Tel Aviv - Part 1...
In front of Independence Hall.
Along the Mediterranean..
June 4, 2006

I have found another city that I have now been sucked into. Tel Aviv.

I had to be dropped off a few blocks away from my cousin’s place as there was a demonstration going on and the street was
blocked off. No problem as it gave me a chance to check out the great cafes and restaurants that are lined up all along the
street. In just a few minutes I would be reunited with cousins that I hadn’t seen for roughly sixteen years. The combination
of coincidence and good luck played a huge role in this little Tel Aviv family reunion.

I had asked my sister to call my mom’s cousins in the Bay Area to find out their sons’ contact information in Israel. She had
called and left a message on their answering machine. About a week later she got an email from them. They weren’t able to
call her back because they were out of town. In Israel. They would be here almost the entire time I was in town. What are
the odds? Everything fell into place and I am now staying with them in their son’s (my cousin Danny) new place that he has
yet to move into. It’s on Ibn Gvirol right across from Rabin Square (where Rabin was shot and killed in 1995). Not only is it
a great location, I was able to satisfy my craving of an Ice Blended from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf just two blocks away. Life
is good.

We went to dinner last night and caught up a bit. I knew that Danny was just in Germany for work. What I didn’t realize
was what
kind of work he was there for. I came to find out that he has been working for Lonely Planet for the past 15
years. I know this sounds more glamorous than it might be
but still. How awesome is that??? He did the France guide and
was now working on Germany. Soon he is off to Tunisia. Being a loyal Lonely Planet guidebook user, I felt like I was in the
presence of a celebrity-of-sorts. Some people have bloodlines that link them to royalty; I have bloodlines that link me to a
Lonely Planet author. I feel like I am now officially cool.

Danny had visions of showing me Tel Aviv via bike. I then had to break it to him and his parents that their cousin and her
husband (i.e. my parents) never taught their children learn how to ride anything with less wheels than a tricycle. When
asked how this was possible, I stated 'the hill' that we lived on that was always given as the excuse we were given years
later when we would ask our mom about this. She failed to understand much this 'hill' would disadvantage us later in life.

This morning it was time to explore this city (by foot - what else???). Bernie and Yetta (my mom’s cousins) spent the
morning figuring out a route that we would take that would allow me to see many things that Tel Aviv offers. It’s clear that
we’re relatives because when my sister would come out to San Francisco, I would make customized ‘walking tours’ for her
to do since I was working during the day.

Our day started at Independence Hall. On May 14, 1948, this is where Israel was granted its independence and the
Declaration of Independence was signed. I am blown away at the development of Tel Aviv after learning that just one
hundred years ago there was nothing but sand dunes here.  From here, we moved onto Sheinkin Street for lunch. This
street is great for eating outside and people watching. If I were to compare it to anything, it would definitely be Union
Street in San Francisco. I could have sat there for hours…but not when there’s so much more to see. We headed on down to
Carmel Market. This place can drive a person a bit crazy through the first few blocks of stalls (most clothes and random
knick-knacks). If you keep your patience, you will eventually end up at the produce and pastries. This makes it all
worthwhile--especially if you saw and tasted the cherries I purchased.

One of the greatest things about Tel Aviv is that is lies on the Mediterranean Sea. At this point I parted ways with my
cousins and spent the next hour walking in the water along the beach. Unlike the other places I’ve been where I’ve had to
cover up when wearing a tank top and capris, in Tel Aviv that same outfit is ten times more clothing than anybody else is
wearing. Soon I was ‘home’ (I now consider any place that I stay at longer than two days as my home) and I was being
given another little walking tour.

This walking tour would take me to the river and then along the river to where it flows into the sea. This little intersection
clearly offers more than just that—there is a newly developed part of Tel Aviv going on over here. Fun, hip restaurants and
cafes are being opened in spaces that were once warehouses along the piers. One place in particular that caught my eye was
Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar. This place oozes chocolate—everything from shi-shi single pieces to a wide range of different
flavored hot chocolates to chocolate sauces being made in machines on the premises to delicious-sounding desserts. I had to
pry myself out as I was going to be heading to dinner just an hour or so later.

One sidenote to make about Tel Aviv... In pictures, it doesn't necessarily look all that great. What
is great is the feeling of
the city. There is a cafe culture here--it's next to impossible to find a block where there isn't a place for people to sit outside
and enjoy themselves. I guess it's safe to say that the beautiful thing here is the lifestyle and this can only be captured by
experiencing it.

My next and last stop was my other cousin Micah’s house. He and his wife have three children and a fourth is on the way.
We got pizza and just hung out and I have to say that these kids are absolutely adorable. They range in age from 1 ½ to 4
½ years old and there was barely a second that went by that they weren’t laughing and smiling. And then I had to literally
have it sink in that these children are
my relatives. To most people, this isn’t that big of a deal. But for me, it is. For the
past year and a half, I have seen myself as having one relative—my sister. But tonight showed me that is not that case. It
was a crazy feeling watching the kids play and thinking that these are
my cousins. My great-grandparents would be their
great, great-grandparents. In a matter of just a few days my ‘family’ has now increased almost eight-fold. Pretty cool thing
to have gained on my trip…
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