Thursday night, after the hike to Montfort Castle, I headed on down to Tel Aviv to partake in the annual “White Night” celebration. Held every year for the past nine years, “White Night” was established to commemorate the UNESCO decision to include Tel Aviv (“the White City”) as a World Heritage Site. Adding a play on words, “white night” is also an Israeli term for staying up all night long, which is dutifully carried out by both the residents of Tel Aviv and from people the world over joining in on the celebration. Traveling in uniform for the free public transportation, I arrived in Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov Station just after 8pm. I boarded a bus for Yafo (Jaffa) and got off just after the clock tower, a city landmark.
Entering the flea market area, I was immediately enveloped in the merry-making atmosphere. The streets were alive with music, lights and happy people. I stopped to watch the various street performers and small-time musicians as they entertained the people. Since I was in uniform and had an SLR camera hanging from my neck, many assumed I was a military photographer – always good when you want to get in close for a shot. I experimented plenty with the camera, trying to get the best photos in each setting, but without a manual shutter, nighttime photography is hard!
As I circled and criss-crossed the flea market I caught a glimpse of what looked to be a fireball hovering in the inky sky (there happened to be a great moon out as well). Later I discovered a little crowd watching a few people hold up a hot air balloon-like object. A bag of sorts, shaped like a heart, with a nice fire going on at the bottom – like a hot air balloon. Someone said something about how we should have peace and the heart balloon was released. Here it is, as it took flight:
Not wanting to miss all the evening’s concerts, I abandoned the flea market celebrations and was handed a new energy drink – great time to have promotional freebies! I made my way to Gan HaPisga (Park of the Peak, I suppose would be the best translation). There I caught the tail-end of a performance by The Bridgettes. I have never heard of them – they hail from France, nor was I really interested in their music but it was fun trying to photograph the show.
As the concert came to a close, and no more performances were to follow – why did they start so early?! – I headed into the Old City area of Yafo for some photos.
Eventually I found myself at Jaffa Port, a popular hangout. There I was treated to more musicians and mimes and even found a place to change my clothes. No longer in uniform, I popped into a bar that looked very much alive, The Container. There I ordered the new Goldstar Unfiltered beer and headed back out to continue my explorations. For a nighttime hangout, Jaffa Port is quite nice – I particularly enjoyed the fishy smell of the nets from the day’s fishing.
With so many people eating, I was dismayed to only find two places with kosher food. One place basically only served hummus so I chose the other, an interesting little joint seemingly family operated. There I ordered a simple falafel and sat down to eat my midnight snack. As I sat there, Israel’s seven Harley Davidson motorcycles drove by, followed by a police car whose driver must have been deaf. After my little meal I took to the boardwalk and experimented with the different camera settings, capturing Tel Aviv in various lights:
Continuing on along the boardwalk, I left Yafo and entered Tel Aviv proper. At first the boardwalk was filled with people of all ages but as I headed further and further north, the “old people” disappeared and I found myself in a vast sea of youth. Walking around in little clusters, thousands upon thousands of teens were crowding the boardwalk, calling out to one another like an immense flock of birds. The sheer quantity of young people – like I’ve never seen before – and the watchful presence of police officers were good signs of an adventure. Convinced that there must be some sort of White Night event nearby, I stopped and asked a loitering American what was going on. He was equally clueless but was eager to find the White Night events I was seeking so we paired up and hit the boardwalk, eventually heading to Rabin Square. Along the way I found out that this young man, Dan, was also from Seattle (where I was born) and that he just finished his Birthright trip. All we ended up finding on the boardwalk was some odd dance event so we headed into the city for Rabin Square. When we got there it felt like the aftermath of a storm. People milling about aimlessly, garbage strewn all over the place, event crews dismantling skeletal structures – all sure signs that we missed the party.
What we did in fact miss was something called a headphone concert (or something like that). Basically everybody with a smartphone can get a particular app and join in on the concert via headphones or earbuds. Sounds kinda odd but I’m sure it’s pretty funny watching a couple hundred people, standing together enjoying a concert with no music in the air, like something out of The Twilight Zone. Having missed the party at Rabin Square, Dan and I decided to loop back to the boardwalk, but via Dizengoff and Rothschild. We stopped off at a little pub for a little rest and I enjoyed a pint of Guinness – stouts are the best! But we never made it to the boardwalk. On some random street we bumped into some random Israelis and had a long chat. Turns out one of the events I thought could be found on the boardwalk was actually not even in Tel Aviv. Eventually 3:00 turned into 4:00 and then the sun came up. With the streets in a post-apocalyptic state, empty except for garbage and overly tired people trying to make their way home, we decided to call quits on our adventure. With my uniform back on I caught a really early bus and then an early train and was back home pretty tired and somewhat disappointed at how White Night ended.
Moral of the story: unless you want to wander around Tel Aviv aimlessly all night, I suggest that if you want to enjoy White Night, wrap it up shortly after midnight because after that it’s pretty dead. The end.