My thirteen-day Birthright was finally over, but the adventure through the Middle East had only just begun. As most of the trip’s 26 participants boarded their flight back to New York, Mike, Sammy, Robbie, and myself proceeded to the El-Al Airlines ticket counter and changed our return tickets home. One more month ought to be enough to get us started.
It was then a quick train ride back into Tel Aviv, along with Idan – one of the soldiers who came to the airport to see the others off – and Sara – who intended to join up with her family in Jerusalem the following day. Still exhausted from the nonstop activities, we zombied into town, plunked down our stuff at the first hostel we could find, and knocked out. For the first time in two weeks we were on our own: no pre-set itineraries and no luxury buses to take us from place to place.
The next morning, with a bit more rest and mental clarity, we pulled out our Lonely Planets and selected a slightly cheaper (and scummier) hostel down the street – 58 sheckels a night. Israel isn’t a cheap country no matter which way you cut it, and with today’s pathetically worthless US dollar, every penny counts.
Then we started exploring the city. I loved it immediately.
I don’t know exactly what it is, but something about the vibe here in Tel Aviv just really clicks with me. Our hostel, located two blocks from the beach and five blocks from Allenby St – the main nightlife center of the city – could not be more perfectly located. The weather has been clear and sunny every day we’ve been here, and the streets are almost always bustling with young people – having coffee at street cafes, going for a jog to the beach, or walking with a steaming slice of pizza. Everyone – and I mean everyone – speaks nearly perfect English so getting around is a cinch. And they’re all so friendly! Stop to ask someone for directions and before you know it you’re sitting at a restaurant having a conversation about family or life or (in my case) travel. Normally when trying to find my way around a foreign country I expect to get attitude from at least a handful of locals, but here I honestly can’t think of any.
Oh yeah, and the women are amazing. Every single guy who’s checked into my room at the hostel so far has mentioned it. On Saturday the beach feels like a model convention – well over half the women there are really, genuinely gorgeous. It felt like Morro de Sao Paolo all over again – perhaps the only other place in the world that’s felt like that (except maybe the 109 building in Shibuya).
After a quick Shawarma dinner (of which I’ve now probably had fifty) we met up with DJ NoClue and headed to the Allenby bars for a Thursday night out. Interestingly enough, most of the busier spots had a minimum age of 25 – and since half of our group was under 25, the night started off a bit slow. But as the others started trickling home I kept on going, and by the time morning rolled around I had little to complain about.