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Finale: Just Scratching the Surface

We bid a fond farewell to Tel Aviv

On our last day in Tel Aviv, our eyes were opened to a radical new direction in the world of psychological research — "physical intelligence." At a lively talk with Prof. Thalma Lobel, the director of the Adler Center for Research in Child Development and Psychopathology at Tel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences, we learned how our senses influence our decisions and behavior more than we can possibly imagine.

Her book Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence published last year by Simon and Schuster, explores over 100 experiments in the modern science of "embodied cognition" conducted at universities around the world, and concludes that sensual physical experiences unconsciously affect our everyday choices and have profound implications for our lives.

"So you are saying that heavier stationary may work in my favor, that's fascinating," said Richard Sincere. "Yes, and my bottom line is that our emotions, decisions, and judgments are entirely exposed," said Prof. Lobel. "But if we are aware of this fact, then we can better navigate our lives. This may be difficult to hear, perhaps, because we would prefer to think that we are rational beings. But the truth is that we are incredibly influenced by the softness of a chair, by the warmth of a beverage."

After that intimate meeting, we journeyed to Tel Aviv's new Sarona Center, where Prof. Amnon Bar-On, of TAU's Azrieli School of Architecture, took us back in time to the German Templar colony of the mid-19th century. Now home to boutiques, galleries, and some of the city's hottest restaurants and bars, Sarona was once a community of German Templars who fled Protestant Germany for Palestine 140 years ago. Today 33 original Templar buildings have been painstakingly restored and attract local and international tourism alike. One of the first modern agricultural settlements in Palestine, the Templars became a model for early Zionist pioneers.

"They looked at the Templar communities and said, 'We want the same,'" said Prof. Bar-On. "Every kibbutz had a community house, like the Templars, and tiled roofs, like the Templars. The list goes on." After meandering through the quaint former homes and admiring the transformation into a rich cultural center, we visited the Tel Aviv Port, where we enjoyed a delectable lunch and wine tasting overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

"For me this has been an incredible journey back to my roots," said Phyllis Topchik. "I knew the people whose names are engraved on the buildings of Tel Aviv University — I knew them well! They were friends of mine. My husband and I, before he grew ill, used to spend a lot of time at the university. Now I am here with my daughter Meryl, and with longtime friends — I held Stevi [Gurkoff] when she was just a baby! It has been an amazing experience through and through."

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