Even the most experienced Airbnb user will have to acknowledge that the reviews under Tal’s listing are something else. The mother of a 9-year-old son rents out a private room in her apartment in the Barnea neighborhood in Ashkelon – but it becomes clear quite quickly that guests don’t rave about the space itself. Instead, they all love Tal’s hospitality and her willingness to go out of her way to make strangers feel loved and at home. Need to be picked up at the train station late at night? Tal will be there. You are a traveling DJ and didn’t secure your accommodation for the night? Tal will graciously offer her couch. No wonder guests are coming back to stay with her again and again.
Tal quit her government job in the middle of the pandemic to pursue some of her more artistic endeavors. Leaving behind a steady salary in favor of a more creative life was not a hard decision – but one that left her financially much less secure. So, when a friend in London suggested she might try renting out on Airbnb to supplement her income, Tal gave it a go. “The income from hosting is a tremendous help”, she says. “Since I am a freelancer, the income allows me to do the things I love and want to get better at – like being a photographer, curator, model and art teacher. Hosting helps me pay my bills.” She is currently working on an exhibition showcasing the works of people with special needs who hold the paintbrushes with their mouths and feet. “It is one of the most exciting things I have ever done.”
Art and creativity also provide bonding experiences between Tal and her guests. When a French photographer came to stay, the two women ventured out together to take pictures at the beach just a ten-minute walk from her apartment. Little did they know that the romantic sunset scene would lead to them witnessing a marriage proposal on the boardwalk. “We were excited like little children”, Tal recalls, laughing. Generally, she feels like guests are often part of important moments in her life, providing unexpected companionship when it’s needed. “When my beloved dog was poisoned, a guest from Poland was staying with me”, Tal remembers. “He was a big man. When he saw me crying and shaking because I was so upset, he came over and picked up my very sick dog.” The two went to the vet together and while the dog unfortunately didn’t make it, Tal recalls that cooking Polish dishes and eating together after the traumatic event made them form a deep bond.
It’s evident how much Tal enjoys connecting to people, hearing their stories and showing them her corner of the world. “Barnea really is a neighborhood that has everything, a variety of people from all professions and classes, and the proximity to the beach”, Tal says. “We really enjoy the community here.” She often takes out her small Jeep, driving people around to give them a feel for the area. “I recommend my little neighborhood cafè called Annona as well as shopping at the local grocery store or eating out at one of my favorites, Pixo Pizza.”