The Sea, The Night, The Yacht

One of the most popular sea cruises along the Mediterranean coast of Israel is a night trip  – Herzliya – Apollonia – Reading – Tel Aviv-Jaffa. We met Edward OSTROBROD, the President of Yacht Club Israel and asked him about  historical and cultural sites are waiting for tourists and why cruises are in such demand among the Israelis and visitors to the country.

- Edward, where is the starting point of the cruise of your yacht club?.

- Departure point is a port in Herzliya. If you try to speak of a city as if it was a human being, Herzliya will appear as a sort of a fashionable business lady, a well-groomed one, with all the glamorous attributes – hi-tech companies, luxury villas and mansions, elite SPA salons, luxury yachts and private jets. And as often happens, smart Herzliya tried to forget that a hundred years ago, seven poor American Jewish men first came here, to the abandoned wild east, settled in barracks and began working on the land by the sweat of their brow – that is to put into practice the ideas of the founding father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl , in whose honor the city is named.

-Humankind is very quick at turning its history into legends and myths…

- However, tourists can taste a portion of a dolce vita of the daily life of the inhabitants of this ‘town of millionaires’ – take a walk on the beautiful embankment of Herzliya and appreciate high-quality service and food in one of the numerous restaurants. Then we start on a journey, and the first thing that appears is a cliff, and on it there is Apollonia (or rather, what is left of it), an ancient predecessor of Herzliya, which appeared on its place.

Since the beginning of the first millennium and till the XIII century it was a bustling Greek city and port. However, even before the Greeks, the place was appreciated by the Phoenicians and the Canaanits, and after the Hellenistic period, followed by the Roman and the Byzantine ones, the crusaders were noted here and the Turks … All that remains of peaceful aliens and conquerors are the fragments of city walls and gates, a few dwellings and a workshop for purple paint production. Ten years ago on the site of the former Apollonia a National Park with the same name was opened, which considerably ennobled ancient ruins. From the yacht you will be able to see the remains of the bastion, and the castle, where knights of the English King Richard Plantagenet, better known as Richard the Lionheart, and the Mamluke of SultanYūsuf ibn Ayyūb, often referred to as Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn, which means ‘godly’, used to fight.

- Edward, according to point of view , was it an impressive sight to see..?

- Still we need to moderate the stretch of imagination, as having passed by Apollonia we are approaching the new time, the thirties of the twentieth century, when on the hill of Tel Kudadi, between Herzliya and Tel Aviv, the country’s first power station Reading was built. An English-Jewish Rufus Isaacs Lord Reading, a staunch Zionist, donated money to build the power plant. He was so rich and influential, that got the nickname “The Jewish Viceroy of the British Empire.” And the station was built by Peter Moiseevich Rutenberg, a person so bright and contradictory, that I cannot help saying a few words about him. Peter M. Rutenberg was born in 1878 in Poltava region – and thanks to outstanding abilities managed to overcome the ‘percentage’ for Jewish students (as well as ‘the pale of settlement’) and enter St. Petersburg Institute of Technology.

He joined the Social Revolutionary Party – and participated in the march of loyalty to the tzar (“Bloody Sunday”), after which he fled abroad and took up with the ‘bolshevik’ Ulyanov-Lenin and anarchist Kropotkin. To be able to marry Olga Khomenko, who was Orthodox, he became a “refusenik” – but later returned to habitual faith, by voluntarily passing a hard penance rite of a renegade – 39 lashes. In 1917, after the February Revolution, Rutenberg returned to Russia and was involved in political life, becoming a vice-mayor of Petrograd, on the recommendation of Kerensky, the Chairman of the Provisional Government, a social revolutionary and an old friend. Having come to the conclusion that the acts of the ‘fighters for the people’s rights’ Lenin and Trotsky were of criminal and adventurous nature, Rutenberg actively demanded their arrest, and during the October Revolution, defended the Winter Palace, for which he was arrested and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul fortress. Ruthenberg was released at the request of a soft-hearted Burevestnik-Peshkov and Alexandra Kollontai.

- Yeah, that Bolshevik lady has always had a special flair for flamboyant men …

- During his life Peter Rutenberg met a lot of interesting and significant people, not only in Russia. In 1919, Rutenberg  evacuated to Paris and then to Palestine. Here, he broke the ice of ​​creating a Jewish Fighting Organization. Jabotinsky, Trumpeldor and Ben-Gurion became his friends and associates, they organized Jewish self-defense teams, “Haganah.” At the same time Rutenberg studied hydraulic engineering and developed a plan of irrigation of Palestine – a draft of drainage of wetlands and the construction of hydroelectric power stations. In 1923, with the approval of the Minister of Colonies Winston Churchill, Rutenberg started creating Palestine Electric Company, the first child of which Reading Power Station became…

- As far as I know, it is only recently that Reading promenade has become open for walking…

- Its history is quite funny. When I learned about all of its twists and turns, they so vividly reminded me of the immortal works of Ilf and Petrov that it can be represented like this. When the Electric Company decided to switch to gas, it was necessary to get ‘the green light’ from Tel Aviv municipality. The city fathers brisked: “Sure. It is always possible, darling’. – And, as compensation for moral damages, desired to get the embankment for a promenade: – Pay for play. Promenade first. Promenade in the evening – resolution in the morning. Promenade in the morning – resolution in the evening.’ Then the power station electricians thought a while, and immediately asked to leave them a small creek near the station: ‘With pleasure, darling. They are state-owned assets, aren’t they? Promenade versus the creek.’ But in this case a continuous embankment was out of question. What shall they do? And then the municipal men spoke: “Well, for the whole thing – a bridge over the creek, so that you can take a walk. Do you agree? Well, by your eyes we can see, you agree.” – “Darling! – The electricians were surprised. – You do irritate us! We are the people, tortured by Neviot. Our soul would never accept such conditions. Will you build a bridge, but only a bascule bridge, so that the sails of our corporate boat will not be damaged?’ Since construction of a bridge did not fit into the city’s budget, and agreement, as is known, is a product of non-resistance of both parties, the negotiations apparently stalled, even though the contracting parties looked into each other’s eyes, hugged, slapped each other on the backs and laughed politely. And here at half past eleven young men wearing nice flying uniforms approached from the direction of Sde Dov Airport (there was no homeless guy running after them.) ‘Have not shared?’ – asked the guys considerately. Functionaries of the Power Company and the local government leaders quickly jumped to their feet and started telling the story. Each of them claimed he was concerned about the citizens, providing a lot of detail. ‘Well, enough! – said the pilots. – Do not knock bald spot against the parquet. The battle scene is clear. We are not going to make jokes at this midnight hour. ‘And the military men rendered their harsh verdict: avast for the bridge, as well as high greenery and lights. As all this camouflage will interfere with the landing of our heroic aircrafts … And the story ended happily, as you can see, a well-maintained and landscaped promenade – and, notably, with the bridge…

- Listening to your story, we did not notice that it has got dark, and the yacht is already approaching Tel Aviv …

- Yes, we can see the lights of Tel Aviv, the second largest city of Israel … As for its name there are two versions. According to one of them this name, the ‘Hill of Spring’, is borrowed from the book by Theodor Herzl, others argue that the Tel-Aviv in the Old Testament is a kind of an abstract city, and it was from there that it was borrowed by another founder of Zionism, Nahum Sokolow. Tel Aviv was founded without pathos or any pathetic events. In 1909  60 Jewish people from Russia and Poland, led by Meir Dizengoff (later on the  mayor of Tel Aviv) got together on the dirty sand, not far from Jaffa, and established a joint stock company Ahuzat Bayit in order to purchase land for a new city – Spring Hill. Now this one hundred year old ‘older’ lives a full life and even does not think of going to bed at sunset. Perhaps, the night Tel Aviv is even more active than at daytime, and its hectic life ‘before and after midnight’ is its business card. Tel Aviv promenade is especially famous – that is where we are going. In recent years, this seaside esplanade has undergone considerable changes, and got so much prettier that at Landscape Architecture Biennale in 2010 in Barcelona is was found the best one in Europe.

14 kilometers of the seashore are literally spotted with clubs, bars and restaurants for a variety of tastes and preferences. Taken into consideration that customers come from all over the world, prudent owners of public nutrition establishments offer such a variety of cuisine that even inveterate belly-slaves are sometimes puzzled what to choose. But even the most exotic order will not cause confusion with a seasoned chef, a master of pots and pans.

However, most people prefer not to dwell on culinary fads, but just eat a tasty meal and then continue their festive pass. A cheerful multi-colored crowd mills about the promenade, where everything sparkles, glitters with millions of lights, and shakes with thundering music. You can join this faery action and go to have dinner at one of the restaurants of the Tel Aviv port, but I recommend you not to ruin the romantic mood of the magic night and prepare yourself for meeting Jaffa.

- Old Jaffa  has always seemed to be a fairy tale jinn to me – old, mysterious,  ready to fulfill your every desire …

- Indeed, a lot of biblical narratives, Hellenic myths and Christian legends are connected with Jaffa. During a day tour the guide will certainly tell you about the Noah’s Ark, of Perseus and Andromeda, about the prophet Jonah and apostle Peter, who are in one way or another connected with the history of Jaffa. But I suggest that during the night cruise, organized by Yacht Club Israel, you should forget about the dates and events and lose yourself in the charm of this unique city, feel its taste and smell …

 And, of course, you should pay tribute to the delicious seafood offered by Jaffa. If you are not tired of ‘glamour and pathos’ yet, – choose a luxury restaurant (with fashionable tiny portions on huge plates.) And if you prefer fireside comfort and unartful hospitality, you are sure to find them here. In either case, you can be sure that a meal of the freshest trout, Dennis fish, oysters and squid will be perfect everywhere.

-But Jaffa “shall not live by fish alone”? ..

- As night falls, this Israeli Montparnasse becomes fully available to musicians and dancers, painters and poets. In the Armenian monastery there are traditional concerts of classical music named ‘Music and Wine in Old Jaffa.’ Festivals take place one after another – ‘Romanian Nights in Jaffa, ‘ ‘White Nights in Jaffa …’ In the street, in the open air you can watch an amateur theater performance, a circus troupe performance and even … a pianist at a grand piano! A lot of art galleries and galleries are open at night, and ‘free-lance artists’ inspiredly paint pictures by the light of a street lamp … And you should only hear night concerts of folk songs, “Shira Ba’am”!

Anyone who wants can take part in them, not matter if you have a perfect pitch or a trained voice or not. People sing ‘Katyusha’, ‘A Blue Scarf’ and ‘Oh, Ryabina-Ryabinushka’ in unison in Hebrew, and genuinely believe these songs to be … Israeli ones! Native of Greece get together in a restaurant at the famous Flea Market, they sing and dance syrtaki. It is impossible to resist looking at them, and finally everyone end up dancing! .. Speaking of the Flea Market. It is also open at night, but only once a week, on the night from Thursday to Friday. Hopeless romantics who hope to find a magic lamp in a dusty chest come here, but more often – those who want to feel the exotic East. And for serious customers there is an auction near the antique furniture shop.

- Edward, you have told about the endpoint of a night cruise by Yacht Club Israel …

- The fairy tale is still here. Judging by the feedback from our customers, this cruise makes an unforgettable impression, people go for this cruise over and over again, recommend it to their friends and acquaintances, order it to celebrate important  family life anniversaries…

- Thanks for your interesting story. May Yacht Club Israel have good luck and fair wind!

Interview with Edward OSTROBROD, the President of Yacht Club Israel was recorded by Inga Hvelevitskaya.

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