2004, The West

Tel Aviv is a perfectly modern city. First world. Running water, big buildings, neon lights, the whole deal.

(Steve and I took a walking tour of genuine Bauhaus buildings.)

This shopping mall was open late. I used the internet there. The guard who checked my bags, ran the metal detector over me, examined my passport, and asked where I was staying told me not to take any pictures inside.

The mall was huge, five stories across two buildings, a vast maze of tiny stores, about one third vacant.

Everyone loves America! I was there during purim, so costumes were abundant. I'm told Purim is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It's also the big party night of the year.
Walking around Tel Aviv that first night, I began to notice a strange thing: this is the city of fembot supermodels. It was slightly uncanny. The female humans on the street were consistently young and well dressed, frightfully so. Also, there were indeed many, many clothing shops.

Of course, there were also many youngsters on the streets with rifles. Mandatory military service from age 18 to 21, and I guess you can't leave your gun at home.

Talking to one of Steve's tinypunk friends I found out that you actually can evade military service pretty easily, just show up full of piercings and dressed all wrong and they'll deny you the privilege. This suggests to me that they're feeling pretty comfortable and secure.