I recently returned from Israel for a conference, DevCon TLV.
I have to admit — I exhibited a fair bit of hesitation for this trip. My good friends and colleagues Terence Lee and Richard Schneems were at a similar conference in Tel Aviv, but had to leave early because of terrorist activity.
After doing a fair bit of research, and advising some trustworthy local friends, I decided to take the trip. My only remaining concern was getting through airport security.
I read countless horror stories of Americans arriving and getting strip searched after hours of questioning, having their electronics searched and seized, etc.
Turns out, the Middle East is a fair bit away. IAD -> CDG -> TLV. About 20 total hours of travel. I stayed up all night prior to the trip and, with the help of some Melatonin, I hit the ground running (as always).
During my layover in CDG, I was somehow anointed the resident wifi tech support for half the people waiting at the gate. Geekdom respects no borders.
Security in Tel Aviv was super easy. I smiled and nodded, told the truth, and showed the officer proof of my invitation to the conference. No problems.
The racial profiling that takes place in Israel is a very real (and notably effective). It never dawned upon me before that genealogy, something totally out of one's control, can place such restrictions on travel.
I walked away with a vein of reflection material. How fortunate I am to be in this position; how unfortunate the status quo is.
The Tel Aviv Streets
From the moment I stepped into Tel Aviv, it was immediately obvious that I was in a very special place.
The White City (Tel Aviv) is absolutely incredible. Although I didn't have the 'opportunity' to experience the beat of the summer sun, I can confidently say that Tel Aviv Winter Edition™ is easily one of my favorite destinations to date.
I've never seen a place filled with such amazing contrast. Everywhere you see, crumbling buildings surrounded by rusty cars, street art, broken glass, beautiful people, thriving commerce, and machine guns.
Thousands of once-elegant Bahaus-style homes decaying from years of abuse from the sea water present in the air, adorned with some of the most incredible street art and graffiti I've ever seen.
Stray cats are basically the squirrels of Tel Aviv. Everywhere you look, there's one cat or five hiding on the street, in the bushes, on the rooftops. Bob Barker clearly didn't have much market penetration here.
I didn't have the opportunity to do much candid street photography of strangers. The buildings have enough character on their own.
Randomly, Katie Holmes adorned billboards everywhere.
Everywhere you look in Tel Aviv, you see a beautiful work of art.
The Lair of SENED
The next day, Raphael took me to visit the home of SENED, one of the most acclaimed and accomplished street artists in Tel Aviv. We had to hunt around for a bit to find his residence — he lives on a rooftop, filled with works-in-progress and prototypes.
SENED graciously let us into his home, sharing his stories, paintings, photography, pottery, world view, and his incredible homemade bread and olive oil.
The entrance was adorned by some incredible urban "greenfiti".
The walls were adorned with works of various forms and influences.
He also kindly allowed me to create a portrait of him.
In order to respect his privacy, I've exercised artistic license.
As soon as we left, I began to see his work everywhere I looked. What an experience.
I hope to do this more often.
After the conference, the international speakers were generously taken on an expertly-guided tour of Jerusalem. Culturally, Jerusalem couldn't have been more different than what I imagined. Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Arminians all clashing together in a small ancient city.
Jerusalem was incredible to photograph. I'll let the photos speak for themselves: