Sunday, October 18, 2009

I loved her, and now she is here

Setting the scene: Freedmansdad has been out here for a long weekend while Freedmansmum and Freedmansister have a girlie (girdly?!) weekend in Lille. So too are the Cors, for a wedding (Ham is at home babysitting the toastie machine), and we met up with them for a drink on the beach (well, I sat there while the waitress pointedly refused to take my order - I guess she was one of those who take the Service Not Included thing on the bill quite literally here). Also flying through were one of Freedmansdad's old friends from back in the valleys, and his goody wife.

The leading questions they all had for me were of course whether I was settling in and whether I would stay, and also what made this place so special and better than London. I could only answer this through a series of anecdotes...

Avid readers of Freedmanslife will recall that I recently described my short time here as a life less ordinary. I said that I felt much more aware of my surroundings, much more in tune with people, nature and the world. I also thought I was in love with the city, and had this strange and magical sense that it loved me back. Perhaps there was some kind of Tel Aviv Syndrome (a cross between Jerusalem Syndrome [Type II] and Stockholm Syndrome but with fewer frummers than the former and better beaches than the latter).

I also felt that this was a place where finally I would find the time and space to become the person I always thought I was capable of - in fact, the person so many others always thought I could become, but that got bogged down in London, became listless and dull, and in relative terms to potential, really was a bit of a failure. I can be this self-critical now, because in just a few short weeks, I have started to turn it around.

This city and its people inspire me to read, write, debate, live a healthier lifestyle (so much that I have gained hair and lost belly at a rapid pace, and an old friend from London didn't recognise me standing next to him on the beach!), give myself quality time alone, blended with meaningful time with other people, try new recipes, hang out with artists, dancers and dandies (longstanding Freedmanslifers will understand this represents a radical change), take long walks, set challenges for myself (ie get fit enough to do shlav bet [short voluntary army service for new olim] and then walk the entire 1,000km Israel Trail - does this sound like the old Fatty Freedman?!) and actually put into practice all those things I said I would do a month ago.

Is this a honeymoon period? Maybe. But so many others I know who have moved here, some quite a few years ago, are still in it. So now I am pretty convinced that this is where I belong, because as the hackneyed expression goes, home is where the heart is.

Last week, I was having my daily sunset swim, when I felt a most powerful sensation that I had to turn around and look back at the beach. On doing so, my eye was drawn immediately to the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I began to swim back to the shore, determined to go up and say something. No sooner had I got close to the beach than an even more powerful feeling overtook me, that it was vitally important not to speak to her after all.

So I sauntered on by, grabbed my towel and went for a shower, before heading up the steps behind the beach, to take my usual seat on a bench on the promenade and enjoy the sunset. As I made my way up, I passed a guy heading in the opposite direction. He was clearly dressed up a bit more than he might be usually, and was holding a large bouquet of flowers. Despite there being hundreds of people on the beach, I knew he was heading to that breathtaking girl.

And of course, that is exactly what he did. Even from a distance, I could see she was delighted to see him. Although I was desperate to know what the occasion was, the whole point was that she was someone very special whose special moment I had narrowly avoided casting a pall over, and I could hardly pop over and ask.

As I enjoyed another delicious ever-changing canvas of red and orange, misty greys and deep blues, and reflected on this, I felt profoundly connected to my surroundings, and comforted by the knowledge that one day I would be that guy coming down the steps at sunset.

Earlier in Freedmansdad's stay, I had told him I was no longer sure if I believed in coincidence, and indeed, since I had been here, every one of these "chance" encounters had been profound or practical. Last night I recounted some of this, and the sensation of being in a deep love affair with the city, to
Valley and Goody as we headed up to the closing party of the Tel Aviv 100th anniversary celebrations. I think they thought I was a bit mad, until we arrived, and the chorus of the opening song, referring to this city, was "I loved her, and now she is here". As the fireworks went off, and the faces and facades of the city flashed up on a clever screen formed by a mist of water on the Yarkon River, I knew my love was not unrequited.

If I had any remaining doubts, they were dispelled, when after the fog of the fireworks started drifting away along with the audience, we turned around, and right in front of me were four of my most special Israeli friends, who I had yet to see since arriving. After a lot of hugging and kissing, we enjoyed a spectacular concert of some of Tel Aviv's greatest bands of the 80s and 90s, playing together for an immense crowd, in a wonderful, convivial atmosphere.

What a night. What a month. What a life.

She loved me, and now I am here.

1 comment:

The Meyersons said...

it's so heartwarming to hear someone else loving tel aviv like i did...words cannot describe what a magical and wonderful city that is :)