It’s Saturday, Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and I’m recovering from my jet lag and lack of sleep with an iced coffee and apple streusel. This is my “second breakfast” after a colorful feast in my friend, “I’s”, house of hummus, cucumber and tomato salad, beets, mayonnaise and vegetable salad, and a dough called, jachnun, a traditional Yemenite Jewish food for Shabbat morning. “I” has taken me to a spot in Tel Aviv where he often goes with his friends for iced coffees. After attempting to get into a few places that were already packed with cafe-goers, we settle in a small restaurant with a terrace facing the new high-rise luxury housing units that will soon add more color to Tel Aviv’s already bustling skyline.
As we sit in the café, catching up on each other’s lives and savoring every last bite of the tart and crunchy apple streusel we ordered, I am amazed by how peaceful and “normal” everything feels. For a region of the world that is painted as such a dangerous place, I am surprised by the calmness of the people around me.
Entire families are seated on the terrace, enjoying each other’s company while sipping iced drinks to combat the excruciatingly hot 34ºC (93ºF) weather. Young children are riding around on tricycles and frolicking in the grass as their parents occasionally glance at them, taking a break from chatting with their friends. Teenagers are sitting on blankets, eating food from the picnic baskets they brought along to enjoy this day of rest with their friends. They are wearing short shorts, tank tops and flip flops and letting the rays of the scorching Middle East sun beat down on their already sun-kissed skin.
I feel as if I am in el Retiro in Madrid or Central Park in NYC on a sunny Sunday morning. I could be anywhere in the world.
But I am in Israel. In Tel Aviv. In the Holy Land.