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While some U.S. residents canceled their travels to Tel Aviv after the Israel and Hamas conflict in November, it was business as usual in Israel’s second-most populous city. Locals didn’t stop swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. They didn’t cancel work or weekly Shabbat family dinners, nor did they stay away from sunset strolls along the city’s eight-plus miles of sandy beaches.
“Tel Aviv is not a dangerous place,” said Tel Aviv resident Igaal Zeevi. “When you think about it, every place in the world is a war zone to some degree — in the U.S., residents of Los Angeles have the looming threat of earthquakes, while people in the Midwest have shelters under their homes to shield themselves from tornadoes. Every once in a while, Israelis experience a conflict that lasts a few days, but then it is quiet for a long time. Life moves on. We forget about the rockets and go back to working and partying.”
Such is life in the Nonstop City, which boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, world-class museums, around-the-clock nightlife and one of the oldest ports on earth. In recent years, National Geographic named Tel Aviv one of the Top 10 Beach Cities in the world, and The New York Times called the city the Capital of Mediterranean Cool. Where can you find some of the globe’s best looking men and women? Well, according to Traveler’s Digest, right here in Tel Aviv.
Visitors can nonchalantly scope out the resident heartthrobs while getting a feel for the city via bicycle. The Municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa offers more than 120 bike stations throughout the city with full-day rentals for about $4. Best of all, travelers can pay with credit card, and bikes come with their own locks.
Cycle down Rothschild Boulevard to view its impressive collection of international-style Bauhaus architecture, with an emphasis on function over form. More than 4,000 historic buildings were constructed from the late 1920s until the late 1950s, each exhibiting core design elements such as asymmetry, plays of shadow and light, ribbon windows and roof terraces. UNESCO recognized Tel Aviv for its outstanding representation of the modern movement in architecture and dubbed it the White City in 2003.
Because of its port and ideal location, Old Jaffa served as the gate to Israel for centuries. Its history can even be traced back to the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale as well as to the Greek myth of Andromeda. Legend has it that Andromeda was chained to an outcropping of rocks in the Port of Old Jaffa while she awaited her fate — to satiate the appetite of a sea monster named Cetus (not to worry, Perseus saved her from the monster’s jaws). Fans of mythology will want to stroll along the Jaffa Port Promenade to get a glimpse of the Andromeda Rock in the distance and breathe in the salty sea air. The port is also an ideal place to people watch and take a leisurely lunch break — the new Jaffa Port Market features outdoor restaurants with a view of the harbor and a food court with everything from German sausages and an Italian bakery to Israeli craft brews.
When the sun goes down, the Jaffa flea market becomes something quite different. The area recalls 1920’s Paris with laid-back bars crowding narrow, dimly lit alleys. At unleveled cafe tables, complete with mismatched chairs, locals smoke hand-rolled cigarettes, discuss art and music and sip pricey cocktails. They converse intently, almost oblivious to the surrounding Ottoman Empire architecture and to the kaleidoscope of stars above.
Where to Stay: It only makes sense that classic films are screened in the lobby of Tel Aviv’s Cinema Hotel. The 82-room property occupies an original Bauhaus-style building, which was one of the first movie theaters in the city. www.atlas.co.il
The beachfront Dan Tel Aviv is a short walk away from nightlife and business districts and features a kids’ club, pool, conference venues and 280 guestrooms including 41 Luxury Suites. www.danhotels.com/tel_aviv
Getting There: El Al is the only airline offering nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. The carrier currently operates three flights a week (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays) and will offer five flights per week starting at the end of March.
Where to Eat: Make a point to stop and smell the piping-hot falafel balls at the Carmel Market and, if you spot a taboon (cone-shaped oven), be sure to order a goat cheese and tabbouleh wrap from one of the Druze chefs.