January 1: Tel Aviv-Yafo

Waking up at 6am New Years Day was rough, but we had to leave the hotel for the trip to Tel Aviv-Yafo. Everyone was hoping we could sleep on the bus ride but it was a short one since it was just the next city over and obviously no traffic on first morning of 2017. Hurriedly leaving the hotel I left my Casio F-91W watch on the bed-side table, sleeply thinking it was the Hotel room clock. In retrospect, leaving an F-91W in hotel may have scared the hotel staff as that model is notorious for being used as bombs. Oops.

Fire in Tel Aviv

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We entered Yafo and saw Tel Aviv and Mediterranean sea from afar. We walked through the wishing bridge into the ancient city. I touched the Libra zodiac on first day of the year. Expectations were made. The port of Yafo was a nice sight – it is the place you go where you try to escape God. Classic.

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For about an hour I freely roamed the streets of the flea markets. It was quite the experience haggling. The first shop I entered had everything one would imagine in a bazaar. I was holding a metal plate Bible and the shop owner asked me – how much I want for it – I said “10 shekel” . He walked away and started eating lunch. He started showing me a bunch of swords and daggers and I said I don’t want. So he continued to show me more swords and daggers – like real Crusader swag. I was then looking through some necklaces and he said it is 200 shekel but asked me what I will pay for it. Once again I said “10 shekel” and he immediately slapped my wrist and told me to get out of his shop.

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As I browsed other shops I was able to haggle more proficiently as I remembered the value of a shekel compared to US dollar. Really I was thinking Falafel logic, how I can get a sandwich and soda for 30 shekel. I haggled with another old man for more Judaica, I think I bought a 180 shekel Wooden Mezuzah for 30 shekel because I thought he said 18, and I countered with 15. I also got a 60 shekel leather studded wrist band that matched my leather jacket by walking away from the shop as the owner shouting 40 my last offer! I picked up a pair of binoculars as well which was quite fun for viewing the city details.

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The group rounded back up at an old clock tower and we walked from the old city market to the newer Tele Viv. The walk reminded me of waling through streets of Berlin. The buildings weren’t as tall and the city so sparse, but the creative culture was alive on the walls and walking through the streets. Our destination was the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building – for a tour of Israel innovation. This was an interactive tour of technologies created by Israel in its short time of being a country. Afterward there was a talk about entrepreneurship. Although I was incredibly interested at hearing a tech talk – I honestly fell asleep – that new years crash, ya know. I recall waking up to a conversation about Shark Tank, laughed and dozed back off.

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By the time we left the Stock Exchange building it was almost sunset. Our group was picked up by the tour bus and we headed to our holy destination at last, Jerusalem. We visited an overlook of the city and made our prayers as we broke challah over wine. The city was made of beautiful limestone – every building using same Jerusalem stone facade.

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We headed to our new hotel for the remainder of the trip in Jerusalem. The window had a nice little view of some of the Jerusalem metropolis. After dinner the Hillel group had a conversation about Holocaust and our experiences with it regarding our families and friends directly effected by it. The stories I heard were moving, and I can tell many of us had stories that were not shared. Internally I thought about my family – how my Grandfather just barely escaped Nazi Germany, and how his family had lost everything except their lives, which they began a new in America.

Right before going to sleep I laughed to myself “Next year in Jerusalem” – the quote we say every year after Passover Sedar – and here I am on New Years day! Passing out at 8pm.