It did not take much effort to free-wheel down the steep slopes out of Jerusalem. At the bottom of the hill was a tank that had not been touched for years. I wondered why.
I found out later that it was an Arab vehicle, captured and left as a reminder of Israel’s superiority.
A few miles onward and the wheel was getting flat. I stopped and knew I could not fix it. It was still another 10 miles to Tel Aviv. I started walking when a trucked stopped and offered me a lift. It had not taken long before luck was on my side. Oh, the irony.
It is another world entering Tel Aviv from Jerusalem. It is far more European. It started life as a Jewish town on the outskirts of Jaffa, the world’s oldest functioning port, a place that never gives you the pip.
The early settlers were from Europe and constructed the oldest buildings using their own designs and materials, totally unsuited to the local climate. It expanded North with improved standards of construction if not design. Along the seafront were the big named hotels and snuggled between them tons of restaurants and bars.
Being so tired, I found the nearest hostel and decided it would have to do.
I had arranged to meet up with 2 of the females at the Gordon Hostel, probably named after the gin.
It cost me 20 shekels to sleep on the roof. The receptionist told me that it was a problem for those that slept on the beach as their luggage was stolen. I took his advice. I am sure he did not pocket the money.
We spent a couple of days together just getting to know the place. When they left it was going to be Michelle’s 21st in a few days. I bought her a singing card and gave it to Flo with ‘Michelle my Belle’ written on it. After they left some guy was looking in the bin and said ‘Michelle my Belle’. I took the card off him and posted it. I hope it arrived.
Tel Aviv is far hotter than Jerusalem and extremely humid. The beach has golden imported sand and the whole place reeks of decadence. The streets are noisy and dirty. Nobody gives a two-penny damn about anyone else. However, on the plus side, I was still alive.
I had my first taste of Turkish coffee at this fine residential establishment. Everyone but everyone has got to make the same mistake I did. I filled the cup with water then added the coffee and whoosh, down my throat for 1 second and spat out the next. How was I to know the grounds have to settle first?
I tried to come to terms with the city, tried to imagine it was not Croydon-on-Sea. Modern conurbations are not for people but merely to win prizes for the architects. I was to spend most of my year here and met people and did things that were to have a major influence on my life.
I came to Israel as it was the only place in 1991 where you could work, albeit for survival wages on a kibbutz. I fancied doing that but only ever stepped foot on 3. I wanted to see if a communal existence worked. I never found out.
My very first job was for an artist who painted some portraits of somebody’s son at his house. I yold him that I did Art at school and once painted a woman in the nude, completely naked, but it got cold so I had to get dressed again. He spilled excessive colour where he should not have and my task was to clean it. He collected me on time, paid me and even brought me some food. It was not to last.
There was an interesting guy in the hostel, named Mario, who had a withered arm but an ego far in excess of his standing. He told everybody that he was a captain on board a Royal Navy ship during the Falkland’s war. He said the officers set an example by doing the same things the men were asked to do.
“The men had to jump 60-70 feet from an aircraft carrier and we were there right beside them, in fact, in front of them. We were a shining example.”
I looked at him and knew it was total bullshit. He had done his research and knew the details but was not telling the truth.
On the positive side he told me there was a job going but wanted a beer as his reward. I went to the restaurant and talked with the manager. He told me that I could start the next day. I bought Mario his beer which he devoured in a self-satisfied way. The next day I turned up at the correct time and was told I was not needed. It was the first time I was treated like shit, but certainly not the last, far from it.