Magazine article Geographical

Young Soul Rebel

Magazine article Geographical

Young Soul Rebel

Article excerpt

The Mediterranean coast is home to Tel Aviv, the city famous for its beaches and nightlife. If you want something quieter, you can always escape to the Carmel National Park

Tel Aviv is 60 kilometres from Jerusalem yet the two cities are world's apart. If Jerusalem is a city of the spirit, then Tel Aviv is a one of the flesh. Israel's economic capital stands in the heart of a metropolitan area with more than two million residents, most of them outspokenly secular, preferring to spend their sabbath on the beach rather than in the synagogue.

Indeed the Mediterranean coast was not historically the land of the Israelites, who inhabited the inland hills. When the Zionist settlers sought land in Palestine, the sparsely populated and humid sand dunes along the coast were for sale. In 1909, a group of Jewish immigrants acquired some land north of Jaffa to build a new town. By the 1930s, Tel Aviv was the fashionable heart of the emerging Jewish colony with stylish Bauhaus buildings designed by refugees fleeing Germany.

"Tel Aviv is a young city with a young soul," says local tour guide Dan Goldberg. "During the day the fun is on the beach. But at night the place to be is in the cafes around Schenkin Street. The Florentin district further south is now emerging as the trendiest neighbourhood."

Other attractions in Tel Aviv include ancient Jaffa, where Jonah set sail on his ill-fated voyage, and the fish restaurants in the port. In the north of the city is the Diaspora Museum, which documents the story of the Jews in exile.

More than 50 per cent of Israel's population lives along the coastal plain, which enjoys mild winters but hot, humid summers. Consequently the beaches are golden but crowded although there are quieter spots along the 200-kilometre-long coastline.

On the Lebanese border is Rosh Hanikra where a cable car takes you down the cliffs to a labyrinth of underground caves. Travelling south, Achziv beach is one of the country's remoter stretches of sand. Further south still is Akko, an ancient sea port established by the Egyptians in 1500 BC and used by the Greeks, Phoenicians and Crusaders. It is home to the country's largest mosque outside of Jerusalem. …

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