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  • Writer's pictureJewish Examiner

Processions at the Tel Aviv beaches

Jerusalem Beach, Tel Aviv, Friday June 1st, 3pm. Jerusalem Beach is located in the heart of the city’s coast, Jewish families, atheists, youth and tourist enjoy the beach on a warm end-of-spring day. Behind them, Ben Gurion’s sculpture attentive look, just as the first president of the state of Israel did regularly in the mornings.

Few streets east, at the Carmel Shuk — Shuk is market in translated Hebrew — , one of the busiest markets of the city on a Friday afternoon right before the beginning of Shabbat, merchants make their last sells of the day before putting down their stands before the sun starts to dawn.

This is a market were tourists and Israelis dilute among narrow streets, dirty ones, but full of life. Where Orthodox Jews find the last species for their Shabbat dinner, Israeli families buy tajine and the arab deserts, and where hipsters find their not needed details for their expensive, yet small, apartments.

The ground of the Carmel Shuk is generally grey, with several exceptions. The ground in front of the spices stands can be differentiated by a organge-yellow-almost-red color from buyers who have played around with the species and now gives an interesting life to the ground. The ground of the meat streets are covered in red, not due to blood, but a ground painted in red to signal the streets full of meat. Reminding us of some Biblical verses. Kosher meat, as the Torah says. Even if Tel Aviv is a coastal city, fish does not have a predominant space at the Shuk in comparison to other Mediterranean cities open to the Sea. Tel Aviv and Israel are moved by meat.

Along the Tel Aviv coast there is no commercial port, only at the millenarian city of Jaffa — which is currently part of the Municipality of Tel Aviv — a port can be found facing the Mediterranean sea with old and lacking facilities. Tel Aviv is not like Alexandria, Barcelona or Nice, where the Sea is the door to trade, for Tel Aviv, the coast is the pillar of social life, but not of the merchants.

As soon as the clock reaches 5pm, restaurants at the Shuk are fully crowded, yet not to stay, but to take away food for the Shabbat. Jewish families leave the restaurants and the market carrying full Tupperware's to spend Shabbat away from the kitchen, probably in the beach with family and friends. Certainly, Tel Aviv is the less religious city of Israel, yet Shabbat is part of the life of all. More or less religious, Saturdays are off, as the Bible says that God took it off after creating earth and universe.

Simultaneously, at 5 in the evening, as the Shuk closes, Jewish families start emptying the beach, and they aggregate either in the synagogue or around a table. On the contrary, Muslims, start to prepare their banquets to celebrate Ramadan. Tel Aviv and Jaffa beaches, now empty of Jewish people, regain life again with the arrival of Muslims, among them many welcome from the West Bank by bus early in the day.

BBQs now change the smell of the sea with a meat and arab spices. Only hours before Jews filled the beaches, now is the turn of the Muslim community to enjoy the sand and water, only the youth, atheists stay living with both religions among surf and running.

This month of June the beach observes the Jews and Muslims come and go just like in a procession, ones leaving to let the next group come. The rest of Fridays of the year, Jews and Muslims get together in the seam beach, but when Ramadan and Shabbat coincide the beach has shifts without any booking requirements. Traditions of all the communities is around the table and the meat on its top, even though in different hours and spaces. Only the atheists, normally young and hipsters stay to see the procession. Later, however, hipsters will end up eating similar meat and dishes, yet, they will do so, paying double or even triple in restaurants with cool and modern names. That might be the price they pay to stay longer at the beach, this, yet, is a whole another story.

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