This is really very strange. I am sitting in my hotel room in Tel Aviv overlooking the beach promenade below and the Mediterranean beyond. Inside my room I have CNN purring quietly on the television with a foreign correspondent updating me about the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This has resulted in some small explosives being detonated, the inevitable human casualties and much rock throwing. Jerusalem officials are on high alert while Yasser Arafat is in Washington seeking support from the USA.
Warnings about the escalating violence and potential for further problems in the area are surrealistically counter balanced by the unfolding scene below me on the promenade. Outside my window are thousands of young and not so young people dancing, hugging, walking, milling around or just sitting watching the human spectacle, while festively decorated flatbed trucks float by with outrageously dressed and colorfully painted, undressed people dancing wildly atop them. A DJ on top of each truck loudly spins hip-hop, trip-hop, trance, techno, jungle and drum and bass music. It looks like a combination of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and a late 60’s hippie love-in.
Floating above the proceedings are individually piloted, multi-colored, motorized hang gliders resembling something out of a James Bond movie, flying up and down the beach throwing condoms and candy bars on little parachutes to the crowd below. Just beyond that are swimmers, some private yachts, a few small boats and one or two military vessels keeping a watch on things, presumably so the revelers don’t get out of hand. Ironically, I do not see a single policeman on the street. On the other hand I don’t see a single person causing any trouble. After all, this is Tel Aviv’s annual “Love Parade”. Welcome to Israel.
The day before as we were flying in from Barcelona I noticed, on approach to Tel Aviv airport, that we appeared to be accompanied by two helicopters flying close behind us on either side of the aircraft. Were we being routinely and politely escorted as we neared the Holy Land or was this supposed to be a discreet deterrent in the event of any unwanted aerial activity nearby? Errant SCUD missiles perhaps? I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched from my hotel window that other aircraft apparently en route to the same airport seemed to be mysteriously unaccompanied. Kind of spooky and I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that one.
The fish soup on the other hand is not quite so benign. It is a hard won affair where you have to really sweet talk, coax and ultimately wrestle with the whole fish, crab, shrimp, squid, mussel or clam to reveal it’s inner beauty. Unfortunately in Ian’s case it’s inner beauty turned out to be somewhat more sinister than expected, as the rather unwanted after effects held him hostage for several unpleasant hours. Oh, by the way, the gigs are going pretty good too.