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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sleepless in Tel Aviv

Although I'm officially an Israeli and have lived here for five years (this month), I can count on one hand the number of times Zahava and I have actually gone to Tel Aviv… y'know… just for fun.

That is, until this past week.  In the course of less than a week we've been to Tel Aviv twice!

OK, technically the first visit was to Yaffo, not Tel Aviv… but for us country bumpkins, both qualify as going to the 'big orange'.

First we spent a wonderful (but long-overdue) evening with our friends 'Imshin' and 'Bish', experiencing the incredible culinary stylings of Yaffo's famous Dr. Shakshuka... followed by a nice walk around the night flea market (Pishpesh Shuk).

Bish and Imshin are friends who we think about constantly… but sadly, see only once or twice a year.  They are down to earth, bright, funny, articulate… and share many of our interests/likes/dislikes.  If it wasn't for the teeny tiny detail that they live waaaay over there in Tel Aviv and we live here in Gush Etzion, they would already be on my very short list of people I want most as neighbors.  Seriously… my world seems to make just a little more sense after a nice visit with Imshin and Bish… so how much better would my life be if I could schmooze over the back fence with them any time I wanted?

Anyhoo… after a late night in old Yaffo (got to sleep well after 2AM)… we got a call the next day from a good friend of ours (you know her here on treppenwitz as the commenter; 'Marsha from Stamford').  It seems she is visiting from the old country because she is performing a series of concerts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Tel Aviv's Hechal HaTarbut and other venues around the country.  She was calling to ask if we wanted her to arrange for a couple of primo tickets to be waiting for us for one of the Tel Aviv performances?

Hmmmm, that's a tough one, Marsha... let me think about that for a second... um, YES PLEASE!!!!!  Who needs sleep, right?

The IPO was performing a Gala program of J.S. Bach and Ernest Bloch.

The Bach piece, 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme' (some might know it as 'Sleepers Awake') is one of my favorites.  It is a relatively short peice written for a small chamber orchestra, choir and tenor/soprano soloists, but IMHO the real star of the piece is the oboist.  However, the whole composition is the sort of orderly mathematical perfection one comes to expect of Bach which leaves the listener feeling that all is right with the world.

The second piece, Ernest Bloch's Avodath Kodesh (Sacred Service) for full orchestra, choir and operatic Baritone soloist, is an adaptation of Jewish Liturgy to a classical setting.

I've made no secret of my profound lack of enthusiasm for 20th century classical music, but this was indeed something special. As an added bonus, Thomas Hampson, the acclaimed American Baritone, was the featured singer and he gave a wonderful performance.

But for me, the real treat was the idea, of the piece.

As Zahava put it so well, "I spent my high school years in America singing all kinds of non-Jewish liturgical music in choir and feeling like an outsider.  It was an incredible feeling to be living in Israel and hear our national orchestra performing a piece based on our religious liturgy, in our language… and to have it performed by a famous non-Jewish soloist and a choir that was largely made up of non-Jews!"

I have to agree with her.  This went far beyond feelings of inadequacy over 'I have a little dreidel' not being able to hold a candle to most of the musical offerings from that other holiday that takes place in the early winter.  This Bloch piece/performance was/is a mainstream nod to our culture by the rest of the musical world.

The performance itself was quite moving, and the packed house summoned IPO conductor Zubin Mehta and soloist Thomas Hampson back to the stage for multiple curtain calls.

Afterwards, thanks to our friend Marsha (who'd performed with the choir), we joined the artists at a private reception on the upper level of the hall.  The food and drink were yummy, but the real treat was being able to rub shoulders with the musicians, singers… and of course Zubin Mehta and Thomas Hampson.

So, for anyone keeping score, that's two nights in less than a week Zahava and I were out late in Tel Aviv/Yaffo… meaning two nights where we didn't get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.

When I get home from work this evening, I'm going to kiss Zahava and the kids… turn off my cell phone… and climb into bed.  No dinner… not web surfing… just sleep.

Note to self:  Try to spread out the scintillating big city social engagements a bit more in the future.

Posted by David Bogner on July 14, 2008 | Permalink


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Dr. Shakshuka is a place I dream about almost weekly... I try to make it at home but it is never even close.

Next time you are in Tel Aviv with your son, be sure to check out Galit park near Nokia Stadium.

Posted by: Seth | Jul 14, 2008 2:18:28 PM

That's funny...I just posted about Dr. Shakshuka yesterday: http://www.whatwarzone.com/2008/07/this-and-that.html

One of the commenters even linked to a picture of the "real" Dr. Shakshuka.

You'll have to post tomorrow and let us know what you thought of your time in Tel Aviv. From the sound of some of your posts, it sounds like you're not a huge fan (at least politically).

Posted by: Benji Lovitt | Jul 14, 2008 3:40:44 PM

Thanks for the great critique of the Philharmonic Gala concert. I am going to the same concert program in about two hours and hope to enjoy it as much as Zehava and you.

Posted by: O.L | Jul 14, 2008 6:08:07 PM

Seth ... I had the Margez Shakshuka. I'm salivating just typing that.

Benji Lovitt ... I wish I'd brought a camera. The entire ceiling of the inside (there is outside seating too) was filled with old 'primus' stoves. As to my feelings about Tel Aviv... like anything one doesn't know well I have been guided mostly by emotion and ignorance... a nasty combination. On the way to the symphony Zahava and I were talking about a friend of ours who is always talking about how rude and mean Israelis are. As we pulled into the parking lot I asked the parking attendant if I had to pay now or later. He smiled and said,"Go find a nice spot... when you came back we can talk about money. He then pointed out a nice spot on a corner that he said would spare me from getting dented by other people's doors. On te way out we settled up and I asked him how far it was to the concert hall. He pointed us in the right direction saying it was no more than five minutes (he was right) and said "just follow all the people in nice clothes... like geese lining up for a swim." As we walked away I whispered to Zahava that our friend needed to meet more Israelis like that. I have to admit that the more time I spend in Tel Aviv (and with Tel Avivis) the more I see the danger of generalizations.

O.L ... Enjoy!

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 14, 2008 6:50:08 PM

Hello??? All the way to TA and you don't see me???? I have been dissed!



Posted by: gila | Jul 14, 2008 8:48:26 PM

Let me guess... the concert was titled, "Bach 'n' Bloch?"

Am jealous; I haven't been to a proper classical concert since collidge... lessee; that one featured a Brahms symphony...

For more Jewish-themed music, shouldn't you look up the Bernstein bros.? I mean, Lenny probably wasn't the most observant fellow, but I remember playing a "Kaddish" by him in some honor high school band (alto sax was my axe at the time).

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jul 14, 2008 10:46:13 PM

Why David, are you becoming a "Shenkin Jew???" :-)

I have to say I enjoy my visits to Tel-Aviv because the energy there reminds of New York City, the city I was raised in and will always have affection for.

But also because even though it is primarily a completely secular city, it is still a Jewish secular city, and OUR Jewish secular city. An example: last week I was walking by the Piers when we saw a wedding taking place, outdoors for everyone to see. The couple being married was a secular couple, and yet they were married by an orthodox Rabbi who performed a traditional chupah, including the reading of the Ketubah. That wouldn't happen in New York, would it?

Posted by: Baila | Jul 14, 2008 11:11:43 PM

Baila....My first reaction to your wedding story is "Mi KeAmcha Yisrael".
My second thought is I hope the secular couple and their families chose a traditional wedding because they wanted to, not because they feel coerced.

Posted by: Shmiel | Jul 15, 2008 4:20:41 AM

Hellooo you came to Tel Aviv and didn't call?! Like I am so often in "hakfar" (sorry, had to use the new word of the week). Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time. But next time... !:)

Posted by: Yaeli | Jul 15, 2008 8:35:09 AM

Sleepless in Tel Avi? Ahem, try being sleepless in Haifa. : )

Posted by: jaime | Jul 15, 2008 10:56:42 PM

It was great seeing you guys at the concert, and Dave, you forgot to mention another perk about the evening...imagine being able to EAT at the reception, because everything held at Heichal Hatarbut is kosher.
To O.L..if you indeed performed Bernstein's Kaddish in high school, I am quite impressed. It's scored for full chorus, children's chorus, orchestra (with, by my recollection no les than 8 percussionists)alto soloist and narrator. It's NOT a high school level piece, I performed it as a member of the Juilliard Choral Union with the Juilliard Orchestra a few years back.

Posted by: Marsha, currently in Tel Aviv | Jul 16, 2008 12:47:32 AM

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