5 Things That Shock Every International Their First Week in Tel Aviv

2 min read
Yonatan Engler
Yonatan Engler

1. Not everything is closed on Shabbat.

While the buses have stopped running, and the Shuk looks like a scene from a Spaghetti Western film (minus the spaghetti because the market’s popular pasta restaurant is closed), a lot still is open in Tel Aviv on Shabbat. This includes AM:PM grocery stores, kiosks, Rothschild Allenby Market, museums and more.

2. There are more stray cats than humans.

While North America has squirrels, Tel Aviv (and all of Israel) is famous for their extreme overpopulation of cats. The ratio is about 3:1 on any given day, but at least they’re cute, take care of the lizards, and are open to the occasional photo op.

3. Cars like to honk … a lot.

Here, honking is more of a hobby than a driving indicator; a helpful nudge if you will to do the opposite of whatever you thought was correct traffic etiquette. Don’t buy earplugs just yet. Give yourself one week in Tel Aviv, and you’ll stop even noticing the constant horns honking at all hours of the day. Plus, they mask the purring of cats.

4. Soldiers in uniform with guns

It isn’t out of the ordinary to see a soldier in uniform riding the bus or at the Hotel Montefiore on a Friday morning having brunch with his mom, gun dangling over his shoulder. At the end of the day, they’re just 19-year-old boys who need to be reminded to tuck in their shirts and often smell like the inside of a high school locker room.

5. Arabs and Jews do coexist.

Disregard what your external media source told you, there are many places within Israel where Arabs and Jews coexist peacefully. Jews line up on a daily basis at the best Arabic hummus joints around town, Jaffa welcomes everyone and anyone at all times, and who doesn’t enjoy a good ‘malabi’ (popular milk-based Middle Eastern dessert) after a hot summer’s day at the beach.

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