On my second full day in Israel, I woke up and stood at the window and allowed the sun to pour down on me. I was simply happy. I dressed in colorful, comfortable clothing and headed down for breakfast. The spread was amazing. Following Kosher practices, dairy was omitted but was replaced with a vast array of decadent treats, potatoes, fruit, fresh breads, strong coffee, teas, and fresh-pressed juices.
Immediately following breakfast, we met with a young and charismatic business leader. He kept us engaged by recounting the past, present and economic future of Israel. I was surprised to learn that apartment buildings in Tel Aviv, are more expensive than apartments in the up and coming areas of Brooklyn and Harlem. At one point during his speech he said “Look out this window at the apartment across the street. It does not come with central A/C or a refrigerator and mold is also an issue. Yet, it’s one of the most expensive buildings in Tel Aviv.” Most of us sighed with astonishment. High rental prices drive most couples to reside outside of the city.
Our next stop was Independence Hall, which is historically known as the heartbeat of the country. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence at this location. Israelis are very proud of their culture and stories of oppression and triumph are common. While watching a brief documentary, an older woman leaned over and asked me if I was there on a Birthright trip because many people at the hall were. The Israeli government grants Jewish people a 10-day trip to Israel. While this is still highly political and fragmented because the same rules do not seem to apply to black Jews, it is a great opportunity for Jewish people to explore the country and the origin of their spiritual beliefs.
Visiting the Old City of Jaffa was the highlight of my day. There was so much character. I loved seeing ancient churches, mosques, and synagogues and the people who frequent them. I saw a man dressed in long, white fabric standing of the roof a mosque reminding people that it was time for prayer.
Then I did something I had never done before…I biked through the city. I barely listened when the bike guide rattled off the rules and instructions for handling the bike. I was just ready to try it. I put on a helmet and adjusted the seat to fit my height. It was a bit scary at first because the traffic was heavy and navigating a bike isn’t the easiest thing to do while watching out for cars, pedestrians and other bikers. The 5 mile bike ride was so fun. I toppled over one time when I swerved to avoid a car and I nearly ran over a child that ran into the bike path.
Our bikes had a variety of speed settings and I eventually got the hang of it. Trailing along the shore of Tel Aviv’s board walk offered a magnificent view. People were out with their children and couples held hands as they strolled. The water was pretty and the breeze kept us cool. My butt hurt so badly after we were finished though. I went out for dinner late that night and sparked up a conversation with some men who were there playing in a basketball league. I refused to answer questions regarding my age and asked them why that was important. I inquired about the night life and their experiences in Israel. I had fun watching the perplexed expression of our waiter who could barely understand anything my Nigerian friend said. My Indian friend laughed at me because I moved swiftly in my chair when I saw a fat cat roaming under our table. I despise cats especially when I am eating so I refused to eat but my friends enjoyed a simple meal.