The Old and the New, Jaffa and Tel Aviv


The cat stared up at me with huge eyes.  She sat still like a statue with an intent look on her face.  She wanted something from me.

You picked the wrong man to beg from, furry feline.  The world is divided into two parts – dog lovers and cat lovers. I’m a dog lover and I typically push cats away from me with my foot (I would never admit to kicking a cat).  I made our cats sleep on the porch or in the barn.  I never let them in the house, because they are cats….

Tel Aviv view
The Mediterranean Sea and Tel Aviv, Israel.

I was having dinner at an elegant seafood restaurant in Tel Aviv, Israel.  The restaurant, called Manta Ray, sits only a few feet from the Mediterranean Sea.  Cloud cover had ruined the sunset, but the weather was warm and a light breeze blew.  I was sitting outside on the deck when this cat appeared and picked me out from the other diners.  How odd.

I had just finished a delicious dinner of shrimp, scallops, and fish.  I had a small pile of shrimp fins, and a fish skin.  The cat meowed again.  Hey, buddy, can you spare a fin?  Ok, you win.  I must be getting soft in my advancing age.

I scanned the restaurant for the waiters and waitresses.  When no one was looking I fed shrimp fins one by one to the cat.  She loved it.  For each shrimp, one second it was there, the next it was gone.  She remained by my side, patiently waiting.  She was giving me those big cat eyes of love. When the shrimp was gone, she devoured the fish skin.

Old Jaffa sign
The entrance to Old Jaffa.

Earlier in the day I walked down the promenade to the old port town of Jaffa (Yafo in Hebrew).  Jaffa is just south of Tel Aviv along the coast.  It is built onto a hill jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea.  It is one of the oldest ports in the world.  In Old Testament times it was called Joppa.  The Bible tells us that this is where Jonah embarked on his voyage where he ended up in the belly of the big fish.  It is also where cedar logs from Lebanon were unloaded from ships and transported overland and up the hill to Jerusalem to be used in building Solomon’s temple.

Old Jaffa street.
A narrow lane in Old Jaffa.

The town is small and crowded. The buildings overshadow the narrow lanes and provide much needed shade in the summer.  They are made of buff colored stone.  A small stairway across from the wharf appearing as a hole in the building leads up into the old town. Coming from the New World, it was amazing to me to walk streets that were first built upon over three thousand years ago.  There is so much recorded history in the Mideast that it is hard for me to comprehend.

Wall in Old Jaffa.
An ancient wall in Old Jaffa.

The ancient streets of Jaffa are one extreme.   The other extreme is a short taxi ride back into Tel Aviv. In a few minutes one is back to the modern world.  Giant new condo towers are being erected for Israel’s rich and famous citizens to live in style with a view over the beach to the Mediterranean Sea.  Five star hotels overlook the Promenade while inline skaters and joggers use the paved trails in the park.

Tel Aviv condos and beach
Condo towers along the beach in Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv was started in 1909 by Jewish settlers fleeing the crowded living conditions in Jaffa.  In the 1920s and 1930s it grew into a small city.  As a result of the persecution of the Jews in Europe in the 1930s, its population exploded as many people came to Tel Aviv to start a new life.  Many of those people were artists and architects.  The architects were prominent proponents of the International school of design, called “Bauhaus.”  Their white buildings soon dominated the Tel Aviv neighborhoods.  Hence the city became known as the “White City.”

More recently, Tel Aviv has arrived as a hot spot for its fine restaurants, all night club scene, and sunny beaches.  I’m not much for the club scene, and I’m trying to move away from the meat and potatoes diet, but I never pass up a beach opportunity.

I hit the beach on a Saturday and it was filled with families picnicking, playing paddleball games, and relaxing at the many beach cafes.  It was a glorious late winter afternoon.  The sun was shining and it was a nice change from the winter weather in Germany.  I found an empty chair in the crowd, pulled my sandals off, and stuck my feet in the sand.

beach cafe in Tel Aviv
Beach cafe in Tel Aviv.

The water was too cold at this time of year for swimming, yet that didn’t stop several surfers in wetsuits from riding the small waves in sea.  I pulled out my book but was snoozing in no time…

The cat meowed again.  Hey man, don’t forget about me.  I’m still hungry!

You’ve got a good gig here, cat.  Eating scraps from a top notch restaurant in a city renowned around the world as a foodie capital.  Who said cats aren’t smart?  Shalom!

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