As my friend Kirsten reminded me the other day, each of the four traditionally holy cities of Israel have a property associated with them. Hebron is earth, Sfat is air, Tiberias is water and Jerusalem, of course, is fire.

This may originally be because of the Temple, but walking around today you can still feel it–sometimes like you’re about to burn up. This morning, feeling a little crispy around the edges–having spent the better part of the last two weeks running around Getting Stuff Done–I decided to take myself on a day trip to Tel Aviv, which is an hour away. I only have a few more days ’till ulpan (Hebrew intensive) starts, and it seemed like a grand idea to spend one of them in the Holy Land’s own Babylon. (“In Jerusalem they pray,” it’s said; “In Tel Aviv they dance, and in Haifa they work.”)

When I got out of the sherut (um, service taxi–supercheap) a couple of Hasidic guys came up to me and handed me a book. My first response was, “No thanks,” having a firmly entrenched suspicion of religious people’s free propaganda (cf Hare Krishna, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc). Then I remembered that these guys actually practiced the same religion that I did (oh, yeah) so I took the book. And with one glance, I became a very happy girl. The title was “Hitbodidut”. These guys were Breslovers! My lucky day.

R. Nachman of Breslov was a Hasidic rabbi in late 18th/early 19th c. and was a major spiritual thinker–kind of the Van Gogh of the era. Not a happy guy, that is to say, but WOW did he know a thing or two. I’ve actually taught from English translations of this book before–“hitbodedut” is about solitude as a prerequisite to serious contemplation of and connection to God. Which, many reading this can attest, is pretty much how I swing religiously. So I just got a book of yummy stuff in the original, at a level of Hebrew that’s just right–I have to stand on my tip-toes to get it, but mostly I can. So kewl.

I do not understand why the Breslovers are so into graffiti, though: didn’t anybody tell them that Judaism says you should follow the laws of the land, so defacing property’s probably not great?

The Breslovers use spray paint. The Chabad people do wheatpasting–the late Rebbe’s face was plastered on every freeway sign from J’lem to Tel Aviv.

Anyway. Got to Tel Aviv and wandered around Shenkin Street for a while, first. Shenkin is like Melrose in LA, the Haight in SF, and oh, maybe that stretch of B’way between 4th and Canal in NYC.

I have several things to say about the aesthetic of Tel Aviv. One: Color!

There is color everywhere. Patterns are mixed, things clash, it’s gorgeous and bright and peacocky and a welcome change from the (lovely, but somewhat ascetic) beige known as “Jerusalem stone”. The second is that it was amazing to poke around in stores full of clothes cut right for my body type (the curvy, just-wandered-in-off-the-Russian-steppes variety). There was nothing so compelling I needed to actually purchase it (which is just fine by me.)

But man, does Tel Aviv know from cute.

After that I walked over to the beach. The Mediterranean. Warmer, more luscious and with smaller waves than at Venice Beach, though I defnitely missed the Venice Girls and (to a much lesser extent, but still) the margaritas. Sat for an hour or so, read a couple of pages of my new book, and walked the half hour or whatever to the bus station. Then I picked up the New! Free! Bike! I got from the low-tech Jerusalem version of Craig’s List (it’s a Yahoo!Group called Janglo) and rode home. I ride like Israelis drive, so we’ll see how this works out. At least I have my will in order.

Now, time to shower and go dancing. Not that I have any energy left, but dangit, I’m going to sap the next couple of pre-school days dry. Because come Tuesday, the jig is up.

ps. The spell-check function on the blog is being finnicky, and I’m too lazy to check every entry against MS Word. So have some compassion for the tired and hurried blogger, please!

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