A Young Doctor’s Journey in Israel Part I: Arriving in the Holy Land

Alex is spending the month in Tel Aviv as an International Fellow at the Gertner Health Policy Institute.  Over his next few columns he will share his adventures in Israel with us.

After a comfortable transatlantic flight we approached Israel.  For miles I had been flying over small Greek Isles that studded the vast ocean like a few raisins might a large, hot bowl of oatmeal.  From the air you can appreciate the increasing frequency of crashing waves and the appearance of small reefs and rock outcroppings below the tranquil blue waters.  After several minutes of starring anxiously out the plane window, the coast line of Israel appears suddenly.  I was immediately taken by a sense of welcome and of home.

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As more of the coast became visible, I noticed quite to my surprise how I recognized the beach and buildings.  In fact, after studying the map of Tel Aviv over the previous weeks (and especially last weekend with my Israeli friends), seeing it all from the bird’s eye view was breathtaking.  More landmarks came into view, from Hilton Beach to the Yarkon River, which separates the Northern Port of Tel Aviv (with the Sackler School of Medicine) from the main part of Tel Aviv (where I will live).  The circle of Kikar Hamedina was easily visible and then I saw the Azrieli towers with their trifecta of buildings: one shaped like a triangle, one like a square, and one circular rising up from Tel Aviv.  The flight continued from the sun-soaked Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv to inland Israel, passing over rolling countryside with evidence of farming below.  We landed without difficulty and I went about gathering my belongings, proceeding through customs and getting settled in Tel Aviv.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe area of center city Tel Aviv, where my apartment is, has been described by many as the center of all that is happening in Tel Aviv.  It is four blocks from the beach and a short walk to the Carmel Market (the shuk-but more on this later).  My street, Dizengoff, is studded with coffee shops, start-ups, and many shops and restaurants.  It is hard to compare this neighborhood to something in America.  It certainly has the tropical vegetation and precipitation of Miami, it has the start-up feel and walkability of San Francisco and it has the markets and narrow alleyways that remind me of New York, or even Paris.

I began to settle into my apartment and took a short walk around the neighborhood.  I then met up with Jeremy at the apartment.  Jeremy is a close friend from college (from France initially) who is a third year medical student at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.  Sackler is an American style medical school (4 years) in Israel that prepares its students to be resident applicants in the US.  They spend 4 months of their fourth year rotating in US hospitals and another two months interviewing at mostly Northeast US residencies.  This is in contrast to the Israeli system of medical training which takes their students directly out of military service for a 6 year program- all in Israel.  I had met several Sackler students during my interviews and they, along with Jeremy, love their program.  Sackler students rotate at 6 Tel Aviv hospitals and seem to get excellent didactic training.  Jeremy just came off Pediatrics and is enjoying living in downtown Tel Aviv.  Over the course of the evening I met a couple of Jeremy’s classmates who were also filled with enthusiasm for Israel and their program.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a nice walk throughout center city, along Frishman and Ben Yahuda streets until reaching Gordon Beach.  The view of the Mediterranean was wonderful and we continued our walk south as we discussed Jeremy’s experience in Israel.  We toured the Dizengoff square and shopping center and discussed plans for Shabbat tomorrow night.  We grabbed a quick meal of schnitzel and hummus and said our goodbyes.

Before my first Shabbat in Tel Aviv, I explored the pre-Shabbat Carmel Market (the Shuk).  As I entered, I took in the amazing colors of fresh strawberries, bananas, and all sorts of pastries.  There were stalls filled with everything you could imagine; flowers of exquisite colors and varieties.  One stall was devoted to olive oil and I enjoyed several samples.  The drizzle that had been falling throughout the afternoon quickened to a downpour so after buying an umbrella and seeing the stalls begin to close for Shabbat, I took off back to the apartment.  I got dressed for my first Shabbat in Israel, which will surely be an incredible experience!

Liked this article? Stay tuned for Alex’s next article on Israeli health policy, innovation, and clinical care.