Sunday, September 13th, 2009
After some R&R time on the beach, as chronicled below, your wayfaring blogger got down to business and the reason he had come to Tel Aviv.
David Cohen, a fellow Brooklyn native, was hosting an End of Summer event for recent Nefesh B’Nefesh olim like himself on Gordon Beach, just a short walk from my hotel.
When I arrived, I found him tapping one of eight kegs of beer and fussing over a machine that was supposed to chill the beer and dispense it. In a little while, hundreds of thirsty young olim and their friends were going to show up for the promised free beer, snacks volleyball and mingling.
Cohen is the owner and founder of Dancing Camel Brewery, his own little hobs paradise in the holy land.
“I started out home-brewing in my apartment in Park Slope,” he told me as he fussed with the underperforming generator, and I wondered if home-brewing was legal. “Then when I moved to [Teaneck] New Jersey I had more space and a house and set up more sophisticated equipment and it kind of snowballed. When I came on aliya six years ago, I originally went to Tzfat but for family reasons came moved to Modiin and started looking for a place to set up and settled on Tel Aviv. We set up the brewery a litle less than three years ago.”
The stocky Cohen, 46, who looks like an ex-Navy Seal, now sells his beer to seven or eight bars in Israel. When I asked about his plans to begin exporting, Cohen wanted to know how I knew this, and I pretended to have used my extensive network of sources to run a check on him, when in truth someone on the beach had told me that five minutes earlier.
“I’m talking to a couple of importers now and trying to work out the logistics,” he said. “I think it would be fantastic.”
Although beer doesn’t require kosher certification, Cohen has one anyway, perhaqps to give him a leg up on the competition. “Unless you know it was brewed in Germany according to ancient historic rules and laws, yeah, you really do want a hashgacha, because here in Israel more issues like shemita, terumah, orla. If the beer is brewed here with local ingredients there is a plethora of more issues than if it’s outside Israel.”
As we were talking, and I was mentally noting the irony of “plethora” coming up in a conversation about beer, Gordon Beach had been transofmed to the Upper West Side on Simchat Torah, minus Yom Tov attire and plus sand and surf and free brewskis. The crowd was getting thirsty and lining up at the kegs.
Since I couldn’t in good conscience blog about a beer without tasting it, I filled a few cups from the four taps, demonstrating my lousy bartending skill and propensity to create cups of foam. There were four varieties: Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Midnight Stout and Hefe-Wit. Each had a unique taste that can’t be compared to other beers, and only now do I suspect that what I was tasting was kashrus.
Still, none of the beers disappointed. They were full-bodied and non-filling. And they must be low in alcohol because I made it easily back to my hotel room, and didn’t even fall asleep quickly. One of the young olim I met was less impressed. When I invited him to get a refill with me, he said he was still tasting the last one.
I met a variety of people with various ties to NBN, such as David Jaffee, 46, from LA. He came to Israel 10 years ago but became a citizen four years ago through NBN, without leaving the country. He has three jobs fixing computers, running a cleaning company and doing “internet stuff.”
“You have to use your brain here,” he said. He came to Israel because “I was in the computer industry, I was losing my marbles, took a vacation for six months, met my wife. She likes it here. She’s from South Africa.”
So things have worked out well?
“I’m glad I’m not in the states,” Jaffee said. “People are in deep s–t. They’re in massive debt, over their heads. Here they don’t let you.”
Israel, said Jaffee as he sipped a Dancing Camel, is not “a summer vacation. You come here you better be prepared to deal with the ups and downs.”
Mingling strictly for professional purposes, I soon learned that I was not the only non-single person on the beach (although I was probably the oldest.) Michal Slawny, formerly of Virginia, and Carrie Rudder, formerly of Florida, came with their Israeli fiances.
Both came to Israel via Nefesh B’Nefesh, Michal three years ago and Carrie on last week’s flight.
“They helped me find a job two months after I made aliya,” said Michal, 26, who works for the financial site Seeking Alpha and lives in a place called Kiryat Ono, perhaps named for John Lennon’s widow. Her mother is Israeli, and Michal spent enough time here as a kid to want to come back on her own.”My mother never wanted to leave. But my parents are going to come back when they retire.” The chuppah is set for June 21st.
Rudder, 38, said she had visited Israel often over the past four years and when she met her now-fiance, that was the clincher. “He noodged me to come here,” she says. The wedding date is pending. Having done volunteer work with Jeiwsh organizations over the last few years, she expects to “start out in some volunteer capacity” in her new life before settling into a career.
As time passed, and I learned just how to tip the beer cup to minimize foam, the olim broke up into conversation clusters and volleyball games. I would soon learn that four summers of volleyball on bungalow colony asphalt doesn’t well prepare a player for the same game on sand. And that Israelis like to combine the game with soccer by kicking on the serve.
It was one of those events where the “until” time on the invite was a question mark, and so around the stroke of midnight I came to terms with the fact that old married bloggers hanging around a party until ??was just sad. I said my goodbyes, went back to the hotel and called my wife and kids in New York, who were just getting home, to tell them about my arduous work as a foreign correspondent.