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STAB ISSUE 74, 2014

A Typical Saturday Afternoon in Tel Aviv

I do not care for a defeatist attitude. It is the vigorous and the muscular, the determined and the efficient that make me want to yank the notebook out of my suitcase and rain adjectives of glory and praise all day long.

Jews? My favourite people on earth. Let me sharpen that praise a little. The modern secular Jew, the new Zionist, the grunt who picks up his gun for his country, who turns the desert green and creates a progressive liberal paradise where men can openly kiss each other (but not your uncle Dez! I have hangups despite libertine values!) and gals can wantonly offer their wares to boys in seething nightclubs without the fear of an uncle or bro testing the efficiency of their blade on her neck.

Israel has always been a kink o’ mine. I love the history! I love the 1948 war of Independence (or as the Palestinians call it, The Catastrophe) and how this brand new country, with its back up against the wall, with the muftis and imams calling for the seas to be red with Jewish blood, and with the British supplying the surrounding Arab countries with Spitfires and arms, fought for every last town, every village and every kibbutz (those cuter-than-anything collective farms where boys and girls dress in powder blue uniforms and dominate the land). Six million Jews had just been through the grinder of the Nazi Holocaust, something gleefully supported by the Russkis, the Ukranians, the Poles, and a few hundred thousand jacked-up Arabs weren’t going to scare ‘em away.

But, here, today, this year, this month. A serious-for-the-Mediterranean low appears on the map. I’ve got a pal, a former bar-owner from Bondi, and he calls me and tells me that if I ever wanted to do a surf trip to Israel, now would be the time.

And I ask, how big?

“Six-foot for a couple of days, then three-to-four-foot and offshore for a few more.”

When someone who lives on what is mostly a millpond says there’s going to be six-ish foot waves, you gotta ask, is that an Israel version of six-foot, like, three foot and windy, or real-living six feet?

“Why don’t you come and see?”

Dion, left, inspects an army base in the port town of Haifa while Creed McTaggart howls at the utter absurdity of riding four-foot wedges in the Jewish state  with Lebanon in the distance. Photo: John Respondek

Dion, left, inspects an army base in the port town of Haifa while Creed McTaggart howls at the utter absurdity of riding four-foot wedges in the Jewish state with Lebanon in the distance. Photo: John Respondek

I know Yossi pretty well, he can steer a ship around a wave, and I trust him. And so here, day one, a Saturday morning, I’ve got sand between my toes on the beachfront at Tel Aviv, surrounded by brutalist concrete buildings, including the Pussycat ass club, which calls for later investigation (it has an 11pm opening). Brave little Israel, just 400 clicks long, a hundred at its widest point, 15 at its narrowest.

And the waves there, right in front of the Tel Aviv Hilton, are three-to-four feet, clean and…empty. The first day of a fresh swell and I count two other souls. It’ll get crowded, obscenely crowded (so many yelps of “Op! Op! Op!”), later, even soon, but my first drink of Israeli surf is in push-y wedges that ain’t a world away from something I’d swing into at D-Bah. Best waves I’d had all summer.

The crowd comes, of course it does, they’ve waited two months for waves, something that comes up real quick in every conversation I have with local surfers. I get a kind of surprised friendly. Welcome, but curious.

“You come to Israel for waves? And you bring Ando?”

But why not? I bring you Dion, Creed and Josh too!

Saturday is the sabbath for the Jews. They call it Shabbat. From sunset on Friday to the appearance of three stars on Saturday the streets and restaurants and hotels are filled with beautifully turned out families. Little gals with billowing dresses and with hair brushed straight and twisted into satin ribbons. Boys playing chase with yarmulkes pinned onto their heads by hair clips. In our 24-7 society, we forget how lovely it is to shut down for 24 hours. To connect with our families and our wives and everyone else. It’s something to think that a few generations previous, all of these Jews, even the happy kids, descendants of Jews from Poland and Germany and Russia, would be shot, gassed and butchered.

Why does Israel exist? Because it has to. And there will never be another holocaust or another pogrom because of Israeli muscle. Respect? Yeah, you got it.

- Derek Rielly.

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