For the latest Onward Israel blog, I would like to highlight two different cultural experiences I had this week: Laila Lavan, and a family Shabbat dinner.
Laila Lavan, which translated from the Hebrew means White Night, is one of the three times all year when parties can go all night long without concern for noise complaints or visits from the police. The tradition started in 2003 in honor of UNESCO naming Tel Aviv’s "White City" a national, historical heritage site. This nickname is due to the Bauhaus buildings created by German-Jewish architects in the 1930s.*
Avital takes a selfie snapshot of the wild performers.
We were very lucky to be in Tel Aviv during the celebration, so we seized the night by hopping around to a number of different events. We started in the children's section, unintentionally but fortunately; the outdoor circus was the perfect way to ease into the festivities. There were fire performers, dancers, and literal human disco balls (as captured on camera by Avital). After the circus ended, we continued on our Laila Lavan journey.
Soon, we stumbled upon a performance of Grease. While the movie was projected outdoors, a stage of actors danced in front of the screen, reenacting the iconic scenes in real-time. We all danced along to the prom hand-jive scene, with John Travolta and the Israeli actors.
My last stop of the night was at a concert at Sarona Market. I have no idea who the singer was or what any of the songs were about, but it was great fun! These three events each represented unique aspects of Israeli culture and catered to very different audiences. It was fascinating to see the various people at each event, and then be able to join them in this shared celebration of Tel Aviv.
After our late night at Laila Lavan, Avital and I recovered by getting plenty of rest. Once refreshed, we headed to her family's Shabbat dinner in Kfar Saba. I was super lucky that Avital let me tag along, and that her family was happy and willing to host a sixteenth guest! They were all so welcoming. It was heartwarming to see her entire family—all four daughters, their partners, and grandparents—come together for their weekly family dinner, and it was truly special to be able to take part in it. I ate a delicious meal and made two new besties: Avital's little cousin (pictured) and the family dog, Bruno (sadly, not pictured). I got to experience their various Shabbat traditions, both religious and secular. They did the typical prayers before the meal, but the dinner itself was just about catching up, chatting, and laughing. This was starkly different from my experience at a Chabad House Shabbat the previous week, where the topic of conversation was almost solely the weekly Torah portion. Personally, I prefer the version of Shabbat that I took part in this week. However, although the Chabad Shabbat might not be for me, I do want to acknowledge that—just like with Avital’s family—they were extremely gracious to host me, a complete stranger, and I felt honored and special to be a part of it.
These two rather different experiences—Laila Lavan and the Shabbat dinner—made for such an enriching weekend. Each had different vibes, yet both presented crucial aspects of Israeli culture. We've been trying to seize every opportunity we can to ensure we have an authentic experience while here. Last week, it was our adventure at the park; this week, it was Laila Lavan, Shabbat dinner, and tons of spontaneous detours—like the art gallery we wandered into, and all of the new foods we've tried. I can't believe we are already a month into the trip. We have to take advantage of all the random, little opportunities we have left!
Love, Eva Fischer