Never Did I Ever (Realize)…

Things That Surprised Me About Israel

Mosaic from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Israel has great street-style
 Street-walkers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have edgy and chic style. Cut-off jeans, repurposed tops and chunky earrings. Club dresses repurposed for afternoon wear. It’s New York on a whole other level of cool. But it isn’t just the clothes, its also their hair. There are curls everywhere! Israeli women wear their curls natural and proud.

The color of the city
 Jerusalem is entirely tawny white. All the buildings are build with the same white brick, giving rise to the ‘Jerusalem squint.’

View from the top of Masada

Israelis look different (from one another)
 My American stereotype for ‘Jewish’ was fair skin, dark eyes and curls. Not so for Israel. On the street people have green eyes, blue eyes, all types, textures and colours of hair. The human fabric of Israel is textured and interesting.

 Israel is tiny. Like, you can look across from one vantage point and see the sea on your left and the end of the West Bank on your right. One Israeli reported remarked that its hard to think of the intensity and global scale of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict takes place on a stretch of land just about the size of New Jersey.

Tel Aviv
Unlike gritty, shabby, textured Jerusalem, Tel Aviv boasts open vistas and squares. The city has that ‘high-gloss’ finish of big metropolitan cities, like New York and Tokyo whereas Jerusalem has a grit and coarseness that reminded me of the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Street art, Tel-Aviv

Its Mediterranean
 This isn’t a word I associated with Israel. While geopolitically a part of the Middle East, Israel has a distinctly Mediterranean feel. The air, the sea, the color of the buildings and the architecture are reminiscent of Greece.

Sea of Galilee

Everyone in Israel is political
 Every Israeli we spoke to had distinct, beautifully articulated opinions. While Israeli’s will often preface their opinions with a qualifier about the low-standard of their English, this does not detract from the fact that they are educated and eloquent. Perhaps this is a feature of the developed world, but it surprised me. Even those who claimed apathy or disengagement from political or social life had something to say about it.

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Originally published at on March 24, 2016.