After the excitement of the camel rides ended, we said goodbye to the desert and headed to Tel Aviv. This was also the part of the trip where a group of Israelis was assigned to join our group. They were all around our age (22-27) and there were 8 of them. Some were still in the army, some were a bit shy, some were more outgoing, some were a bit random, but overall, they were all very cool, very different individuals.
Prior to meeting them, we had a group discussion where we had to voice the stereotypes that we had of Israelis. The only two things that I can remember being said were: “they’re rude” and “the men are dogs.” I guess I remember these two things the most clearly because they were (and are) both ridiculous statements. Rude people and doggish men exist in every country. So basically, the point of integrating them into our group was to provide us with a lesson in realization. Takeaway: “They’re Just Like Us!”
The first interaction we had together was in Tel Aviv. After giving them an OTT round of applause on the bus (one of them told me afterwards that it felt like he was in the NBA), we were allotted 20, mayyybe 25 minutes to wander around Carmel Shuk (pronounced the way AC/DC says it). It’s really a shame that we had so little time in this area because after being in Tel Aviv for three weeks, I don’t even think I’ve even begun to see the more interesting shops, cafes, and alleyways in and around the market’s vicinity. I had time to order and wait for my lunch which ate up 15 minutes, walk halfway through the shuk, take a few quick pics (mostly all of food) for 10 minutes, then head back to the meeting area in two minutes. I. Hated. Being. Rushed.
However, I was only a little bit distraught about not having enough time in the shuk since I knew I would be back very often and very soon. I also noticed how many confectionaries there are in markets like these. Let me say this: licorice is a thing here. Like a Big F*ing Deal. Gummies too. Which begs the question, why are people here not fatter? The minute I saw all that candy, the kid in me took over…I wanted to try all the colors!!! The next time I see my dentist, he will not be pleased.
Carmel Shuk was also the first place that I tried Sabich, a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard boiled egg, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, onion, cilantro, hummus, and tahina. My friend who studied abroad and worked in Tel Aviv for a year highly recommended this concoction to me. It was real nice. Personally, I think it’s completely underrated, as falafel and shawarma seem to reign supreme during lunch and dinner hours.
At this point in time, the “dessert club” was also unofficially established. Myself, other Stephanie, and our friend Sarah were the founding (and only) members. We basically just took turns buying desserts/ pastries throughout the trip and sharing them with one another. It was a deliciously ingenious idea. Some of the things we tried were rugelach, baklavah, candied nut tartlets, halvah (sweet sesame dessert paste/ IDK how to describe it…?), and cream-filled flaky turnover pastries. If you ever go traveling with a group of people and meet others with a sweet tooth, do yourselves a favor and form your own dessert club. Trust me on this. I am, after all, a founder of THE original dessert club.