Welcome to Israel, Chelsea Handler!
It’s so good to hear that you’re homelanding, and bless you for sitting out the monstrous storm back home. Now, I have no idea how familiar you are with the Motherland, or how you like to party, but watching your show, I think I can venture a guess. Because we here at Tablet love you very much, here’s an official, non-orthodox, and very brief travel guide we wrote just for you.
1. Bechor et Shoshi: Forget Tel Aviv and its fancy restaurants. For a truly epic meal, head over to Pardes Katz, a small and hard-working town about 20 minutes away from the big city, and ask the locals how to get to Bechor et Shoshi. If Saturday Night Live’s Stefon ever visited Israel, this restaurant would be exactly the kind of place he’d recommend. It has everything: a roll of toilet paper on each table, because who needs fancy luxuries like napkins; rowdy Russian waitresses who are very fond of reminding you, loudly, that the house specialty, couscous, sounds a lot like the Israeli slang for a certain part of a woman’s anatomy; and fellow diners who look like they’d fit right in in a local adaptation of The Wire. Also, the restaurant serves the best food in the world, which is a plus.
2. Ha’Minzar: Lior Hargil, the jovial giant who owns this wacked-out bar on the outskirts of the shuk in Tel Aviv, had a wise grandpa who was fond of repeating the following motto: three shots of vodka after lunch and five shots of vodka after dinner, never more and always in moderation. So are you there, Chelsea? It’s vodka, and it’ll be served in whatever glass or cup or mug the kitchen happens to have lying around. The food is also excellent, and the whole thing draws drunks from all walks of life, a merry brotherhood of functional alcoholics you would absolutely love.
3. Kikar Atarim: This eyesore in the north of Tel Aviv is so hideous that during the First Gulf War, many locals mused on how amazing it would be if one of Saddam Hussein’s scud missiles destroyed it completely. But you’re going to love it: once you get over the permanent scent of urine, you’re going to dig the majestic collection of weirdos drawn to this catastrophic beachside plaza. My favorites are the old ladies who do folk dancing at dusk, hoping that some eligible widower would sweep in and hora them off their tired feet.
4. The Knesset: Looking over my list, my editor said that you might appreciate at least one recommendation that was, you know, serious. It doesn’t get much more serious than the nation’s parliament. Remember how you once said on your show that you really didn’t understand why the f*&! you had to go to work every single day? Imagine a building stacked with 120 people who feel just the same way. And who also like to shout and curse. The Knesset is basically your show, only with uglier, far less funnier guests. You’re going to love it.
Oh, and one last thing: if you really want to fit in among the Jewish state’s more discerning inhabitants, forget all them fancy western liquors. Order Arak. Two ice cubes, a splash of water. You’re welcome, and have fun.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.