there’s a short strip of sand and there’s dark, rolling waters of the ancient Mediterranean.  The sea of the Romans.  The sea of all the ancient tribes who moved over it.  In fact, in the days of Rome’s glory, this sea was called the center of the world.  You can smell it.  There’s a smell to the Mediterranean that isn’t quite the same as Jones Beach.  As that ancient sea rolls over those sunken urns of Grecian wine casks, it produces something just a little different from Coney Island.  Ahaaaa!

As you walk along,  you can hear the sound of Middle Eastern music.  You can’t tell what country it’s from, whether it’s Jordanian, whether it’s Syrian, whether it’s Lebanese, whether it’s Israeli.  What it is no one quite knows.  It just comes out of the air from a thousand windows, from a thousand darkened rooms, from ten thousand radios and record players, and it rises to the night, higher and higher.  Ahhhhh!  And all the while that ancient old friendly Mediterranean rolls on under that fantastic moon.  Tel Aviv—do you know what Tel Aviv means?  It means the city of spring.

Enough of that Middle Eastern music for now, before I go mad!  I have felt for a long time that the music of any given area of the globe tells more about that area of the globe than almost any other form of communication—the literature, the sculpture, the movies—because somehow there’s something very basic about music.  This really is the way the Middle East is, friend!

middle east music

It’s Thursday night in Tel Aviv and boy, the place is roaring!  The life gets almost to a frenzy about ten-thirty or twelve at night and there are thousands of people just wandering the streets.  It’s very hot.  People rise late in the morning in these tropical cities and they stay up late.  Everything is moved down just a little bit in time.  The stores close at one o’clock in the afternoon and that’s it.  Everything stops, and it begins again at four.  The whole afternoon—they just cut that hot part of the day right out.

The traffic stops, the sidewalk cafes empty, the trees just hang there, the sun is lying overhead.  And once in a while you see somebody walk by.  And, I’ll tell you this, you have to see the girls of Tel Aviv to believe it.  That’s all I can say.  To use a graphic analogy, these chicks generally start where Sophia Loren stops.  I couldn’t believe it!  I mean, the first five minutes in Tel Aviv I thought it was the heat that was getting me.  Or maybe it was a mirage.  They would come by in singles, they would come by in pairs, and then in threes, sometimes in squadron formation.  You could hear the finger cymbals, you could see the muscles rippling up and down!  Holy smokes!  There’s something that the tropics does to female figures.  It’s terrible.  Wow!  And I’m sitting in a sidewalk café.  It’s terrible.  I swallowed a whole cup of Turkish coffee when the first crowd went by me—cup and all!

It’s a full moon.  The moon in the vicinity of the equator, particularly in this region of the world—this moon stretches across the sky about four-hundred yards and it is a silver, angry, white, brilliant, almost too-bright moon.

moon full

It gets very difficult, I understand, to get any kind of privacy when the moon is really in business in certain areas of the country.  This is my third or fourth night in Tel Aviv and I’m just beginning to get the flavor of this.

Of course, when most people come to this part of the world, unfortunately, they head for the big, plush hotels, and you’ll find most Mediterranean areas, stretching all the way down from Beirut, places that are on the Med like Haifa, like Piraeus, the island of Crete, the Isle of Rhodes, stretching along the golden horn of the Mediterranean, there are these great hotels lying right on the sea, magnificent hotels.  The beaches—oh boy!  Most people go to these and too many people, I’m afraid, don’t go into the city itself, go walking into where the non-tourist world is, where it’s just happening, where people are just walking around and scratching.

Of course they do that in New York City too.  Most tourists immediately head for Radio City and then they go down to take a look at the Statue of Liberty and they go down to Chinatown.  But the whole, great, vast area of the city that’s just simmering there under the heat in the summer, just never gets seen.  I don’t know how many tourists have ever seen Fordham Road in New York, or Pelham Parkway in heat!  I think if I ever wanted to show a tourist from a foreign country what it’s really like in New York, I’d take him to a magnificent Alexander’s up on Fordham Road at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon when the pack is out in full cry.  That’s our native bazaar.

Take them through the housewares department, watch the screaming and the yelling.  The ladies summerware department.  Take a tourist from any country—a tourist from Nigeria, and take him to see all the ladies with their shopping bags `going and their girdles creaking and their daughters dragging behind and their kids behind them and yelling and hollering.  And try to explain.black-friday-crowd-rush

Black Friday, Anywhere U.S.A.

Of course he would not have to have it explained—he would understand that this is the bazaar.  And we all have our own bazaar.  You can spell it with an “a” or an “i.”  Depends on how you approach it.

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