A couple weeks ago, I took a day trip to Tel Aviv with Pardes. The day focused on understanding the nuances and challenges of creating a secular Jewish city. Tel Aviv was instrumental in the formation of secular Jewish identity – and secular Jewish national identity.
The day started with a visit to the Shalom Meir Tower – Israel’s first skyscraper – where we viewed a replica of Tel Aviv as well as looked at a small photo exhibit documenting Tel Aviv’s early years. When this tower was build in 1965, it was the tallest building in the Middle East!
After the tower, we went to Trumpledor Cemetary and visited the graves of some of Israel’s most important historical figures.
Some of the more significant figures included Hayim Nahman Bialik, a pioneer of Hebrew poetry who is now recognized as Israel’s national poet…
…and Ahad Ha’am – arguably the most influential cultural Zionist. Even if you don’t know anything about Ahad Ha’am or cultural Zionism, you may know his most famous quote, “more than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people.” (particularly interesting and thought-provoking when you consider that Ha’am was not, in fact, a Shabbat observant Jew himself)
After the cemetery we had some free time at Shuk haCarmel (Carmel Market) to walk around and get lunch.
Noah and I grabbed lunch in the nearby Yemenite Quarter at a hummus eatery. The only thing on the menu: hummus with pita. There was a choice if you wanted hard-boiled egg on top (we said yes)! The Yemenite Quarter is full of authentic and filling hummus shops – some hole-in-the-wall style and others more of an established restaurant.
After lunch, the group reconvened to head to Habima Theater for a private tour of the building (previous visit to Habima Square documented here). On the tour, we talked about the theater’s pre-statehood beginnings, pre-statehood. The theater officially started in Poland, but began touring in Israel on funds from the Soviet Union. Habima was the world’s first Hebrew-language theater, and many of their first tours in Israel consisted of performing on make-shift stages at kibbutzim. Now, the theater puts on all sorts of plays (still all in Hebrew). Here is the theater set up for a performance later in the day:
While at the theater, we also got some backstage looks at the costume department and storage room:
The tour made me really want to see a play at Habima…if only I could understand Hebrew well enough to know what was going on!!
The final stop of the trip was a much anticipated visit to Google Israel Headquarters:
This place was seriously swanky.
Naturally, everyone was wowed by the unlimited free drinks, espresso, and snacks in the lobby. After snack/drink time was over, we met with a couple of Google employees where they talked to us about the company, what it’s like working for Google in Israel, some of Google’s latest initiatives, and answered our questions. I asked if the emphasis on high tech in Israel leads to a more equal representation of women to men in tech fields than in the US. The response: yes, definitely.
Goodbye Google, maybe we’ll meet again…