Arrive in Tel Aviv and the energy pulsates.
From the short flight from Eilat to Ben Gurion on a small plane packed with chattering passengers, to the shuttle from runway to terminal jammed with kids and backpacks and roller bags, we’re jostling for space and grabbing for straps to remain upright.
A mad dash inside, noise level rising, and outside, the heat and humidity nearly as suffocating as the closeness of the transport.
Ah, Tel Aviv, it lives up to its name, alive and throbbing.
If Jerusalem evokes sublime visions of heaven, Tel Aviv brings us right back down to earth. And what an earthly place it is, a once barely habitable Middle Eastern outpost remade into a thriving 21st century urban center. A jumble of buildings and overgrown greenery, construction everywhere, 1950s and 1960s buildings getting a face life and brand new soaring towers spiking the skyline leaving only slivers of blue sky peeking through.
A constant stream of traffic, cars, taxis, buses, motor bikes, the young and not so young on scooters careening from one lane to the next, bicycles, skateboards, strollers, runners, you name it. I walk down the street of our Tel Aviv neighborhood, dodging the bicycling dog walker with no less than four pooches on leash, the dad on wheels, with one child in a seat behind him, a second perched on the handlebars, both nibbling breakfast bars on the way to school.
At the bus stop, a group of yeshiva boys are rough housing as they wait for the bus, a tattooed young woman in flowing black skirt and ear buds plays with her phone, pausing only to greet a friend with a tight hug when he arrives.
Tel Aviv’s diversity is as energizing as the thrum of activity, an urgency to make the most of each day, to wring it of all it has to offer. It is a city that seems to never stop, but just keeps on keeping on. In a place that was founded as refuge for those fleeing oppression, persecution, or worse, pushed to make a new home in a new land, there is the incessant pull to remake it and make it their own.
Creativity abounds, art, music, dance, technological innovation and business entrepreneurship. There is a vibrancy that infuses life here, a vitality that comes from a deep appreciation of life, and its fragility, from a deep understanding of its preciousness, and of its precariousness.
Families are revered, one, two, three generations stroll the promenade along the sea in the evening, new little ones are especial cause for celebration, bar mitzvahs and weddings marked with undue joy. They gather each Shabbat and holiday, around tables in apartments or blankets on the beach. There is a palpable sense of gratitude for each other, even as they kibbitz and tease and argue, the conversation as fast paced as their lives. There is a compelling intensity that comes from a shared commitment to the ongoing project of nation building and crafting their own lives as part of the project.
And it radiates, even as we escape Tel Aviv’s clamor, driving an hour or so outside the city limits. North, south, east, west, the road opens up and the traffic abates, the landscape stretches out before us, scrubby expanses that give way to groves of dark green olive trees and tall pines, then fields of corn, flowers, pomegranates. Rocky outcrops, and in the distance, rolling hills, and the sky, pale blue and dotted with puffs of white. It conjures visions of priests and kings in the distance, of desert dwellers and hilltop settlers, of pioneers and builders, of a nation that was once only a dream, now made real with the work of their hands.
A refuge, a homeland, a home.
Pulsing with energy, the push and pull incessantly propelling the country ahead.
The realization of the promise of Zion, and the making of the miracle of the Jewish state.