Neighbourhood: Lev Hair

Text & photography by Kai Von Rabenau (Mono Kultur)

I met my first Jewish friend at college in London. Somehow it was a confusing feeling, me being German. The first time we talked, I had the unsettling urge to confess that my grandfather had been a Nazi, which in retrospect seems like a strange beginning of a friendship. But my friend-to-be was intrigued, and so was I. We played out the very ambivalent attraction between Germany and Israel, a tingling sensation of fascination and shame, for obvious reasons. It’s complicated.

The first time I went to Israel, I wasn’t really taken by it, but the second time I fell in love, unconditionally. It’s a crush that has lasted for 12 years now. Tel Aviv is one of my favourite cities in the world.

Tel Aviv israel

Tel Aviv is an oasis in a country that is visibly shaken by decades of living within a hostile environment—a fact that is frequently underestimated and at the heart of so many of the conflicting political decisions that frame our image of Israel. But Tel Aviv will steadily attempt a smile and something akin to a regular life within a state of chaos.

My favourite Tel Aviv nostalgia tends to focus on the city centre: the leafy side lanes around Frishman Street, leading from the beach into the heart of the city. These are quiet residential neighbourhoods, with beautiful Bauhaus buildings in various states of decay lining the narrow and quiet streets, the odd corner shop or café tucked away behind sweet gardens or down little alleys.

The best time, of course, is at the end of the day when dusk descends, the grip of the heat gently softening to the clatter of dishes and the sweet lingering smell of food coming from open-shuttered apartments above. A slight breeze rises from the sea, the salty taste of ocean in the air. In Tel Aviv, you can always sense the ocean. It is an entirely uncomplicated and pure feeling of happiness, and I crave it.

From N˚4: Flight.