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Loving Israel’s ‘Bazaar of the Bizarre’

Jacob Savage has penned a colorful love letter to Israel’s most maligned building: Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station.

He writes:

Subcultures have embraced various corners of the building. Some storefronts are exclusively in Thai, some in Russian, some in English. Of course there is Hebrew, which in much of the station seems almost like an afterthought.

A mini Asiatown has formed inside the bus station. A two-story advertisement for Cellcom, the Israeli mobile phone company, features a Thai woman posed on her cell phone and text in Thai. Asian supermarkets, fast food noodle joints and remittance agencies have signs incomprehensible to most Israelis.

The Russians have an even larger niche, with at least four bookstores, several tattoo parlors and a body oil shop. Russian might be the building’s lingua franca.

The Ethiopians have their “Ethiopian style” hair salon, cosmetics stand and restaurant. A store sells Rasta clothes, Jamaican flags, Ethiopian music and T-shirts that read “I Love Ethiopia.”

People watchers have no better place. Soldiers come and go on leave. Religious Ashkenazim try on jewelry. Ethiopian teenagers walk hand in hand. Heavy-set, elderly Russian women mumble to themselves as they try on bras.

Read the rest of the article on the JTA’s Web site.

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