From bikini to burqa, people of all lifestyles sprawl on the golden sands of Tel Aviv’s beaches.
Today, the small artificial lagoons boast free Wi-Fi, first rate Blue-Flag-Beach facilities and smart café’s, where you can enjoy your espresso while sitting barefoot in the sand.
But I remember coming here with my grandfather. We’d find a nook in the rocks to stow away our towels, go in for a swim, and then sit, exhausted, on the surf breaker, eating sweet green grapes that would mix with the salt water on our faces.
You can know everything there is to know about life in Tel Aviv just by walking along the beach.
Just like the city, it's open 24 hours a day, but here you can turn your back to the hyperactivity, look out to the open horizon, and just breath.
I lived there for 14 years; it would have been unbearable without the it.
I’m not sure when this started, but different parts of the Tel Aviv beach got designated for different activities, or ended up having some special characteristic.
Sometime in the middle of the 20th century, we built a series of surf breakers in front of the shore. These breakers inadvertently collected sand behind them - It’s that fine golden sand coming from the depths of the river Nile, which gets carried by the currents around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Over time, they formed a chain of small artificial lagoons, dividing the city beach into distinctive segments.
Starting from Jaffa on the south end, and going up north all the way to Herzlia, you’ll find:
Jaffa beach, where women bathe in full clothes and hijab,
The Kite surfer’s lagoon, just for them, so they don’t run into innocent swimmers,
A beach especially equipped for disabled people,
An unofficial “gay beach”, which – and I think it’s hilarious - shares the same lagoon with the “datiyim beach”. This is an official segregated little compound, guarded by a fence that goes well into the water. There, ultra-religious Jewish people come to bathe in modesty, men and women separately on alternating days. They do it in full view of the rainbow-colored umbrellas on the other side.
Live and let live. Beautiful.
Hot Girls and Guys in minimal clothing ride on bicycles and motor-korkinets along the promenade, winding between the French tourists and old people on their way for a swim in Gordon. Gordon is a deep-well-water pool, and they completely change the water once a day. This famous old swimming pool is right by the Tel Aviv Marina, and a membership there used to be something of a status symbol. When the wind blows, all the cables and poles of the yachts in the marina chime in an eerie music.
There’s also a beach where dogs are allowed without a leash, another lagoon for water sports, which is lighted up at night, and a “Matkot” beach. You can try to avoid the Matkot- a kind of ping-pong beach game played without a table, but getting hit on the head by one of those balls is a mark that you’ve been to a Tel Aviv Beach
Where my grandfather loaded crates of oranges onto boats, we now have a whole area of restaurants, night clubs, and different shops.
There's a delicious indoor farmer's market, and the old port's warehouses now turned into The Tel Aviv Convention center.
Their logo is a flying camel.
This is because back in the 1920's, the Arabs laughed at the Jewish businessmen who started the "Levant Fair". They said, camels will fly before you have a successful business fair here. So the organizers picked a flying camel as the fair's logo, just for spite. The 1923 fair was very successful, and the rest is history.
From there is a beautiful walk the edge of the Yarkon Park, where the river flows into the sea.
You’ll also see a few office buildings where excited hi-tech geeks dream up the next exit.
There’s a bit of history too, but only about a century of it. In Israeli terms that’s brand new; anything newer than a millennium is still not “real” history.
Amazingly, when Tel Aviv first started it was built “with its back to the sea”.
What went thru the minds of the people who decided to ignore such a splendid beach is beyond me. At any rate, TelAvivians soon came to their senses and extended the city streets all the way to the waterfront.
My grandparents’ house is only a ten minutes’ walk to the beach, but it would take us an hour to get there, because everyone on Bograshov Street knew my grandfather and he would stop to stand and talk.
Eventually we would get all the way downhill to the London Garden, right in front of the water. This was a commemorative garden built to show solidarity to the People of London, who suffered in the Blitz in WWII. I remember a greenish statue of a winged, headless woman, representing victory. In my mind it might have been a bronze copy of the winged victory of Samothraki. Of course I could be wrong, but I can’t find a proper picture of it.
In a perfect example of how sentiments change, the London Garden was taken down and replaced by a Memorial garden for the Jewish illegal immigrants that the British had captured and turned away during that same world war, sending them back to die in Europe, or perish at sea, or if they were lucky, to the refugee camps in Cyprus. Only the parking lot under this garden retain the name “London Garden Parking Lot”.
To one side of this is garden-memorial is a lovely café called Masada, as well as a huge McDonalds. This sums up not just Tel Aviv, but all the Israeli experience in one spot, so it’s a good place to end this tour, and sit for a nice cup of coffee.
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