I spent some time at the Gordon Pool by the marina on Tel Aviv’s sea front. Huge, expensive hotels with marble-clad foyers loom over it. I’ve stayed in a couple and I won’t stay in one again. You feel like a pea in a big bag of other peas and I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t thrill me. Now I stay at a small, smart hotel on Diezengoff Square, in town. It’s half the price of the beachfront hotels but it doesn’t have a pool.
There’s a big, colourful fountain in front of the hotel that, four times a day, sends plumes of water and fire into the air, choreographed to match the Bolero. I’m delighted by it every time but locals think it’s a bit gauche. They’re slightly embarrassed by it, but I don’t think they should be.
It’s less than ten minutes walk to the beach, which is a journey I make almost every day. It’s been unseasonably hot this trip, 30° by lunchtime. In the Summer it was insane, often with 78% humidity. I can’t really imagine what that feels like, but it doesn’t sound good. They’re saying that next week, the third week of October, it’ll grow hotter again, 33° or 34°. Yikes. I think I intend spending the hottest part of each of the hottest days in the Gordon Pool.
I lumber up and down the slow lane with the alta cuckers a few times, swimming my imperfect breaststroke. I may be the slowest. I’m not far from being an alta cucker, myself. The water is clear and blue and salty. I don’t even get my hair wet. Still, ‘exercise’. Israel is, on the whole, a nation of handsome people, every one a Paul Newman or an Eva Marie Saint*. The boys slim-hipped and broad-shouldered, able to grow a beard at 18, the girls long-legged and confident with stomachs flatter than yours.
I stand at the shallow end, my arms stretched out along the edge, up to my diaphragm in cool water. My lower half is chilled, my upper half hot from the sun. It’s delicious. I’m delicious. I’m like one of those perfect desserts that’s both hot and cold in the same spoonful. My lips taste like shmaltz herring. I turn my face to the sky, and I want to stay in this beautiful, saltwater pool, surrounded by this beautiful, saltwater people forever. And that’s why I love water.
*Exodus is a novel by Leon Uris, about the formation of the State of Israel. It is at least as long as it is terrible. It sold, of course, many millions of copies. Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint were the stars of the film of the book which is, if anything, less watchable than the novel is readable. They were both beautiful, though.