In southern Tel-Aviv, or Jaffa, the oldest part of Tel-Aviv, once the only part of Tel-Aviv before the northern sections were added, you hear many languages under the hot Mediterranean sun. You meander among dusty antiques and buy rolls with Bulgarian cheese and olives in “the best bakery in Israel,” you bump into people and compete for parking spaces, make reasonable offers and threaten to leave while shopkeepers keep on talking, keep on hawking.
This is not the old city of Jerusalem, with its Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Armenian Quarter, everyone living in their own corners. When Catholic monks in brown habits cross paths with Greek Orthodox monks in black habits or with Jewish Hasidim in wide-brimmed hats and long black coats in the cobbled, narrow streets that crisscross between the ancient walls, they look straight ahead as if no one’s there.
Not so Jaffa, or southern Tel-Aviv, which gives me a gritty sense of humanity: sometimes on top of the world, sometimes at the very bottom, different colors skin and voice intonations, different hair and clothes and food, competing for attention, for money, survival at all costs.
And then there are those who only want to be above it all. That’s what I thought of when I saw the ugly big buildings constructed just south of Jaffa and looking out to the sea (see below) above the port. Multi-millionaires live there, with enormous apartments high up in the air, looking west towards the setting sun, west towards the sea, high up over people’s heads. How nice to keep company with the birds and air currents, to feel more kinship with the clouds than with the messy humans below.