As an American college student, all too frequently I hear Israel discussed in the context of religion and politics. And it makes sense, since most of the articles written in English about Israel focus on these topics. As a result, however, we miss out on learning so much about the real essence of Israel: its people and their everyday lives.
As an intern for ISRAEL21c this summer, I have been able to focus on that real essence of Israel, and it has been a life-changing experience.
I connected with ISRAEL21c through my summer internship program, Onward Israel, which enables college students to live immersively in Israel while gaining professional experience in their area of interest.
As an anthropology and human biology major at Emory University, the bulk of my coursework surrounds humans of different cultures, and I was eager this summer to step out of the classroom and into a role where I could engage with a different society.
Interested in visual storytelling as well, I joined the ISRAEL21c team as a photographer and videographer in Tel Aviv. Each morning, I woke up to a phone call from my supervisor, and he sent me on a different mission for the day.
Over the course of seven weeks, I’ve been to festivals,outdoor markets, beaches and ice-cream shops. I’ve taken a formal tour of Bauhaus architecture and interviewed a famous shoe designer. And as I’ve traveled the entire city by foot, I’ve met countless locals along the way.
Toward the end of my summer internship, I started to reflect on my favorite memories from so many adventures I was lucky enough to capture on camera. Each picture I took has its own story.
Below are just 11 of my favorites, which I feel highlight some of the best aspects of everyday life in Israel.
- Pomegranates in Carmel Market
When your supervisor tells you to take pictures and videos of Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) on your first day of work, you know it’s going to be an awesome summer. The photograph is one of the very first photographs that I took as part of my internship. It’s also the first photo of mine that ISRAEL21c used for an article! Check it out here.
- Beach magician, Tel Aviv
On my second day with ISRAEL21c, I was sent to take pictures at the beach.While pausing at a chair to change my camera lens, I glanced up to find a beach employee approaching me. As he reached into his fanny pack, I assumed that he was about to write me a ticket for sitting in a chair without paying. To my surprise, however, he pulled out a deck of cards and began performing magic tricks! Truthfully they were subpar—it was obvious that he was using a trick deck. But I didn’t have to pay for my seat, so it made for an extra magical day.
- Chicken Man
I’ve never accepted a friend request from a stranger on the side of a road before, but hey, this summer was all about new experiences. After stopping this man for a picture, he told me that he was searching for some friends and asked if I would be one.
While I denied his request for my number, our friendship must have been destiny because I ran into him again the very next day at the Tel Aviv Vegan Festival! In English, his shirt reads “Give Animals Rights,” and he encouraged my friends and me to “pet animals, don’t eat them!”
- Nazareth food tour
I’ve noticed many differences between American and Israeli culture since arriving in Tel Aviv two months ago, but my experience in Nazareth tops the list. I traveled to the northern city with the ISRAEL21c team to film a video highlighting the best food places in the area, and I was shocked when every owner welcomed us to freely roam and film wherever we wanted.
Back home, there’s no way we would have even made it behind the counter without scheduling the shoot three months in advance, signing a meticulously crafted contract, and sanitizing our bodies from head to toe.
After stuffing ourselves with free samples throughout the day, we made our final stop at this dessert shop. It was here that I tried my first knafeh, an Arab dessert made of thin noodles, cheese, and lots of syrup. A box for home in hand, I left Nazareth very full and very impressed by the strength of the community here in Israel.
- Tel Aviv Pride
I think the best way to describe the Tel Aviv Pride Parade is hot, congested bliss. Yes, every ounce of clothing still on your body is drenched in sweat and you barely have enough space to breathe, but you have a permanent smile on your face.
At one point, I found myself in the middle of a stampede and wondered why everyone decided to suddenly pick up the pace. When I looked up at the float in front of me, however, I realized that I was standing about 10 feet from Neil Patrick Harris and his husband! The whole experience was legen- wait for it -dary.
- Cool cat, Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv
Anyone who has been to Israel knows that street cats are everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
I’ve always avoided these cats in the effort to avoid a day of shots in the hospital, andI’ve built up a pretty strong immunity to their cuteness. But something about this calm little guy broke the spell, and I couldn’t resist an impromptu photoshoot.
- Tamara fruit paradise, Tel Aviv
It only took one visit for Tamara to become my favorite dessert place in Israel. While Tamara sells popsicles, shakes and smoothie bowls, my favorite order is frozen yogurt—which you’re allowed to top with as many types of fresh fruit and chocolate that fit in the bowl. The final product is truly a work of art. It’s hard to bring yourself to take the first bite and ruin the creation, but after you start, you can’t stop.
- Cocktails and whiskey, Tel Aviv
My internship with ISRAEL21c has forced me to leap out of my comfort zone on many occasions. This whiskey-tasting event during Tel Aviv Cocktail Week was one of those occasions.
I arrived at the bar, camera in hand, to find a room full of young men and a counter full of whiskey. Talk about being a black sheep. Thankfully everyone was very welcoming, and the people next to me seemed to really enjoy watching my face contort as I tried each glass.
Although the distiller claimed (in a very thick Scottish accent) that the whiskey was extremely smooth, I think the smoothest thing that I tried that afternoon was the chocolate meant for pairing. But all in all, I had a lot of fun, so l’chaim to new experiences. Photo at the top of the article.
- A shoe designer, dogs and cats
After reading that renowned shoe designer Kobi Levi has made shoes for Lady Gaga and Whoopi Goldberg, I figured that he was way too cool for me, and my interaction with him would be limited to a brief photoshoot. I was half right. Kobi is really cool.
I spent a couple hours in Kobi’s studio (aka the living room of his apartment) taking pictures of his shoes and interviewing him for a video about his work (coming soon to 21see!). I even got to meet his dogs.
In this picture, he’s holding one of my personal favorite pairs of his shoes, designed to resemble cats.
- Scrumptious video shoot in Haifa
I took this picture to remember one of my favorite days of work: a video shoot of unique ice-cream shops around Israel. This specific store in Haifa is known for their bizarre flavors, such as Mozzarella & Basil and Orange, Olive Oil & Pepper.
As much as I loved all the free samples, the highlight of my day was getting a behind-the-scenes look at a real video shoot and learning more about the different roles necessary to make one happen. Watch the video here.
- Amazing Race girls
Having gone to summer camp as a child, I’m very familiar with the classic Amazing Race-esque exploration game: travel around a city with a list of questions and challenges and ask strangers to help complete the tasks before any other group.
With my broken Hebrew and their broken English, it took some charades for me to understand that these girls wanted me to dance with them for their competition. Of course I joined in happily and had a blast learning their moves. I will say, though, that it made me feel ancient to be on the other side of this activity, and they may have triggered a mini quarter-life crisis.