Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Look for the Shnitzel & Fries

Tamir's Shnitzel on Givatay'im's main street (53 Katzenelson St.) is a rare find, busy from 1:00 to 3:30 PM)

The attraction of a hot shnitzel in a baguette as an alternative to a burger is hard to miss. Just about any good shnitzel eatery is a rare find. I am not sure why, but for the most part, very few independent eateries specialize in this classic Israeli dish. The Shnitzel (wikipedia) is a favorite with kids and soldiers. Here is a bit of popular Israeli food background. Maybe because prepared frozen food or chicken's popularity, this dish is one of the mainstay of schools and homes. Frozen sections are filled with large packages of shnitzels ready to heat in an oven or fry in a pan. In schools, kids from kindergarten to high school seem to have shnitzel on a weekly basis. As far as soldier visiting home on weekends or parents visiting military base, shnitzel and humus seems to be the most "well packed" popular dish. It usually goes with bread (or inside a pita) and canned pickled salads (olives, pickles, hot peppers, carrots). If you have a great place for shnitzel, not just in Tel Aviv, please add a comment.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Live Where the Burgers are Served

Burgers and fries are a popular fast food in Israel, which is the best place? That you have to figure for yourself.

It's a funny question, but we get it all the time: do you have good burgers and fries in Israel? Or from Israelis coming to Tel Aviv: is there a good burger joint in town? Or is all the food here just falafel and humus? I have a few friends who love burgers and fries. Some are American expats who remember their days when McDonald's and Wendy's duked it out on TV commercials (where is the beef crowed the old lady in the drive-in). Recently someone asked me if there is a "White Castle in Tel Aviv" - especially at 3:00AM, in a dark street where you can only drive through. Sadly I do not know of a place anywhere close to these amazing late night delights (I have to admit of downing a few of these "six packs" at a dark street somewhere in S. New Jersey in the 1970s). If you are out for a good burger, ask friends or even strangers. Seems like everyone has an opinion on what is the best burger in town.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Comfortable Safe Haven: Cafes, Shops, Malls, Parks, Beaches

Last post was about the daily stress in Israel. But most Israelis probably are not more stressed than any modern (i.e. western) people. There is stress related to the security situation, especially when there is an incident close to home. The shooting in Tel Aviv earlier this month (January 1st, 2016) reminded everyone of this situation. But Israelis see this situation similar to crime in some cities, difficult weather in many places or even stress related to economic difficulties. Every place (or person) around the world has it's problems and difficulties. This is what people say here. Yet in reality, many people avoid this stress and find comfort in traditional and creative ways. Israelis in cities head for cafes and restaurants. Tel Aviv is well known for it's cafes and restaurants as places to escape the daily stress. Around most of Israel parks and beaches attract people looking for quiet places to meet. Even the large malls, almost everywhere, have places to sit and get away from everyday stress. Outsiders usually need to look at a few places and meet a few people to get a true picture of how people handle stress.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pressure Cooker in Everyday Life: Stress on the Job

Security guards in public buildings feel more stress than most Israelis

A recent incident with a mall security guard brought out the stress some Israelis feel: daily ongoing tension. Simply put, some jobs and situations are stressful here. Security guards in public places: shopping malls, government buildings, business parks, outdoor markets (shuks) and fenced public areas (beaches, parks) are at the top of daily stress list. Security guards in public spaces are about a notch above cleaning personal in respect and pay. Which is somewhat out of place (and unfortunate). They are paid at a low salary scale, they usually work under freelance contract in security contract companies (i.e. they are not permanent employees with full social benefits). While their working conditions are below average, they are expected to deliver vigilant accurate service at all times. Most guards are calm and present a professional image. They check bags for suspicious objects. Sometimes they ask a few questions to see if someone is nervous or seems suspicious. While Israeli security services pride themselves on superior training and highly qualified guards, Israel's economy and culture create a different reality. Here is a salute and a tip of a hat to these unsung heroes. More in future posts...


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Israel's Individuality Dilemma: Unique or Global?

Used books stall on Dizengoff reflects Tel Avivian's thirst for English literature: pulp to art, cheap to boutique... an identity crisis? Some say no, some are still at the horn of the dilemma.
One of the discussions among Tel Aviv residents heating up lately is the city's identity. Israel's open acceptance of individual voices is straining some people's patience. Giving people "space" or "a stage" to voice their beliefs in public is an age old idea. Israel's early founders, built Tel Aviv with this idea in mind. But over the years, this has turned the city into many separate communities (sometimes called "bubbles"). To outsiders it is confusing sometimes. From some people's perspective Tel Aviv looks like a modern European city. That's the business, lifestyle or even retail shopping side. To some it looks like a Mediterranean city from old days on a Spanish, French, Italian or even Greek coast. That's the tourist, culture or even leisure side. To others it looks like a busy metropolitan hub of Israel's central region. A mix of business, government, culture and residential parts. This makes Tel Avivian's at a loss for one identity "image". More on this identity dilemma in future posts.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tel Aviv Up and Moving

Cafes along Tel Aviv's commercial strips are up and running, but residents are still cautious. Echos of last week's attack.

Last week's events still feel fresh here. But Tel Avivians are not ready to hide from the left over suspensions. As more details about the attacker stream through the media, residents are slowly getting back to normal routines. Tel Aviv's cafes stand out as one of the city's ever present "vibrancy indicator" are starting to show life. Residents have stayed away from sitting in the open for a few days. I have not seen the cafes this quiet for years. Even during the last war in Gaza the city was still buzzing at a normal beat. The term "bubble" is an old one, given to the city as a moniker for essentially living in a "different place" than the rest of the country. Tel Aviv's residents are well aware of the situation in Israel. They are also sensitive to the issues all around, especially the difficulty in securing the country. While Israel may seem like an isolated island among the surrounding Arab states, the reality is different. Israel's borders are not hermetically sealed. Also the isolation between Jews and Palestinians is mostly cultural. There are still enough interactions between Jews (even in Tel Aviv) and Palestinians and Arab Israelis. Actually, that last incident is a good example. The killer was a resident of a small Arab village and in the past worked in one of Tel Aviv's small outdoor mall / commercial center. Interviews with people who knew him in the past filled the news programs in the days after the attack.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fragile Israeli Confidence or Real Secure Feeling?

Almost empty King George (Ha'melech George) street on a weekday morning. Tel Avivians see the fear in empty streets, shops, cafes and public events. Is this a peek of "things to come"?
The last week revealed a hidden side of life in Tel Aviv. Israelis are teetering between smug secure confidence and (almost) complete fear. Something we have not talked about in many months. A seemingly tectonic change after a one man attack in the heart the city's commercial section. Some see this as a change in the security forces' ability to keep Tel Aviv's "bubble" calm and confident. A day after the capture and killing of the terrorist, media channels started buzzing with opinions (on what should be done next). While outsiders (especially Palestinian supporters) tend to see Israelis as secure and fearless, this one incident tells a different story. Israelis are secure and fearless as long as their immediate surrounding feels secure. This fragile reality is somewhere in the back of many Tel Avivians' minds. The tensions many feel, but mostly keep to themselves, is real. Some are quiet not to alarm people around them. Some assume revealing their true fears is playing into the attacker's aims. Terror is thought to pray on our inner most fears. Killing three in a city of 600,000 is not a true act of war. What's next? It's hard to say. Opinions are firmly split between more visible security (patrols, show of force) and less visible or more "normal" (i.e. hidden) security efforts. Will Tel Aviv turn into an always "watched" metropolis (i.e. taking a page from the London example of massively equipping every street with a hidden security camera)? Or will the city turn into a cold-war like "secret agent" Berlin? This small revelation of hidden life in the city is just getting started. Let's see where it goes.