Tel Aviv, Israel

Our last destination on our HMI trip (after Jerusalem, the Judaean Desert, and Northern Israel) was Tel Aviv. On our drive to Tel Aviv, Lior shared a song about Tel Aviv and it was stuck in our heads for the rest of the trip!

January 12, 2023

We arrived at our hotel just in time for beautiful views of the sunset! Then, before heading up to our rooms to unpack, we met two Israeli couples (Rotem & Yaron and Lior & Tom), both of whom would join our group during our time in Tel Aviv.

After a quick shower, we walked to dinner at Claro with Jess & Sam and, at the table next to us, were Kaitlin & Neil and Madeleine & Michael. In addition to the great company, the food, atmosphere, and service was amazing!

We loved our bartender, Ido, who gave us a complementary dish and a few shots of tequila!

After dinner, we experienced the night scene and bopped around to a few bars!

January 13, 2023

After a fun night out, we woke up to a beautiful and sunny morning!

After a quick bite at the hotel, we were lucky enough to hear from Tal Shalev, the Chief Political Correspondent for Walla! News, Israel’s largest news website. She was very authentic and shared a lot about what it is like to work in her industry in Israel.

We then drove to Florentin to visit the Battae Cultural Center, devoted to Ethiopian Jewish Heritage. We met Ashager Araro and listened to her story. She was born in Gondar, Ethiopia and made Aliyah during Operation Solomon in 1991.

Ashager’s story was powerful and her energy was uplifting. At the end of our time with her, she led us through some Ethiopian dancing!

We spent the next hour or so doing a street art tour throughout Florentin!

We saw some of Dede’s famous bandaid street art.

And we saw the 27 Club graffiti mural painted by John Kiss, with the assistance of Itai Froumin and Roman Kozhokin. The work depicts, from left to right, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and an unknown figure believed to depict Kiss.

After learning about the street art, we did a food tour in Levinsky Market.

And, of course, the food tour included some Arak!

During the food tour, we spun off from the group for a bit to ensure we got to the highly recommended Burekas Penso and Sabich Frishman!

After the food tour, we walked with Jess & Sam and Madeleine & Michael to Carmel Market (Shook HaCarmel). We were happy to get to and explore the market before it closed for Shabbat.

We spent the rest of the evening walking along the beach towards our hotel. The sunset was beautiful!

For our second Kabbalat Shabbat, we met on the beach. We used this time to intentionally acknowledge the beginning of Shabbat and to reflect on our time in Israel. Throughout the trip, some folks who aren’t Jewish and/or do not have a Hebrew name, voiced to Rabbi Green that they were interested in getting a Hebrew name. And so, during this Kabbalat Shabbat, some people stood in the center of the circle, provided context as to why they chose the Hebrew name they did, and then Rabbi Green led us in a few prayers to make each person’s name “official.” Some stories people told to provide context on their chosen Hebrew name were emotional (e.g. in memory of loved ones who had passed), emphasizing the vulnerability and closeness that developed among us throughout our trip together.

After Kabbalat Shabbat, we had Shabbat dinner at the hotel. The two of us were lucky enough to sit next to Rotem & Yaron and ask them questions about being born and raised in Israel. One of the biggest takeaways from our conversation with them is that there is no notion of “Reform” and “Conservative” Judaism in Israel. Instead, Jews consider themselves to be “Secular” or “Orthodox.” It was so interesting to hear them walk us through examples of how this plays out in their life with their children and with their friends.

Towards the end of our conversation with Rotem & Yaron, converting to Judaism came up. Cody looked in his calendar and realized that it was the exact 1 year anniversary since converting to Judaism (or better known / referred to as “becoming a Jew by choice”). He told Rabbi Green and before we knew it we were toasting to Cody!

We spent the rest of Shabbat evening hanging and talking about how sad we were that the trip was coming to an end!

January 14, 2023

On our final morning in Tel Aviv, we took a morning stroll along the beach before meeting up with the group to head to Old Jaffa.

We walked around the artsy part of the city and visited the Suspended Orange Tree.

Lior then led us to a viewpoint that overlooked the city.

While overlooking the city, Lior told us a bit about Ben Gurion who was the first Prime Minister of Israel and one of the key people to establish the state of Israel in 1948. Apart from being a great thinker, residents of the area said it was common to see him doing exercise or yoga at the beach. In 1957, photographer Paul Goldman portrayed the moment Ben Gurion did a handstand at the beach in Tel Aviv. And so, our friend Shao decided to do a headstand as well!

After learning a bit more about Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion, we walked to lunch with Kate and Jesse at Faruk BaShuk. After over-ordering (to ensure we tried everything, of course!), we spent the rest of the day exploring Jaffa and walking along the beach back to the hotel.

Along the walk back to the hotel, we saw the statue depicting the iconic image of Ben Gurion doing a headstand on Frishman Beach!

As we packed up to head back home, we hung on the balcony to watch one last sunset with Chelsea & Harrison.

It was bittersweet heading to the airport. We were exhausted and missed our puppy, Bo, but also we didn’t want to leave the people and the place that we fell in love with over the last 10 days.

This trip exceeded our expectations, especially when we truly realized that HMI has nor religious or political agenda. We cannot articulate how grateful we are to have had this experience, especially at this stage in life. We are excited to hang with our new friends when back in NYC, to keep learning and being understanding and open about Israeli politics, and to continue to talk with each other and shape how we want Judaism to show up in our lives.

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