Half an Englishman in Tel Aviv, Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1: Welcome to the Jungle

The late, great (I wish he was my mate) Stanley Kubrick once remarked that making a movie was ‘like trying to write War and Peace in a bumper car in an amusement park…’

Clearly Mr Kubrick has never tried renting an apartment in Tel Aviv.  Had he done so, he’d have soon realised that it’s like trying to write War and Peace in a bumper car while someone repeatedly grabs the book from your hand, slaps you about the face with it and then expects you to thank him.

And don’t get me started on what it might be like trying to park that very same bumper car on a Tel Aviv side street.  Even the darkest nightmares have left me less frightened.

A little about myself.  I made Aliyah at the end of 2013, arriving all fresh eyed and full of hope, a hostel on Bugrashov my first port of call…before I go on, I suppose it’s only fair to admit that I’m half Israeli and speak Hebrew fairly fluently; while you might think this would give me an upper hand in finding an apartment, even full-on Israelis (and man are they full-on) find the experience a horrible struggle, so what hope did I have?

The first issue is how to find the apartments in the first place.  Sure you could go to one of the dime-a-dozen estate agents that litter the high streets, but you’ll only have to end up paying them a month’s rent for the privilege of showing you some mould-infested hellhole that isn’t fit for a dog – actually, mentioning man’s best friend has almost triggered another tirade, but I’ll save that for another entry.

Honestly, some of the buildings in Tel Aviv are so run down, you’d think they were built before the pyramids.  Over here, a place that’s been renovated is like the proverbial goldmine, and if you’ve got a balcony, USE IT: such luxuries are far from commonplace, and if you’ve got the opportunity to stay outdoors rather than be stuck inside with the mould, it’d be criminal not to exploit it (not to mention advantageous to your health).

Look.  There ARE some nice apartments.  And one must always remember that renting a place in Tel Aviv is the geographical equivalent of securing a spot in Covent Garden, Times Square or the Champs-Élysées – you’re in a plum, central location in one of the world’s great cities.  Yes, it’s very expensive here, but you are usually a stones throw from the beach, not to mention a bevy of bars or local eateries.

But boy are the apartments small.

Perhaps I’m coming across as a little spoiled.  I don’t mean to.  It’s how I was raised.  It’s just that in a city so vibrant and incessant, the notion of having a personal alcove that one can retreat to is tremendously appealing, if not a necessity; alas, the typical apartment is so miniature that if you’re over 5 foot 5, your legs are forced to protrude from the windows.  Indeed, every time I was introduced to a potential new home, I couldn’t help but think of a line from the film Zoolander:

“What is this?  A centre for ants?!”

There are various outlets for finding an apartment in Tel Aviv, the main ones being Facebook and two or three specialist websites – the dream is to rent directly from the current tenant, thus meaning there are no brokerage fees…the reality is that going through an estate agent – especially when you’re new to the area – ends up being the best route.

There is such a high demand, such a high turnover, that if a decent place becomes available, you have to jump on it.  It’s a dog eat dog world, and the dogs are famished.  The problem is that it takes some time to realise how the market works, and what kind of standards you should expect; the place you saw a few days ago, the one with the cracks in the ceiling and the dog urine on the bathroom floor (true story) might actually be your best bet.  As with most matters in life, it’s all a gamble.

So after trudging through the streets and seeing place after place, you begin to accept you’re not in Kansas anymore, and eventually, you take a chance…

Until we meet again, shalom and salutations.



Stanley Kubrick was an American filmmaker who lived a hermit-like existence in St Albans, England.  His list of films include A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut.

Bugrashov is a street in Tel Aviv.

Zoolander is a film by Ben Stiller, and tells of the exploits of a dim-witted male model.  If you like your films highbrow and classy then perhaps it’s not for you, but for anyone else, it’s a hoot.


      Sal (aka Mark) Sayles is a writer/filmmaker based in Tel Aviv, Israel.


 Put up with me on Twitter (@SalSayles)

 Watch my films on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/marksayles)

If you’re a film producer – preferably one with loads of money and who likes the film Blue Velvet – please (PLEASE) contact me; I’d like you to produce one of my screenplays.  By the by, I also have to direct the film itself.  Cheers.

Likewise, if you’re a publisher, please (PLEASE) contact me and immediately publish my novel – it’s longer than The Lord of the Rings trilogy and possibly not as good.

  Salism # 1037 – “With regards to one’s personal insecurities, my motto is change the things you can, accept the things you can’t.”




About the Author
Originally from London, England, Sal spent many years working as a freelance writer/filmmaker before taking the plunge at the end of 2013 and making Aliyah - this blog tells of his attempts to acclimatise to his new surroundings, alongside offering frontline reports of his random thoughts and adventures.