Knowing we would be returning to this modern, upbeat city for our flight out, we didn't spend long in Tel Aviv. Anyway, we were eager to catch up with all our good friends and only had only two weeks in the Holy Land.
To update those not in the know, the volunteer project we were involved with in Cambodia was locally managed by Israelis. Most of the non-Khmer workers and volunteers were from Israel and we inevitably got to know them pretty well. So, to uphold a promise, and venture into an often overlooked part of the world, we decided to visit our friends in Israel.
After some routine interrogation at the airport (particular regarding our United Arab Emirates stamp from January), we were allowed through. As soon as we spotted our friend Almog's huge welcoming smile through the crowds we instantly felt at home. They took us to their house in Modi'in and we were soon reintroduced to all the unique Mediterranean flavours that they had carried into Cambodia over a year ago. Dudi, Almog and their family dished up a mouth-watering feast of leftovers from the previous day's Independence Day celebrations.
Being a Saturday, and the Jewish Sabbath, most things were closed so we decided to do what most Israelis do in Tel Aviv on their weekend and go to the beach! Crazily, public transport also stops for the Sabbath so Dudi decided to drive us in. Due to some uncalculated, slightly impatient parking, we found out that the tow-trucks still work on the Sabbath.. :P
The beach was packed with happy sun-seekers and we joined them for some sunbathing, sand-sculpting and swimming. For Jess in particular, it was a relief to be able to feel the sun on her skin again after months of covering up in conservative Asia. We finished the day off with some hummus at 'the best hummus place in Tel Aviv (everyone in Israel has their favourite hummus place..). It wasn't to be our last hummus, and the stuff of the same name back home will never be the same!
Let us divulge: We were at first a little confused about this Israeli obsession with hummus. After all, its just a chickpea spread. The Israeli (or really Arabic) concept is a lot more involved and it's the way they do it that is so irresistible. The main part of the dish is a bowl of mashed chickpeas, spiced to perfection and topped with lentils, mushrooms or meat. For dipping you have pita bread, pickles, falafel and chopped veggies. They usually end with a shot of peppery Arabic coffee, after which your mouth is dancing with the perfect combination of flavours and you feel you'll be satisfied for days!
After only one day together in the sun, Almog had to return south to Be'er Sheva for university and, like most people, the rest of the family had school or work. We happily entertained ourselves by catching a bus into Jaffa and walking around this touristy but trendy old city, which has been almost swallowed by Tel Aviv. The old buildings and rugged coastline were beautiful! Being a predominantly Arabic district, it was full of good sales pitches, markets and, you guessed it, hummus! We happily feasted, shopped and roamed the day away.
So, we've left Dudi with half our backpacks to babysit while we travel around the country. Our next stop is to see Roni and her partner, Hezi, in the hills of Gallilee. We're looking forward to exploring more of Tel Aviv's modern, quirky corners when we return.