Yesterday, I woke up feeling completely ‘lost’ in the world.
There’s so much going on in my life, and in the world generally at the moment, that I’ve been feeling a huge amount of stress recently.
Big changes are underfoot, and we’re all feeling that tugging away at our sense of stability and ‘groundedness’.
Even though I have so much to do right now, I decided to take a day off and go and wander around Tel Aviv. When I first got to Israel, 12 years’ ago, I used to go to Tel Aviv a lot, as Modiin didn’t even have a mall when we first moved there, and coming from the ‘buzz’ of London I used to feel a little suffocated there.
But I haven’t been to Tel Aviv for a day out for years now, not since I moved to Jerusalem. But yesterday, I knew I was so ‘lost’ that I wouldn’t get anything productive done via my computer, and big cities are excellent places to hide yourself when you’re already feeling ‘lost’.
There was no rain when I left Jerusalem; it was freezing cold, but the sky above was blue. I checked out a couple of ‘kosher vegan’ places to try in Tel Aviv, printed out some google maps, and headed out the door.
My plan was to pick up some healthy food from the Natural Choice bakery in Jerusalem on the way out to the bus station for the journey out. I got to the Natural Choice, and all they had on the shelves was the sugar-free cookies that are too hard-core even for me.
So, I got an ‘unhealthy’ croissant for breakfast instead, and figured I’d make up my veggies at lunchtime. On the bus on the way out, I just sat there doing some talking to God, trying to get a hold of myself and what it is I’m actually trying to do with my life. 10 minutes out of Tel Aviv, it started raining – and because we’ve had a bad drought here so far, I was thrilled!
Usually, the rain in Israel comes in massive bursts of no more than half an hour, so even though I hadn’t brought an umbrella, I didn’t think the rain would be such a downer on my day.
Man, was I wrong.
At Arlozorov, it was still pouring. I stood under an awning for 10 minutes, but then figured I’d start walking and find somewhere to buy an umbrella. I walked. And walked. And walked. So many shops were shut, because a lot of Tel Aviv had apparently stayed up up late ‘celebrating’ New Year’s Eve, 2018.
I duck into a couple of bus stops on the way, to try and shake off the excess water and dry out a little, but the rain kept on coming. Finally, I found an am:pm market selling umbrellas and my mood lifted: NOW I was going to start enjoying my day out!
I walked up Dizengoff, trying to soak in the big-city atmosphere without drowing….
With the grey skies, rain and gashmius, it so reminded me of London. I used to like that atmosphere, even miss it and pine for it, but as the rain continued on unabated, and the wind started blowing it horizontally into my face, I started to realize just how little fun I was actually having.
Half-drowned and freezing, I got to the Dizengoff centre to see if there was anywhere warm I could sit down, have a cup of tea and dry out a little. There was no-where. Everything is open on Shabbat, so nothing at all is kosher.
I wandered around a bit, past all the xmas trees in the shop windows, the outrageously disgusting tattoo parlors (one of which had a display in the window which probably counts as one of the most disturbing things, spiritually, I’ve ever seen) and also the ‘Wicca’ shop, that appeared to specialize in selling everything to do with the occult and the forces of evil.
The one bright spot was the nice art shop where I picked up a few tubes of watercolour paint – but I was otherwise so grossed-out by the Dizengoff centre, I decided torrential rain being blown into my face was actually preferable.
I got outside, and the mabbul was continuing unabated. My boots were close to giving up the ghost from trying to wade through the 5 inches of water flooding the pavements in a cascade, so I thought this was a good time to visit the ‘kosher’ café I’d researched.
I get there, and guess what? It’s open on Shabbat! I.e. completely not kosher. My heart sank. I asked one of the locals if there was anywhere kosher anywhere nearby, so I could just get a tea and warm up a bit. She looked at me with pity in her eyes.
“No, I don’t think there is,” she said apologetically.
So I asked directions back to the bus station (because my google map had long since disintegrated in my sodden bag) and headed that way instead.
On the way, two things happened:
1) I found a kosher falafel place with whole wheat pita, and I blessed the store owner from the bottom of my heart for actually being a place where a Jew could eat in Tel Aviv.
2) I stumbled across the ‘Gan HaIr’ mall, on the way back to Arlozorov.
Which is when I started to figure out a little about why I’d come to Tel Aviv, and why my day maybe wasn’t the complete ‘wash-out’ it seemed to be. 12 years ago, I also came to the Gan HaIr mall, and dragged my husband and kids there, in my mad chase after designer label clothing.
I forgot how obsessed I used to be about buying designer clothes. I forgot how much I used to obsess over buying ‘the right’ sweater. Yesterday when I walked around that mall for a bit, I remembered how I used to be 12 years ago, and I was so grateful to God that I’m not that person any more.
I came out in a much happier mood, and tried to cross the street that had now turned into a raging river. Some Tel Aviv Temani grandma in jeans called out to me from under her enormous umbrella:
“Baruch Hashem, it hasn’t stopped raining! Usually, it stops for a while, but today it hasn’t stopped raining! Gashmei bracha!”
Soaking through my boots and making my feet freeze solid. Soaking through my skirt making it hard to walk and freezing my legs. Soaking through my bag, and my coat, and my head-covering, giving me that ‘spent-too-much-time-in-the-washing-machine-before-being-hung-up-to-dry’ smell.
The cherry on the cake is when I got curb-splashed with gashmei bracha 100 metres away from the bus back to Jerusalem. Whatever bit of me had stayed dry the last four hours got completely soaked at that point.
I was so tired, wet and cold when I got back to Jerusalem.
But I think I finally got the message.
Too much unrelenting gashmius, with no let up and no break, is not ‘fun’ and is not ‘amazing’ and is definitely not how I want to be spending my life. Gashmius has a place, just as life can’t exist without rainfall. Sometimes, you need to get a bit wet.
But Tel Aviv in the rain reminded me of what I’d left behind in London:
Designer labels, ucky street culture and a life spent half-drowned and frozen to death by gashmei bracha.
Bring on the sun.