Tel Aviv is a city that reinvents itself every day, uniting cultural differences from all over the globe amid the Jewish diaspora. And it does so by any means at its disposal. Through food, literature and music, its culture is co-created by a diverse cast of chefs, writers and poets, all with an individual idea of what it means to be Israeli. Together, they have helped to create a city that defies classification.
It may be a few more months till you get to experience it in all its wonderful multifaceted glory, but for now don’t let that stop you from virtually experiencing Tel Aviv from your living room.
The year 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus Centre, a museum devoted to this striking architectural style. The movement may have started in Germany, but it’s here you’ll find the world’s largest concentration of Bauhaus-inspired buildings. Beyond the smooth lines, minimalist aesthetic and a preference for white, Bauhaus is a philosophy – one that helped build functionality and socialist ideals into the city’s urban fabric. This handy guide will take you on a Google Maps Street View walking tour of the city: starting at Habima Theatre, head south along Rothschild Boulevard towards Shenkin Street 65.
Etgar Keret uses comedy to take the sting out of dark subject matters. His short fiction stories typically centre around one magical conceit – like a talking fish that risks its life each time it wants to speak, or a kidnapping that takes the hostage back in time to his childhood. But in his autobiographical work, The Seven Good Years, Keret turns his surrealist eye inward and examines his own life. Retaining his trademark brand of absurdist humour to bring levity to the darker bits of human existence, even in the midst of a terrorist attack or the passing of a family member, he enjoins you to explore Tel Aviv through the prism of his life – which, occasionally, will see you in a yoga class intended for pregnant women.
Hebrew is an ancient language, one that, as Keret notes, “existed exclusively as a written language for two thousand years only to find itself ‘defrosted’ at an arbitrary historical point”. It was reserved for sacred texts and not designed for the day-to-day. Now it finds itself in a position where it must navigate the linguistic vagaries of the modern world.
English translations can only do so much to uncover the subtle shades of meaning this language hides within itself. And while it may take a decade or more to become fluent, even learning a few words can help unpack aspects of Israeli culture that can otherwise be difficult to explain. The word “neshama” is particularly poetic: iterally translating as “breath”, it is one of three words used to describe “soul”. It stems from the belief that God is the source of part of man’s soul. In everyday parlance, it has become a term of affection and endearment for loved ones.
You can’t help but love Eden Derso. Her voice is sultry, yet prickles with passion. Her range is sung with pitch-perfect precision. And her arrhythmic style of rap is decidedly her own, showcasing her talent for pushing and pulling her audience into a trance-like state. It straddles genres, which chimes with her dual cultural identity as an Israeli-Ethiopian whose home town is Tel Aviv. It’s a theme that informs Transparent Crown, a song that shares the same name as her latest album, which you can find on Spotify. While her words might be lost on non-Hebrew speakers, her sound is no less enchanting.
A typical Yotam Ottolenghi recipe might require several trips to various supermarkets, a delicate mix of a dozen obscure spices and an entire kitchen’s worth of saucepans and cooking apparatus. He has since published the book Simple, which is the antithesis of his usual style. But if you’re still fretting about finding yuzu powder or fregola to go with the Yotam recipes in Plenty More or Jerusalem, you’ll be glad to know that actually, Israeli cooking needn’t be so difficult.
Written by chefs Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, aspiring cooks will discover in Zahav an accessible version of what can be a complex cuisine. Solomonov is celebrated for his restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia and his cookbook is packed with traditional recipes and a colourful photographic history of Israeli food. If the recipes alone don’t inspire you, head to YouTube to check out some of his tutorials, or follow him on Instagram for recipe tips and live chats.