A night in Tel-Aviv
May 3, 2016
My friends who have been traveling with me, Sarah, Summer and I had a daylong layover in Kiev, Ukraine after flying from Athens. We immediately learned that our flight to New York was canceled due to a severe snowstorm.
As we walked out to grab our luggage we noticed large groups of men outside waiting and they kept offering us taxis. There was something about that city that did not give us a good vibe. We asked for help in English and no one wanted to help us, and they were rude toward us.
It was mid-January and the weather was below zero. I had never been to a place where it’s was so freezing cold. I was very uncomfortable, until we finally went up to a young man who spoke English and was kind enough to help us out and grab a taxi for us.
We drove to our hotel, where we found out our plane had been delayed again. It was just in a matter of hours that we found out we had to go to Tel Aviv for a day in order to head back to New York.
I could see the fear in Sarah and Summer’s eyes as we landed in Tel Aviv. Sarah wears a veil and this time she had to chose to wear a beanie in order to avoid interrogation at the security check point, however that did not work.
As soon as we got off the plane, we saw a young man holding up a sign with our names. We were in immediate shock. The man walked us toward the passport security checkpoint, where another man asked us information about our families.
Sarah and Summer were asked to go into a room for further interrogation. I asked the man, “Are they doing this to them because they are Arab?” and the man responded, “To be honest, yes, it is for our security purposes.”
Two hours later, they allowed us to finally go into Israel. I suggested we go and explore the city, so we booked a hotel and got a taxi that took us into the city.
The neighborhood was extremely sketchy so we decided to head back to the airport. The city itself is beautiful and the weather was perfect for this time of year. Right before we got to the airport we stopped at a checkpoint, where three Israeli men were standing with guns asking for passports.
They asked for ours and made us get off and checked our bags. Sarah, Summer and I were upset that they were doing this to us, given the previous experience we had earlier that day.
We arrived at the airport, and Summer and I decided to explore Tel Aviv, while Sarah stayed at the airport.
We hoped on a taxi and headed to the Old Jaffa port. Summer was afraid to speak Arabic with anyone because she was afraid that the taxi driver would not treat us as friendly he was due to the fact that she is Egyptian.
We only had a few hours to explore, and it was nighttime and it started to get chilly, so there were not many people out.
Old Jaffa is the oldest place in Tel Aviv and it is known for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah Solomon and Saint Peter and also for the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus.
We walked by the broad view of the coastline of the city, where we found a few shops along the streets. We purchased a couple of souvenirs and black mud, which is known to come straight from the Dead Sea.
Summer and I walked further into the Hashan Square, where we discovered a Palestinian restaurant. I asked if they served “halal” meat, which is a certain type of meat that is cut a certain way for those who practice Islam. The man I asked was surprised and asked where I was from.
I said I was Hispanic, but my friends were from Egypt. He smiled so big and started talking to Summer in Arabic. Summer told me he mentioned that no one could tell the difference between an Israeli or Palestinian, that they all blend in, and to not fear speaking Arabic.
Summer felt a sense of relief when she spoke with him. All I could understand in the end is when he said, “This is our land and we must have it back.”