Or the old archive in Tel Aviv filled with 50 people
I moved to Tel Aviv as an exchange student in my master degree from September 2021 to February 2022. And true to my interest in communities, I didn’t just move anywhere, I moved into “The Postel” infamous among it’s habitants, while everyone else usually just understands Hostel. But what is really behind it?
The Postel might be best described as cohousing or a long term hostel, as the minimum stay in the Postel is 1 month. The residents live in private rooms that are usually quite minimalistic in a non-chic way. New residents are selected externally by the managers. This is great, because it made for a diverse mix of people, which I otherwise wouldn’t have met. On the flip side, the people get kind of thrown together and after moving in, I felt it was important to ‘actively’ socialize. After 1.5 years of Corona, this was definitely a challenge, but the common spaces made this task a lot easier.
There is no way to overestimate the importance of a shared kitchen. On multiple occasions we debated how nice a more private kitchen space would be, especially when cleaning cutlery before and after using it. But when I first arrived, I met someone new with every meal. Sure, breakfast is not the ideal time to talk to most people, but I think I never had lunch or dinner alone there. And after some weeks, it is great to walk into the kitchen and see 5 friendly faces, asking how you day was.
Another thing, that accelerated getting the communal feeling, were the weekly Friday shabbat dinners that originate in Jewish tradition. Every Friday we created a big, potluck-style meal for everyone. The mealtime was set for 8pm, but as every cook and dish takes their time, a bunch of hungry people leeched around the kitchen until 9:30. Then a colorful mix of dishes came together on the table ranging from traditional Challah bread and Shakshuka to hangover curing virgin bloody marys and homemade Italian pasta, accompanied by toasts about life. The meal was opened by a more or less traditional shabbat opening.
Additionally, the Postel offers space for all sorts of shenanigans. For example, I enjoy practicing yoga, but couldn’t afford studios in Tel Aviv at all. Living in the Postel gave me access to a private roof top or big living room to roll out my mat. There is also a large couch area to chill or watch movies (not undisputed) and a study room to not fell alone when suffering through another zoom lecture.
The Not-So-Great Stuff
What can I say 40 – 60 random people living together with minimal accountability creates a mess. There was one cleaner trying to get ahead of the mess twice a day, which was barely possible with 3 kitchens and over 8 bathrooms. Especially when I first moved in, I was a little overwhelmed by the state of the common spaces. I’m not sure what it says about my character, that I got used to the mess so quickly.
As people get thrown together pretty randomly, there is not really a space to resolve difficulties in a sustainable way. Also, with the sheer amount of people, groups form and with the lack of mediation, I’m afraid not everyone felt included all the time.
I think I’ll never forget washing with this amount of people and 2 washing machines, and what feels like 1 drying rack? Quite the struggle! 😀
My German brain surely made lists on what could be improved, but the state of the place also comes with a feeling of freedom, that a polished space could never have.
The Amazing Stuff
When I first started looking into communal living I was overwhelmed by the amount of things to pay attention to, when setting up a community. I thought you need leadership, maybe a consensus, maybe not, rules, guidelines, mediation, space holders and so on. But the Postel proved me wrong. Even though it was managed in a slightly commercial way, it had a great feeling to it. It was so nice to just hang out with so many people at the same time, go for night swims, barbeque on the roof, cook, talk, surf, party and listen.
So, to anyone from the Postel reading this, thank you for being there!
The Search continues
My experience in the Postel motivated to continue my search for a great living space, somewhere close to the sea. Unfortunately, Tel Aviv is the most expensive city in the world and I felt that. So my search continues. Do you have recommendations in Europe? Leave me a comment 🙂