A few weeks ago, Tel Aviv pulled an all-nighter.
Every summer, the municipality of Tel Aviv puts on Laila Lavan (White Night), during which the city is alive with free cultural and artistic activities. The museums stay open until the wee hours, galleries welcome visitors and offer wine and tours, the boulevards are filled with street musicians, artists and various exhibits and performances, movies are screened outside at the park and free concerts are held on the beach.
Restaurants also participate, staying open until sunrise and setting out special menus at a cheap fixed price.
Hoards of people turn out and wander the streets of Tel Aviv, eating, drinking and being very merry.
Although clearly not Europe in terms of cultural history, Tel Aviv does boast an exciting, thriving art scene. The city seems to induce creative impulses in men and women from all walks of life, and proudly nourishes a growing dance, theatrical and visual arts world.
And the art that is generated here from paintings and performances to music and architecture is quite liberal, daring and avant-garde. It makes sense when you consider the diversity of cultural heritage and personal history that exists in Israel, one would only assume that such a varied tapestry would result in eclectic art.
My friends and I wandered the streets, setting out around 9 p.m. and returning home at 3 in the morning (we lost the stamina necessary to stay awake for the David Broza sunrise concert on the beach). We listened to covers of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, stopped to enjoy the pianist playing on Rothschild Blvd., wandered in and out of bars and restaurants, and partook in some pretty entertaining people-watching.
The crowd was as varied as the events teenagers, parents, families with small children, older couples and more came out for the affair.
But I have to say, as much as I enjoyed the performances themselves, I think the most special part of the evening was that, despite the fact that Tel Aviv is very much the New York City of Israel, I still felt like it was an intimate neighborhood affair.
I ran into old friends I hadnt seen in a while, new friends that I had met within the previous 48 hours (and were already family because such is the nature of human relationships in Israel), and even my boss. And my bosss boss (again, its Israel, relationships are just different here).
Life in Tel Aviv although laden with a million and one things to do at any given hour of any given day of the week is really just a small, cozy city with a huge heart. And luckily for me as someone who lives in Israel without any family I never feel truly alone, neither on my whitest nights nor my darkest days.