Once I arrived in Israel, I was quick to notice how expensive it was. A beer at a grocery store could cost upwards of $4 and short cab trips were significantly more expensive. Travelling on a frugal student budget my diet exclusively consisted of pita, hummus and mango juice. It was fantastic! There are some excellent articles written as to why it is so expensive but some suggest that it may be the risky geopolitical nature of the country, inefficient economic monopolies and oligarchies, an 18% value added tax or a combination of the former.
Tel Aviv is a really interesting place to be. Its night life is some of the best in the Middle East, the weather is warm and it seems as though everyday is beach weather. Though at first it may be mildly unnerving at to see teenagers in the military walking around with a rifle, the atmosphere is a safe one and the people with the weapons are generally friendly (though be sure never to surprise them!).
The one thing I thoroughly enjoyed about Tel Aviv was the ample supply of Bauhaus architecture. The Bauhaus movement was one that began in Germany in the early 1900's emphasizing simple yet functional design. Apple products are known to have been influenced by the Bauhaus movement. Once the Nazis came to power in Germany, many Jewish architects fled to the British Mandate of Palestine to start a new life. One may find around 4000 Bauhaus designed buildings in Tel Aviv and most of which can be found in the "White City" which has been designated a UNESCO heritage site. When travelling to Tel Aviv, the Bauhaus Centre is an excellent resource to learn about the movement.
Another really interesting thing about Israel is that the firm Better Place operated there. This company came up with the novel idea of setting up an infrastructure that replaces an electric car's battery at a station rather than individuals having to go through the tedious process of having to charge it themselves. Be sure to check out Shai Agassi's TED talk on the topic! Although the company went bankrupt, it is great to see new ideas on sustainability being introduced.
One of the more bizarre experiences in Tel Aviv was haggling at the Carmel Market. While attempting to haggle for peaches, I asked the vendor how much a half dozen cost. He tells me "for you, a student, 26 shekels, 24 shekels, 22 shekels, what do you want?" Doing a quick foreign exchange conversion in my head (huge shout out UOIT Finance), I realized I was paying about a dollar a peach. Feeling ripped off, but hoping to leave with my dignity intact I offered him 20 shekels for the peaches. He told me in the most passive aggressive tone I have ever heard "young man, put the peaches down on the table and never come back to my shop again!" I really need to step up my haggling!
Huge thank you and shout out to my Aussie brother from another mother Nick Singh for coming out to the Middle East and providing the photos! More in the coming weeks!