My siblings and I have been talking about organizing a Siblings Weekend in Tel Aviv for quite some time. We have our own Whatsapp group called “The Offspring” where we mostly share memes, send music recordings, make fun of our parents, and discuss how we’re going to celebrate their anniversary or birthdays when the time comes.
There are altogether four Mendes children, but in recent years there have been some additions. Jon, 32, is the oldest and resides in Tel Aviv, about a ten-minute walk from where I live, and the first of us to pioneer this amazing city. Then there’s me 30 years old, the self-proclaimed hero of our story (perks to being the blog writer). Followed by myself is Sam, 26, who lives in Haifa with his wife Adi. He’s currently suffering not so silently through his final years at the Technion University in Haifa (which is apparently part of the process) but will hopefully join us in Tel Aviv after graduating. The youngest is our sister Naomi, 23, who just recently got engaged to Menachem- her boyfriend who she met in the army. She and Menachem live in Jerusalem. As you can see, we are spread out all over the country, and while Jon and I see each other all the time, it is unusual to get all of us in the same city.
Initially, we tried to arrange an entire weekend in Tel Aviv, beginning on Thursday night until Saturday night- non stop sibling extravaganza. Our mom loved the idea so much she even offered to pay for an Airbnb in Tel Aviv for Sam and Adi, but they already had plans and had already committed to staying in Haifa for the weekend (don’t worry mom there will be other opportunities). However, they definitely did not want to miss out completely on Siblings Weekend so they made sure to be a part of the Thursday night festivities.
Early Thursday afternoon I get a phone call from Jon, saying that it’s really about time that we visited Sam and Adi in Haifa. Naomi and Menachem were anyway coming into Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, so instead of making Sam and Adi meet us in Tel Aviv, why shouldn’t we just continue with Naomi and Menachem to Haifa? Jon was right of course, Sam and Adi had made the effort to come to Tel Aviv several times so far, but we never really visited them. Plus, Sam made it clear that only those who visited him in Haifa while he’s studying at the Technion would be allowed on his yacht in the future, so win-win really.
So change of plans, the Mendes siblings were going to Haifa to make Pizza from scratch! Sam had received a special pizza pan and pizza making kit as a Hanukkah gift last winter and was eager to show us what it can do (we all exchange gifts every Hanukkah in our family, kind of like Secret Santa or as Israelis call it “dwarf and giant” which is one of the Hebrew language mysteries I don’t fully understand after nearly 17 years in Israel).
Anyway, we arrive in Haifa and Sam shows us around their apartment and I must say they have a really nice setup! The apartment included a nice size living room which had an outdoor space with couches and fairy lights, perfect for chilling. Sam calls it his “Zula” which is Hebrew slang for a place to hang out and… chill. We had an amazing night of chilling in the Zula and eating pizza after pizza and catching up with one another. This was the first time in months that all of the siblings were together without our parents.
After each of us had probably eaten our weight in pizzas, Sam showed us a hilarious skit about a fictional Israeli rapper called Shem Tov Heavy, who was just a regular guy who got high on laughing gas at the dentist which turned him into a rapper. Maybe it was just the late hour but has Israeli production value gotten better? Wonders of the internet. At this point it was definitely time to go home, so we parted ways with Sam and Adi and continued onwards to the next phase of Sibling Weekend: showing Naomi and Menachem what a true Tel Aviv weekend looks like.
Friday began with a hummus outing, then the usual Friday preparations of shopping and cooking. Jon is super into Sou-Vied, which for those who aren’t familiar it’s where you put meat/fish/whatever it is you’re cooking in a vacuum-sealed bag and cook it in boiling water at a set temperature. So I cooked some chicken (in an oven) while Jon cooked chicken Sou-Vied. While the chicken was cooking, we all hung out at Jon’s and he made us rum and fruit cocktails while jamming with our friend Cecile (who as it turns out can play the accordion pretty well).
Later that night we made a beautiful dinner on Jon’s balcony. We mostly drank wine and grilled Naomi and Menachem about their upcoming wedding (we’re all pushing hard for a separate post-Corona party, where more people will be able to come, but of course they need to do what makes them happiest).
Late Saturday morning we regrouped at Jon’s for a late brunch with super fancy pastries, then we had a late lunch and finally headed for the beach.
At Bograshov beach there is a statue of Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion performing a handstand on the beach (which is based on a famous photograph). This statue is usually the meeting point, which is especially useful for those who observe the Sabbath and don’t use their phones on Saturday. Naomi had made this plan with a friend of hers so we headed towards Bograshov beach, where the statue is located. There, coincidentally many of my friends happened to be hanging out, which was exciting for me since I had an opportunity to introduce them to my sister and Menachem. There we played Monopoly Deal (a card game version of the classic Monopoly board game which is much faster and more fun), ate watermelon, drank beers, and even risked taking a dip in the ocean during jellyfish season (luckily we came out unscathed). As the sun was beginning to set we left the beach to go sit at the Hilton Grass, which is a downward-facing hill overlooking the ocean and watched the sunset.
All in all a perfect weekend- Naomi and Menachem had a great time! There is a common misconception about Tel Aviv, which is that Jews observing the sabbath won’t be able to properly experience the city, given its secular nature. In reality, Tel Aviv has a pretty large community of Jews observing the sabbath (not using electricity, driving, going out and spending money, etc.) and I’m pretty close friends with many of them. At the end of the day, I’d personally prefer to be at a Shabbat dinner on Friday night rather than a bar, and my roommates and I often host friends in our backyard.
Anyway, I’m really glad Naomi and Menachem got to experience the full Tel Aviv weekend: Thursday night outing, Friday hummus, shopping and cooking, and Saturday brunch, lunch, beach, and sunset. Looking forward to the next siblings weekend! Sam and Adi were certainly missed but I’m sure we’ll be seeing them here soon enough.
Stay tuned for more blogs about life in Tel Aviv!