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With an ever-present pulse, Tel Aviv breeds life, lights, and a language of its own. What was once a poetic Arabic word meaning ‘passionate love’ has transformed into popular Tel Aviv slang. Welcome to the wondrous world of sababa: ‘cool,’ ‘great,’ or ‘it’s all good.’ Despite complicated moments, Tel Aviv bubbles with the simplest of pleasures, encompassed in this one simple word. Here is a list of things that will tickle each of your senses and make you feel sababa in Tel Aviv.
A flow of energy is the perfect description of the relationship between a chaotic Tel Aviv and her calming counterpart, the Mediterranean Sea. Given the daily hustle of the city, the sea is a needed source of relaxation and rejuvenation which helps balance every mind, body, and soul. Sunsets, sport,s and staring ahead into tranquility while the storm of city life rolls on in the distance is what makes life in Tel Aviv so sababa.
The sidewalks of Tel Aviv are perfect proof that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Finding an old piece of furniture to paint mint green or a bench full of new books is one of the most sababa parts of city living. Keep your eyes peeled and your mind open as you wander — or treasure hunt — through the streets of Tel Aviv.
With one hint of ‘visitor,’ Tel Aviv cab drivers have a mind, and heart, of their own. Not only do they provide transport, but many offer their kindness — and curiosity — as well. Within one ride, expect a direct question and answer session, to share your life story or hear about one, or a setup request for a grandson. Not all will try for friendship, but gone are the days of mundane memories thanks to the cabbies with welcoming vibes that make every ride sababa.
Getting anything for free in Tel Aviv is sababa, as it is one of the most expensive cities in which to live. Hit any of the bars with a spirited attitude, and you might be in for a treat. The ultimate goal of any Tel Aviv bartender is to ensure his or her customers are having a grand time. If you come in raising the good vibes, it’s likely the bartender will raise you a drink.
Living in the 21st century is a whole new world; walls actually can talk. In this vibrant city brimming with artists and activists, Tel Avivi’s are resourceful in how they choose to communicate with the locals. At the turn of every Tel Aviv corner, you might find a message which makes you ponder life, burst into giggles, or is perhaps just the sababa sign you’ve been waiting for.
Israel is considered a world leader when it comes to agricultural development. With her citrus specialty, and her ‘farm to mouth’ approach, Tel Aviv’s juice culture has long been the best way to taste the fresh produce. With an array of juice stands along every street, there is no shortage of juice possibilities, as long as your favorite fruits and veggies are in season.
City dwellers sacrifice space and silence for noise and uproar — all to have everything at their fingertips. Luckily, Tel Aviv is splattered with dozens of green parks to make it easy to get a taste of nature. From dog walks to a dash of sunshine, these small, sababa parks can be found between the streets, in addition to the Hayarkon Park, the official green lung of the city.
Some call it the city of dreams; some call it the city of dogs. With over 30,000 furry friends frolicking through Tel Aviv, it’s common to run into a pack of dogs out for a walk. Pets make people happier, and if you’re ever in need of a pick me up, it’s completely sababa to step outside and pet the first dog you see. Four-legged bundles of fluff are just another common bond between neighbors, building a warm community of unconditional love.
Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv is one of the most unique, soul-grabbing experiences ever. Everything shuts down, all shops and transport included. The entire country pauses for 25 hours to respect the holy day. Religious men walk to synagogue dressed in white, preparing to sway their atonement-filled abs until they are inscribed in the book of life. Tiny gangs of children roam the empty streets on tinier vehicles. What was a bustling city of chaos and noise becomes a blissful evening of silence and slowness, which is utterly sababa.
Witnessing this festival on wheels is the greatest of treats. Imagine waiting to cross the street at a red light when all of a sudden, a van pulls up and an energetic posse jumps into the street, dancing their little hearts out, all for the purpose of celebrating life. On green, they pile back in to the van until the next lucky red strike. Though you may have no idea what just happened, your energy elevates, your step is pepped, and whatever happens next, it’s all sababa.
Between the precious hours of 12pm and 5pm, Tel Aviv comes alive with lunch – and it means business. This isn’t just any lunch but an afternoon feast of joy. Think appetizer, meal, and dessert, with a coffee, all for the price of one dish. With wallets emptying left and right, and delicious food popping out of every kitchen, getting a stellar lunch deal makes everything sababa.
While this bit can be heavily debated, there’s something sababa about meeting a complete stranger in the street and realizing you have a mutual friend. It provides a sense of familiarity in a place that might be very far away from home. It solidifies the fact that the world is much smaller than we think, and while our paths vary greatly, ultimately, we are all bonded by one current of life.
By Zo Flamenbaum
Based in Tel Aviv, Zo is professionally passionate about creative writing, positive community development, and chocolate croissants. By day, she works as a content creator, and she founded School of Shine, a movement for women who aspire to change the world. Connect with Zo on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.