האמבטיה - Ambatia
Tucked into a small corner of נווה צדק - Neve Tzedek, down a narrow path off רח׳ יצחק אלחנון - Yizhak Alhanon Street, is a small one room studio called האמבטיה -The Bathtub/La Baignoire.
There is small sign outside the gate but unless you are looking for it, it is next to invisible.
Almost everyday for the past two years I have walked past this gated alley on my way to the shuk, unaware that deep in the recesses of this ordinary and rather ugly street lies a treasure.
Ambatia is a private space for learning languages - particularly French and Arabic. It is not the sort of place that advertises on billboards or at bus stops, though they do hand out postcards to anyone who is interested. We learned about it through our tutor who holds classes there when all the classrooms are in use at Ulpan Bayit in Florentine.
Ambatia is a special place. It was once a residence. There is a bathtub inside - hence the name. The walls are green and blue, red and white and there is a large table that has been specially built to accommodate several students and still facilitate discussion. The shape of the table allows each person to see everyone. As in every office and every classroom and every school and pretty much every place in Israel there is a קומקום - electric tea kettle - coffee and tea and usually עוגיות - cookies. This is how we learn. Some coffee, some talking, some questions.
Check out the video. It is eye opening.
Places and arrangements like can be found everywhere in Israel. Perhaps because the country is so small and land is so precious, every available square meter is utilized and re-purposed. In the States this would probably be called a swing space but here, everything is more or less a swing space -doing double and triple duty.
I love these hidden places. I love that when we take an evening walk with Sami we often find streets we have not seen before even though our neighborhood is small and we have walked it many times. I love the quiet of these back roads where blank fences mask houses and apartments and gardens are hidden within.
In truth, I covet a place like this - on the street - but also off the street.
It doesn't have to be grand with a - stone wall. It can be a small place with גדר מתכתי - fence made of metal - or perhaps a set of old doors. Not important. But the - palm tree - has grown to tall and is reaching its weight limit for the מרפסת - patio. I am hoping one day I will have a rusty gate and behind the rusty gate will be a beautiful garden into which Ken and I can welcome our guests.