This past April I was in desperate need of a new experience. I knew I wanted to travel somewhere, but I also knew it needed to be somewhere I had never been before. I set out some feelers and emailed a couple friends. A former roommate of mine, Bianca, had married a man from Israel and moved to Tel Aviv a few years ago. Before speaking with her, I had never really considered Tel Aviv, or much of the Middle East, as a hot spot on my bucket list to travel. There were still so many other places I wanted to visit first, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity when she suggested I come for a few weeks and stay with her. Within three weeks of talking, I booked my first trip over there, and needless to say it was the start of my next great adventure.
I landed in Tel Aviv the night before their 70th Independence Day. The city was covered in flags and the feeling of pride and nationalism was everywhere I turned. It was surprising to see such an old piece of land celebrate such a young anniversary.
Bianca and her husband Dima lived in Old Jaffa, which is one of the oldest ports in the world. I enjoyed hearing of Israel’s history through the eyes of a local and not from some tourist group. He spoke passionately of the mandatory three years that every young Israeli man must serve in the military (for women, it’s a year and half), and proudly described in great detail each jet that flew over our heads at the Independence Day parade.
What struck me most about Tel Aviv was its modernism. Despite the beautiful old architecture, I often forgot I was halfway across the world. The culture is so vibrant and young. Live music fills the streets, and restaurants have gorgeous colourful carpets seeping out of their front doors. The Mediterranean Sea breeze makes everyone seem energetic and youthful. Besides not knowing a word of Arabic or Hebrew, I didn’t feel as out of place as a Caucasian woman in the Middle East might. And the people of Tel Aviv are rightfully proud of the persona they’ve created. It has become one of the ultimate spots out East to visit. So much so that in a month I will begin a year contact at their international news station. The place is bursting at the seams with foreigners like me who visited, fell in love with it, and made it a passion and a goal to move back.