The Tel Aviv Story

  

The Tel Aviv Story

We are staying in an apartment on our trip to Tel Aviv, on a street named after Yohanan HaSandler. Three questions pop up in my head – Who was he to receive such an honor?  Who really cares?  And why write about this?  After all, if you would like to know this for whatever reason, just ask Siri or Alexa, and voilà, you’ll get an answer.  As another Jew whose name is Yeshua (also known as Jesus), who lived about an hour car drive from the current borders of Tel Aviv, and who lived about two thousand years ago, suggested, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). Turns out, that the name Yohanan HaSandler belonged to an important figure in the Jewish world, who lived from 100 CE to 150 CE (close to the time when the Gospel of Matthew was written). He was one of the main students of Rabbi Akiva.

My next question was why to name the street after someone who lived in the area, which is now called Israel, so many years ago? To answer my own question, I decided to read about the history of Tel Aviv online. But before that, I needed to establish a connection between this new city and the ancient world.  In the Jewish Bible, it is written that a Jewish monarchy began in 10th century BCE. The first appearance of the name “Israel” in the secular historic record is in the Egyptian source circa 1200 BCE.  Over thousands of years, the Jewish people were expelled by different conquerors, only to stubbornly return to claim what they rightfully believed was their land. You can read about this fascinating “History of the Jews and Judaism in the Land of Israel” in Wikipedia.

During the 19thcentury, the area was under the control of Ottoman Syria, and after World War I – under the British Mandate. About 10,000 Jews living in the area were called Palestinian Jews, who resided primarily in Safed, Hebron and Jerusalem.  Things changed in the late nineteenth century. Inspired by the Zionist movement, the large-scale immigration of Jews to Palestine began in 1882 and continued in 1903, where a large numbers of Jews were escaping pogroms.  Their destination was the ancient port of Jaffa.  Since it was predominantly populated by Muslims and had limited space, in 1909 a group of about 60 Jewish families decided to create the first all-Jewish city in modern times.  In 1910, it was named Tel Aviv, which means hill of spring.  It was built on the sand dunes bordering the Mediterranean Sea and was known as “White City”.  I suspect that the name of the street after a Jewish teacher who lived 1900 years earlier is the proof that in spite of all historical separations, the real connection with the core of Jewish teaching was never broken.  Today, Tel Aviv, which merged with Jaffa in 1950, has a population of about four million; it is a vibrant city, considered to be the party capitalin the Middle East with 24-hours a day of culture.

P.S. During our trip to Tel Aviv we encountered many dog lovers, as you can see in these four images. If you are a dog lover, you do not have to travel far away, just buy 42 Encounters with Dog Lovers on Amazon and Encounters Publishing.

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Returning to Tel Aviv

  

Returning to Tel Aviv

We arrived after midnight at the apartment which we rented through Airbnb, in the old part of Tel Aviv.  We visited this part of what some call Telaviva Ktana, (which translates to “small Tel Aviv”) many, many years ago.  It is owned by a French family.  It has been completely remodeled and air-conditioned.  It has tall ceilings and beautiful modern furniture, and we are staying here with our daughter for a week.  Our first trip here was in January 1972, when we immigrated to Israel from Riga, Latvia.  Four days after our arrival, on the 13thof January, I turned 25.  Many years passed since, but I see the same old buildings of what was once called “The White City”.

Upon our first arrival to Israel, we were sent to an absorption center where we had to live in a small town called Pardes Hana, about 45 minutes by bus from Tel Aviv, for 5 months to learn Hebrew. My mom’s uncle Nathan, who moved to Israel in the early 1920s, was one of the pioneers who built the young country.  His job was to install electrical power lines.  The day after our arrival to Pardes Hana, someone’s relative, who came for a visit, gave us a ride to Kiriat Ono where Nathan and his wife Guta lived, which as we discovered later, was about half an hour drive from the Tel Aviv’s central Bus Station.  Uncle Nathan along with his wife Guta and their dog Amitz lived in a small house. They had many fruit trees, including oranges and avocados.  Their fence was covered with passion fruit.  I think on the same first visit, we took a bus to what was then considered the center of Tel Aviv – on fancy Dizengoff Street.  It had (and still has) boutiques, cafés and restaurants.  For us, who have never seen something like that in Riga, this was a completely new magical world.

Soon after our arrival to Israel, Elfa got a job as a textile designer (she studied art in Riga).  Her employer was a ten minute walk away from where we were staying. We walked those streets many times, and being here now, 46 years later, feels like a déjà vu. I can now see the street from the window of the apartment we are staying in.  I stand looking out the window, and see people who live here and go about their lives, I decided to share with you my first feelings and memories.  We are going to be in Israel for two weeks, during which I am sure, I will write more stories about our travel experience.

P.S. After we ventured out on the street, we saw that many old buildings, which were built almost one hundred years ago, are being repaired or replaced with modern (some that look out of place), glass covered high-rises. These four images show some of the encounters we had in Tel Aviv.

P.P.S.
Please join me on November 17th for a “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers“ book signing.

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Where Is Israel?

  

Where Is Israel?

When you read this, we will have been visiting Israel for ten days. However, I wrote this story a week before our departure. Our trip was prompted by a family reunion. When we went to the Israeli consulate in San Francisco to renew our passports, we realized that our last trip to Israel was over ten years ago. We lived in Israel from January 1972 until August 1980, when we moved to San Francisco. In the years when my parents and sister, who were living in Israel, were alive, we visited often. However after they passed on, we started to travel to different destinations. Our last trip to Israel was with an organized group called, “In the Dust of Our Ancestors”. We visited many old places, like the cave where Samson (who according to the Bible lived in 1118-1078 BC) was hiding.

The question in the title of this story can be interpreted as a place on the world map or in world affairs. When you look on the map showing Israel and its bordering countries, you can see how small it really is. Nevertheless, it plays a very important role as the only democratic country in the area, which keeps the balance in the volatile world. Surrounded by enemies, who would rather see it be destroyed and Israelies pushed into the sea, the only Jewish state in the world, with a population of over 8.5 million, opposite to 17 Arab countries with a population of about 330 million. It is definitely a miracle how this tiny country was able to not only survive; but also to prosper and become an economic and technological driving force in the world. And this is despite the local conflicts with the Palestinians who claim that the whole land of Israel belongs to the Arabs, with Jerusalem as their capital, and the Jews have no claims to it.

Jerusalem has a very rich history. It was settled in the 4th millennium BCE making it one of the oldest cities in the world. Online I read that it was attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice. On Wikipedia I read a fascinating history of Jerusalem during the Middle Ages. I also learned on Wikipedia that “On November 8th, 1995, the 104th Congress enacted The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 as public law. The Act recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and called for Jerusalem to remain an individual city. Despite passage, the law allowed President to invoke a six-month waiver of the application of the law. The waiver was repeatedly renewed by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. President Donald Trump finally signed a waiver. The United States Embassy officially relocated to Jerusalem on May 14th, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence.” In the next few weeks I will share with you more stories from our trip.

P.S. These four images from Jerusalem, which is considered holy by the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, were taken in 2007. You can see the representation of all three religions. I also included a photo of a dog with the Dome of the Rock or Al-Aqsa mosque in the background. This is to remind you that while I am travelling, you can buy 42 Encounters with Dog Lovers on Amazon or EncountersPublishing.com.

P.P.S. In light of what happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, I’d like to quote what President George Washington wrote to one of the first US synagogues – the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island – in 1790:

“May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants: while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths”

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