Article and images by Yael Nov
Yael Nov is a photographer and artist living and working in Los Angeles. She received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from University of Washington and her MFA from Art Center College of Design.

There are certain places in the world that once visited have a power and pull that keep you coming back again and again. For me that place is Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv somehow effortlessly embodies its modernity and energy while always respecting and acknowledging its immense history. Though its history and political climate remain incredibly complex, Tel Aviv will always be a home away from home. My father is Israeli and though I grew up in the U.S. (the Pacific Northwest to be more specific), I have visited Israel as often as possible, even studying abroad there for a year in college.

My Tel Aviv is not the Tel Aviv seen in the news and media. My Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city filled with incredibly talented designers, musicians, technological innovators, and artists. My Tel Aviv is where many of my relatives and friends live. My Tel Aviv is home to some of the most eclectic (and delicious) cuisine that melds European and Middle Eastern influences. My Tel Aviv is the Mediterranean beach-town filled with young people sharing fresh watermelon and a beer while the clicking sounds of Matkot (paddle-ball) reverberate across the surface of the turquoise waves of the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv truly reflects the notion of a “melting pot” culture with communities from all corners of the globe, adding their unique flare to the vibrant tapestry of the city.

Though I love the galleries and boutiques, the nightlife, the cafes, the incredible food, and the beautiful beaches, my favorite thing about Tel Aviv is its warmth. The minute you are invited into someone’s shop or restaurant it is as if you’ve been invited into their home and family. One day when I was studying abroad as a college freshman I was on a search for a button to repair my favorite jacket. As I stumbled into a small shop that sold everything from buttons to binoculars, the old man behind the counter picked up on my American accented Hebrew, offered me a cup of tea and we chatted for the next hour about my family and what brought me to Israel. Now every time I visit Tel Aviv, I stop in his shop to say hello as if no time has gone by. Almost every time I visit I have a similar experience whether my phone battery dies and a stranger offers me his, or the pharmacist gives me antibiotics as well as her grandmother’s chicken soup recipe. The warmth of Tel Aviv is unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else.

I have many other cities around the world on my bucket list but I still return to Tel Aviv any time I can because to me it will always be home- even if only for one week each year.