Skopje, 18 November 2019 (MIA) – Seven days in Israel. Two in Jerusalem, five in Tel Aviv. Very little time for walking around. The focus of this visit: start-ups, innovations, the latest advances in technology.
Jam-packed agenda. Precise organizers. No compromises. All of us, on a tiny bus, 12 hours a day, from 8 am until 8 pm, from point A to point B. From one start-up to another. From the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology to the Institute for National Security Studies.
To really feel we’re in the Holy Land, we have to peek out through the windows.
Lucky for us, we have nothing planned for our last Saturday there. Our flight back to Istanbul isn’t until late in the evening. We’ll take full advantage of the situation.
Some of us choose to go to the beach for some sunbathing and swimming. Others decide to roam the streets and have a beer or two.
And then there are those of us who borrow bikes from the hotel to go on a cycling “expedition.”
Our first destination is the city center, its streets almost empty. It’s Shabbat, the day of rest.
Even better. Great day to ride around.
Tall buildings everywhere. Parks. Shops. Cafes. The smell of falafel.
We reach Rabin Square, a place where political rallies, parades, and other public events are held.
It used to be called King’s Square, but it was renamed in 1995 following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995.
Today, visitors can see the Holocaust Memorial, built by Igael Tumarkin. It’s shaped like a giant upside-down metal triangle made of poles.
From a bird’s eye view, the sculpture forms the Star of David. A little pool filled with lotus blossoms stands near the sculpture.
Further down, near City Hall, is the fountain, and a small bust of Yitzhak Rabin. There’s another memorial nearby, made of broken rocks to symbolize the political “earthquakes” of the time of Rabin’s assassination.
The next square, towards the Israeli Philharmonic, is called Habima Square.
Also known as the Orchestra Plaza, it’s home to many cultural centers such as the Habima Theater and the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art.
It’s a place to rest, have coffee, and let children play around for a while.
It displays a huge Ya’akov Agam sculpture, surrounded by horticultural arrangements and a pool.
The road takes us towards Rothschild Boulevard. Searching for Allenby Street, where the Great Synagogue is located, we ride down Innovation Path, an experience unlike any other.
Trees line both sides of the street. Young people sit on the grass. Smiling faces, mothers pushing baby strollers, and a whole bunch of electric scooters everywhere around you.
We’re too late. The Synagogue is closed. All the service-goers are sat in the nearby café.
We turn back and ride down Rothschild Boulevard again, turning right at the end.
We finally reach what I consider the most delightful part of town: the artistic, avant-garde, and idyllic Neve Tzedek, the most charming Tel Aviv neighborhood.
Small, narrow streets. Cobblestones. Houses with scribbles on the walls. Graffiti all around. Posh shops. Boutiques and craft-stores. Galleries, and the occasional busker.
Every corner grabs our attention. We find the Dance Academy, too.
We sit down in the park connecting Neve Tzedek to the famous Tel Aviv Promenade, to talk a little bit about what we’ve seen.
We inhale our coffees, unable to hold our excitement for what awaits us near the old train station.
It’s a story in and of itself, having been repurposed into an attraction for keen-eyed tourists.
As bikes aren’t allowed here, we walk around for a bit and then head towards the beautiful old city of Jaffa, or Yafo, as Israelis call it.
Jaffa is a part of Tel Aviv you can’t afford to miss. It’s a marriage between the traditional and the modern, the ancient and the present.
It’s believed to have been inhabited 7,500 years ago, and it is known for the Biblical tales about Solomon, Peter the Apostle, as well as the mythological tale of Andromeda and Perseus.
As we ride along the shore, we pass by other cyclists, beach-goers, joggers, and surfers.
Our happiness is endless. The farther we go, the prettier the sight becomes. Tel Aviv in the palms of our hands, like in some BBC documentary.
We don’t even mind the scorching sun. We’re set on ending our ride by going for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea, anyway.
We tie our bikes to the port rails. The “Old City of Jaffa” placard stretches before us.
Andromeda’s Rock, The Clock Tower, and St. Peter’s Church greet us, alongside stands displaying handmade crafts and fresh drinks.
And just when you think you’ve seen it all, bam!, a new sight appears. You see stairs again. They lead somewhere. You climb and reach a breathtaking Tel Aviv panorama.
French tourists say hello and ask you to take their picture. Then they return the favor.
You don’t know whether to choose to go towards the Wishing Bridge, where you make a wish while touching your zodiac sign while looking at the sea, or towards the amphitheater that leads to Jaffa, where New Year’s Eve parties have already begun.
(Israel celebrates New Year’s in late September.)
It’s 5:30 pm already, and our tour is ending. We have time for a couple of cannonballs in the Mediterranean Sea, just as planned. The water is warm. Greenish. The grains of sand are tiny, desert-like.
Refreshed, we stay long enough to say goodbye to the sun. Our last sunset on this trip. Another fond memory we’ll take away is the taste of Israeli instant coffee we sipped while staring into the land’s magical horizon.
Translated by Dragana Knežević
Edited by Magdalena Reed