Israel Travel

 Jerusalem, situated in the Judean Hills, is the capital of Israel, the seat of government and the historical, spiritual and national center of the Jewish people since King David made it the capital of the Kingdom of Israel some 3,000 years ago. Sanctified by religion and tradition, by holy places and houses of worship, Jerusalem was a walled city until 1860. At that time, the Jews, who by then comprised the majority of its population, began to establish new neighborhoods outside the walls, forming the nucleus of modern Jerusalem. During four decades of British administration (1918-48), the city gradually changed from a neglected provincial town of the Ottoman Empire (1518-1918) into a flourishing metropolis, with many new residential neighborhoods, each reflecting the character of the particular group living there. Following the Arab onslaught against the newly established  State of Israel, the city was divided (1949) under Israeli and Jordanian rule, and for the next 19 years concrete walls and barbed wire sealed off one part from the other. As a result of the assault on Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, the city was reunified.


Today Israel's largest city, Jerusalem has a population of over 600,000. At once ancient and modern, it is a city of diversity, with inhabitants representing a mixture of cultures and nationalities, of religiously observant and secular lifestyles. It is a city which preserves its past and builds for the future, with carefully restored historical sites, well-landscaped green areas, modern commercial zones, industrial parks and expanding suburbs attesting to its continuity and vitality.


Hebron is a holy city for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, second only to Jerusalem. Here King David reigned for 7 years before moving to Jerusalem. The Jewish Patriarchs are burried here, in the Cave of  Machpela. Through the centuries, Hebron and the Cave of Machpela continued to be the focus of the yearnings of the Jewish People. Despite the perils of the journey and the hardships they incurred, Jews continued to make the trek to the City of their Forefathers. To travelers to the Holy Land, Hebron and the Cave of the Machpela were always important sites. Reb Benjamin of Tudelah writes about it during his trip to Hebron in 1173: "And in the valley is the Cave of Machpela, if a Jew should pay the Ishmaelite watchman, he will open for him an iron gate. From there one descends stairs with a candle in hand. Upon reaching the third cave one will find six graves. These are the graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and opposite them, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah."


 Safed is considered the third holy city for the Jews in the Land of Israel. Perched high in the mountains of Galilee, Safed is a popular summer resort and tourist site, with an artists' quarter and several centuries-old synagogues. In the 16th century, Safed was the most important center of Jewish learning and creativity in the world - the gathering place of rabbis, scholars and mystics who laid down religious laws and precepts, such as the Kabbala.


 Tiberias is considered the fourth holy city for the Jews in the Land of Israel. Located on the shore of Lake Kinneret, Tiberias is famous for its therapeutic hot springs. Today the town is a bustling lakeside tourist center, where archeological remains of the past blend with modern houses and hotels. Founded in the 1st century and named for the Roman Emperor Tiberius, it became a center of Jewish scholarship and the site of a well-known rabbinical academy.


 Tel Aviv, a modern city on the Mediterranean coast, is Israel's commercial and financial center. Headquartered there are most industrial and agricultural organizations, as well as the stock exchange. Tel Aviv, the first all-Jewish city in modern times, was founded in 1909 as a suburb of Jaffa, one of the oldest urban settlements in the world.


Haifa, on the Mediterranean Sea, rises from the coastline over the slopes of Mount Carmel. It is built on three topographical levels: the lower city, partly on land recovered from the sea, is the commercial center with  harbor facilities; the middle level is an older residential area; and the top level consists of rapidly expanding modern neighborhoods with tree-lined streets, parks and pine woods, overlooking the industrial zones and sandy beaches on the shore of the wide bay below. A major deep-water port, Haifa is a focus of international trade and commerce. It also serves as the administrative center of northern Israel.


 Netanya is located close to the seashores of the Mediteranean Sea. Netanya's proximity to the sea and its pleasant climate have made the city a most desirable tourist attraction and resort area. Netanya, the largest city on the crossroads between Tel-Aviv and Haifa forms a connecting link between the northern and central parts of the country. Due to its central location near the Tel-Aviv - Haifa railroad tracks, Netanya has become a center for industrial development. Nearby services provide a wide variety of activities from nature walks for the whole family to sports such as paragliding and sail boating.


 Be'er Sheva, in the northern Negev, is located at the intersection of routes leading to the Dead Sea and Eilat. It is a new city built on an ancient site, dating back to the age of the Patriarchs some 3,500 years ago. Called the "Capital of the Negev," Be'er Sheva is an administrative and economic center, with regional government offices and institutions of health, education and culture which serve all of southern Israel.


Eilat the country's southernmost city, is Israel's outlet to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Its modern port, believed to be located on the  site of a harbor used in the time of King Solomon, handles Israel's trade with Africa and the Far East. Warm winters, spectacular underwater scenery, well appointed beaches, water sports, luxury hotels and accessibility from Europe via direct charter flights have made Eilat a thriving, year-round tourist resort.




The majority of Tel Aviv hotels are located on or near the Mediterranean beaches, giving a decided resort dimension to this metropolitan city. Whether operated by a well-known international hotel company or a lesser-known Israeli one, all are held to supervised standards both by the Ministry of Tourism and (for member hotels) the Israel Hotel Association and can largely be expected to provide good -- even superior -- levels of facilities and service.


The beach is right at the feet of many Tel Aviv hotels.


Most tend toward the upper end of the range, both in style and room rates (since construction incentives once made this level the most worthwhile), leaving those on limited budgets with a limited range of options. Except for high seasons, however (generally Passover, July-August, and during the High-Holy Day period), travel agents are able to obtain more favorable rates than the published ones. Note that most include the traditional Israeli buffet-breakfast in the room rate. Factor in this consideration when comparing prices.


Families and those planning to base themselves in Tel Aviv for their visit to the country might be well served by some of the smaller all-suite hotels [such as Yamit, Lusky Suites, Alexander, Havakook] or seek out short-term apartment rentals (by the day or week via realty agents such as Anglo-Saxon or Penthouse). Depending on the season, those who are lucky enough to find space available at the Bnei Dan Youth Hostel (opposite the Yarkon River Park, near Weizmann Blvd., Fax 972 3 544-1030) will find pleasant accommodations in a lovely part of the city.


The back-packing crowd can get assistance with budget accommodations at the Tourist Information Office in the New Central Bus Station (Room No. 6108, near Platform 630, Tel. 639-5660). Its hours are Sun. to Thurs., 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; Fri. and holiday eves, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The same service is available at the bureau in the lobby of City Hall, 69 Ibn Gvirol St.; hours Sun. to Thurs., 9:00 am to 2:00 pm; closed Friday. Rooms available through them range from approximately $10/night in dormitory accommodations to $45/night in a double room. The main languages spoken at the offices are English, German, and Hebrew, plus various others.

Israel Youth Hostel Association


Along with the conventional standards imposed upon them, hotels belonging to the Israel Hotel Association operate supervised kosher food services and feature specially appointed rooms for the disabled. Details and rates for Tel Aviv hotels can be found on the web site of the Israel Hotel Association.




... plus unidentified colorful condiments


You know you've been here too long when you think you're speaking English and your guests look at you blankly. So, you're all invited to contribute to this list of Hebrish and menu idiosyncrasies:


Bagaleh - No, it's not a mini-bagel. It's a pretzel. Plural: bagalekh [Yiddish form].


Chips - No problem for the British, who know they're French fries. Plural: chipsim.


Cola - No one will grasp what you want if you ask for a Coke or Pepsi. Somehow, this word became ingrained even when the only brand available was Coca Cola. It's all counter-intuitive to Hebrew grammar, but you'll hear people ask for "Cola, Diet."


Conditory - Who knows. Maybe when the Romans were here two millennia ago, this was the word they used for bakery, and their bakers were called conditors.


Corasont - It often comes out sounding like the Spanish for heart, but it's the product of vocalization of the transliterated spelling for croissant. A similar, but not as widespread, phenomenon is in the pronunciation of creme brulee, which comes out "barolla."


Salads - Yes, this a plural concept. If you are interested in a simple tossed salad, ask for _vegetable salad_. Otherwise, the unmodified term refers to a spectrum of vegetable dishes which runs from hummus and tehina to mixtures in various sauces, some cooked or blended dishes which Americans would think of as dips, and more forms of eggplant than you ever imagined possible. Little dishes of these served in a wall-to-wall array on your table as a first course are known as salatim [plural of salad, of course!] or the Arabic word for the serving concept, mezze.


Toast - Bet you think it's toasted bread. Wrong. It's a melted-cheese sandwich. Thus, bagel toast on a menu is not a toasted bagel. It may not even be a bagel as Americans know it, but a larger and softer freeform affair sprinkled with sesame seeds. Plural: tostim [sic]. No one's come up with a clear way of ordering toasted bread from an Israeli waiter, so be advised that the Hebrew word for it is tzniMIM. Better yet, have it untoasted.


Those colorful condiments

(or, what is it, and what will it do to me ...?)


The green stuff: If it's finely chopped and you're in a Yemenite or Middle-Eastern restaurant, it's probably z'hug. Approach it very cautiously, since most is incendiary; made from hot green peppers. Taste a tiny bit before putting it on your food.


The dark red stuff: Same as the green stuff, but different-colored peppers. Approach with caution.


The coarser red stuff with onions and green leafy bits: Probably what is known as Turkish salad. This tends to be piquant, but not incendiary.


The innocuous-looking red stuff that looks like pureed fresh tomatoes: Pureed fresh tomatoes ... possibly with a kick. A sprinkling of red pepper might be using the tomatoes for camouflage.


The orange-y liquid stuff: Amba, which is made from a powdered-mango base. Spicy; largely an acquired taste.


The orange-y pasty stuff: Madbukha, made mostly from sweet peppers, tomatoes, and onions; tasty, with no hidden kick.


The whitish liquidy stuff: Thinned tahina sauce; often drizzled over pita sandwiches like shwarma or falafel.


The green powdery stuff (likely with sesame seeds scattered in it): Za'atar. This Arabic word refers to a wonderful, mildly pungent blend (reminiscent of oregano, but more subtle) of dried hyssop, usually mixed with sesame seeds, sumac, and sometimes salt. It's wonderful sprinkled on a variety of foods, from yogurt or young cheeses to meats, or very simply enjoyed by dipping bread into it. Olive oil particularly releases its flavors.


The deep-red powdery stuff: Sumac; while related to what North Americans know as "poison sumac," only those with known food allergies need to be cautious about using this. It has a lemon-like flavor and, in Middle-Eastern restaurants, it is often sprinkled on raw onions.


A few more words of enlightenment and caution: Moroccan-style vegetables pack a wallop. This is particularly true of Moroccan carrot salad (par-cooked slices of carrots laced with cumin and fiery spices) and crispy mixed vegetables which appear to be lightly marinated. They happen to be delicious, but be prepared for the after-burner effect.










Cafe' Society



On any given day, at any given hour, the number of people sitting at Tel Aviv cafes is beyond imagining. The venues listed here are by no means comprehensive, especially as cafes can be found just about anywhere and everywhere. They do, however, have a certain style or character about them, especially on Fridays, the first day of the Israeli weekend.


The described attire and/or accessories will help you blend into the respective settings.


Cafe' Habima - in the mornings, extramarital lover; in the afternoon, an air of self-importance.


Coffee bars in vicinity of City Hall - casual cool; if it needs explaining, you don't have it.


Gan Ha'ir - lipstick, pictures of your grandchildren, and a Central-European language; for men, a sweet tooth and on/off switch on the hearing aid.


Sheinkin St. - anything black; retro and black is better yet; extra points for body hardware.


Basel St. - self-confident ease; babies.


Ramat Aviv Gimmel, Ramat Aviv Mall - heavy gold, designer anything, artistically streaked hair, Baby-Gap kids.


Cinematheque area - anything which says "I go to art films on Friday afternoons."


Upper Dizengoff - come-as-you-are to enjoy the coffee and cakes [guess where I live ...]








How to Order Coffee -- A Primer

An American accustomed to ordering "black coffee" will be served something far different from the expected. Instead of a medium-strength, unsweetened mug of coffee, one will receive either a glass or a tiny cup (somewhere between the size of a thimble and a demi-tasse) of a strong and silty brew; sometimes cloyingly sweet, possibly enhanced with cardamom.


If you know how to order, however, you can find yourself enjoying a hearty and delicious brew. Aside from the ubiquitous cafes, even simple diners often have good espresso machines, and the country's leading coffee marketer has initiated a chain of specialty shops-cum-coffee bars.


So, here is a guide to getting the type of coffee you think you want.


Instant or Nescafe - Self-evident; often referred to by the locals as "nes", regardless of its true corporate origins. (Actually, the Hebrew word "nes" means "miracle", leading serious drinkers to declare, "It's a miracle that it's coffee.")


"American" or filter[ed] - This is what you're probably looking for: medium-strength; either brewed or passed through a filter (the latter is usually a one-serving plastic container which is set on top of the cup, then hot water is added).


Espresso - Just as the name implies; order single or double. Consider asking for a lemon peel or opt for an addition of steamed milk.


Hafukh - This is the Israeli version of cafe au lait or cafe latte; coffee brewed in an espresso machine and mixed with frothy, steamed milk. It is pronounced ha-FOOKH, which literally means "upside-down". The hafukh at the myriad espresso bars which have sprouted around the city is excellent. Since even small neighborhood lunch counters have good espresso machines, you're likely to find good coffee all over the city.


Cappucino - In many places this seems more like a dessert, as Israelis usually make it by topping a strong, brewed coffee with a profusion of whipped cream sprinkled with chocolate powder. This cream is often sweetened, as well, so taste it before adding sugar.


Black, Turkish botz - In its most sublime form, this really should be called Arabic coffee. The Arabs, in fact, are probably the originators of coffee-drinking. In a good Arabic restaurant, such as those in Jaffa, or other Middle-Eastern restaurants, this silty brew is served in a brass finjan, to be poured at your convenience into tiny cups. It is usually sweetened in the brewing.


Anywhere else, it is likely to be served in a glass filled about two-thirds and not pre-sweetened. Wait for it to settle, and stop drinking before you reach the bottom. It is this characteristic of the coffee which gives rise to the name botz, meaning, "mud".


Some Cautions and Tips


Be careful when you ask for iced coffee. You're likely to get coffee with ice cream. Ask, instead, for cold coffee (cafe' kar in Hebrew) and emphasize that you would like a lot of ice.


Israelis are largely averse to using ice and consider refrigerator temperature sufficient. Not only are cold drinks not served automatically with ice, but many food outlets don't even have it available if you ask for it. The only exceptions, in fact, are the American or American-style restaurants.


If you prefer tea to coffee at any time, the choice is usually between an ordinary blandish blend, Earl Grey or herbal (generally mint, though, increasingly, many offer a selection). Many restaurants, particularly Middle-Eastern style and fish, offer mint tea - regular tea with fresh spearmint (na'ana) - which is both tasty and refreshing. As for iced tea, be surprised if you get as much ice as you expected, and enjoy the fact that many serve iced tea with a pitcher of sugar syrup, to make sweetening easier.








Ordering Fish

 Fish restaurants often do not have translations of the Hebrew or Arabic names for the fish on their menus, though most waiters are able to explain or translate them. Just try not to giggle when salmon is referred to as sahlmon or even salomon and shrimps are further pluralized as shrimpsim.


Most fish and seafood restaurants base their menus exclusively on the catch of the day. Some also use fish and shellfish which come from freshwater ponds (grey mullet and some shrimp, for example, has been adapted to such aquaculture).


One of the greatest phenomena in recent years has been the competition which has developed among fish restaurants, bringing down prices to the consumer. While some restaurants still base charges on the weight of the fish, many offer a fixed-price menu which includes an array of Middle-Eastern salads (mezze) with pitas for the first course, a pitcher of club soda or lemonade, fish course, and side dishes for under $20 per person. Many also offer an option to order only the salads, without a main course, for about $5.


The way these restaurants pride themselves on their offerings, the advice of the waiter can be taken to be highly reliable. The fish are usually grilled or fried, with the former being especially recommended. The queasy are warned that many are served whole, head to tail. If you can't bear being reminded this was once a living creature, ask to have them removed before serving.


The following are the most commonly offered fish:


Barbuniya: Red mullet; very small fish which are quickly deep fried, often with a light tempura-like batter; served whole and eaten whole (including head and tail). Some restaurants will make up a half-order as part of the appetizer course (not included in fixed-price menu).


Bourri: Grey mullet; delicious grilled; fairly large; served whole.


Chapura: Daurade; firm, white flesh; not always available and worth considering when offered.


Denys: Sea bream; sweet, firm, white flesh; usually served filleted or butterflied; smaller than grey mullet.


Forel: Trout; some places also serve pink trout, which should not be confused with salmon; from the freshwater Dan River in northern Israel.


Iltit: Salmon; not domestic; generally imported frozen.


Lokoos or Ze'ev Yam or Dakar: Sea bass; usually served by the slice and called "steak."


Musht or Amnon: This is a medium-sized freshwater fish from the Sea of Galilee which is most commonly known as St. Peter's fish; served whole.


Palamida: Bonito.








East European Restaurants



This is the style which many perceive of as being "Jewish cooking," but there are far more Sephardic restaurants in the country than Ashkenazic ones. Don't expect to find New York-style deli offerings here, such as corned beef or pastrami. In the US, Ashkenazic appetizers expanded into "kosher-deli food." Here, they stayed appetizers, with the main courses comprising stodgier, stick-to-the-ribs dishes like cholent.


Bebale (not kosher) - 42 Montefiore St. (walking distance from Allenby Rd. or Rothschild Blvd.) The restaurant's new location in a refurbished old building is very much in character with its rich menu of traditional favorites. Medium price range. Major credit cards.


Cafe' Batya (kosher meat, but open on Saturday) - Dizengoff St., corner of Arlozorov. Popularly priced favorites which try to find a balance between Polish and Litvak styles, with a tendency toward the former. The family-run restaurant is almost a Tel Aviv landmark, but gone are the old-time waiters who could explain the menu in Yiddish. One can easily make a meal of just the appetizers and soup with kreplach or kneidlach.


Cafe' Dan (kosher kitchen, but open on Saturday) - 147 Ben Yehuda St. Traditional range of appetizers and soups at a location particularly convenient to the hotel area. Prices are in the medium range; service and style pleasant, but without particular character. Major credit cards.


Elimelech (kosher kitchen, but open on Saturday) - 35 Wolfson St. Cholent and kishke are specialties here, with a tendency to uneven quality, but this family-operated restaurant is a Tel Aviv institution. There is a fun and raucous atmosphere here at lunchtime on Friday, with workers from the surrounding South Tel Aviv shops drinking drafts of beer side-by-side with middle-class women dining on chopped liver and the like.


Judith's S'arda (glatt K - meat) - Genuine Hungarian style (menu in Hungarian and Hebrew). The restaurant is located on the lower level of the City Garden Mall ("Gan Ha'ir," next to City Hall), where the same proprietor also has a dairy resto-cafe'. The bill can quickly add up, but a business lunch can be enjoyed for under $17. Open daily, except Shabbat; re-opens Saturday evening. Major credit cards.


Keton (not kosher) - 145 Dizengoff St. The location is pretty convenient to the hotel district. Prices are in the median range, and the menu is what one would expect, but the restaurant somehow lacks character.


Shmulik Cohen (glatt K - meat) - 146 Herzl St. Pricey and a distance from the usual centers, but this is the real deal if you enjoy East-European cooking and have healthy arteries (condiments include a pot of schmaltz!). This 50+ old restaurant is a Tel Aviv institution, and, on Friday afternoons, there is a steady stream of people coming in to pick up take-out orders of cholent for Shabbat. Portions are large, so don't order the next major course until you're certain you have the capacity for eating it. Closed Friday evening and Saturday. Major credit cards. Reservations recommended for evening.










Fish and Seafood Restaurants



 There are scores of good fish and seafood restaurants up and down the coast, from the defunct Tel Aviv port in the North to the Jaffa shore well south of the Old City. This is only a small cross-section, based on locations, price ranges, and styles. Those south of Jaffa are not included, since travel to them requires a car or a fairly long drive by taxi.


North Tel Aviv


Barbunia - 163 Ben Yehuda St. and 192 Ben Yehuda St. (diagonally across the street from each other, near Jabotinsky St.; identical menus). Take note of the addresses, because there is hardly any outward marking of the name in English (sometimes visible on the side of the awning). This restaurant was in the forefront of establishing the fixed-menu concept at fish restaurants, becoming so popular that it outgrew its original premises. (It's not unusual to have to queue for a table even on a weekday evening.) Exceptionally good value. Open daily except Friday evening. Major credit cards. Wheelchair access.


Moul Yam - in the Tel Aviv port; entrance from Yordei Hasira St. Oyster bar open daily from noon until midnight; kitchen open from noon - 4:00 pm and 7:30 pm until 11:00 pm. For those who do not have to take out a personal loan to pay for a meal ... expensive! Adored by aficionados of oysters, mussels (ergo the name, which is also a pun in Hebrew for "opposite the sea") and various imported fruits de mer. Wheelchair access. Major credit cards. Reservations recommended.


Sea Dolphin - 1 Yordei Hasira St. (entrance from the side of the building; turn right at the end of Yordei Hasira) Open daily. Since going over to a fixed-menu basis, this once-pricier restaurant offers exceptionally good value and excellent, personal, and knowledgeable service. The original restaurant is in the eastern part of Jerusalem. When the Tel Aviv faithful stopped going there during the period of the intifada, the owner decided to "bring the mountain to Muhammed," by opening a second restaurant in Tel Aviv. Child friendly. Major credit cards. Wheelchair access (but one step to the restrooms and a narrow corridor). Major credit cards. For large numbers, reservations are advisable.


Yam Soof ("Red Sea") (K) - 8 Ha-ta'arukha St. (corner of 344 Dizengoff St.) Open daily from noon to midnight; closed Friday night and Saturday (re-opens after Shabbat). Business lunch special plus fixed-price menus which include 10 first-course salads, fish, and a plate of fruit for dessert. The restaurant opened in early January, 2000.


Hotel Area


Bix - in the Tel Aviv Marina (walkway from Carlton Hotel). Open Sun. to Thurs., 9:00 am to 10:30 pm; Fri. and Sat. until 7:00 pm. Seafood specialties in an incomparable seaside setting. Prices in the median range. Major credit cards. Full wheelchair access.


Forel - 10 Frishman St. Open daily from noon - 11:00 p.m. The name of the restaurant is the Hebrew for trout. Along with a variety of the eponymous freshwater fish, including rainbow and pink trout, the menu offers saltwater fish and seafood. Prices are in the median range. Major credit cards. Wheelchairs need to surmount one step, but the option exists to use the side entrance, through the kitchen. Restrooms have clear access.


Pundag - 8 Frishman St. Open daily from noon to 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 6:00 pm to midnight. This veteran fish and seafood restaurant offers a gracious setting and quality (if pricier than average) menu. Reservations recommended for dinner. Major credit cards. Wheelchair access.




Margaret Tajar - 8 Aliya Ha'shniyah St. (before the Clock Tower), at the corner, opposite the sea. Open daily, noon to 11:00 pm. This restaurant is included in this listing in recognition of the fact that it is widely discussed by food writers who have visited the country. Opinions of it range from wild raves to over-rated, over-priced, and untidy. Major credit cards.


Shabtai Ha-dayag ("the fisherman") (K) - Jaffa Port; enter via the pedestrian gate accessed via Aliya Ha'shniyah St. (before the Clock Tower). When Shabtai Toledano's son became Orthodox and started keeping kosher, he koshered the entire restaurant and started closing on Shabbat, in respect. What hasn't changed is the wonderful and fresh food, including Shabtai's own pickled cabbage among the appetizers, and the simple Mediterranean atmosphere. Open daily except Friday night and Saturday. Accepts VISA. Wheelchair access for outdoor seating. Restrooms are not accessible (several steps).


Taboon - Jaffa Port; enter via southern (vehicle) gate. Open daily from 12:30 pm to 12:30 am. One of the more expensive fish restaurants, but it consistently delivers in terms of its quality and sophisticated offerings and service. With paper tablecloths and crayons provided for what-have-you, it's clearly unpretentious. Prices are moderate to high. Major credit cards. Reservations recommended. Wheelchair access.












 For vegetarians, Israel is paradise, with even restaurants specializing in meat having cooked and fresh vegetarian options. The only caution is in ordering salads -- they're usually large enough for at least two people. The following listing is by no means comprehensive. There are a lot of wonderful, clean, and bright restaurants of this style all over the city. These are just a bit different or special, in one form or another. Except where noted, both indoor and outdoor seating is available. Unless designated otherwise, menus include both dairy and meat dishes.


Alexander - 81 Yehuda Hamaccabi St. (Buses 5, 24, 25) - For years, those in the know have been flocking to this restaurant, which constantly adds new and wonderful dishes to its menu. It's removed from the usual places encountered by tourists but only a reasonably short bus ride. Medium-to-higher price range. Business lunch special. Wheelchair accessible, but restrooms are upstairs. Open daily. Valet parking. Major credit cards.


Apropos - Alexander (K dairy - lemehadrin) - In the Alexander Hotel on Havakook St. All of the branches of Apropos are fundamentally kosher (vegetarian and dairy), but are open on Saturday. This one is rabbinically supervised and closed on Shabbat, making it a favorite of those who are strict about the Jewish dietary laws, particularly for first dates among the young Orthodox set. Light meals, fish, cakes. Wheelchair accessible; elevator to restrooms. Major credit cards. (Indoors)


Apropos - Opera Tower Mall and Mann Auditorium complex. Diverse dairy and fish menu, including Thai specialties; beautiful cakes and delicious fruit smoothies. Wheelchair accessible; elevator to restrooms. Open daily. Major credit cards. (Indoors)


Basel Cafe' - Basel St., corner of Har Nevo. The menu is a cut above the ordinary, and the place is hardly ever without a queue of people waiting for tables. (No reservations accepted, but the wait it not unpleasant.) Very child friendly. Wheelchair accessible, but restrooms are upstairs.


 Cafe' Birenbaum (K - dairy) - 31 Nahalat Binyamin St. (just south of the pedestrian mall). Exceptionally good value. Open Sunday through Thursday, 6:00 am to 4:00 pm; Friday, 6:00 am to 2:00 pm; closed Saturday. Self-service and honor system: Just walk up to the L-shaped counter and take what you want. For salads only, the charge is about $6.50, and with veggie quiches/pastas/potatoes, etc., it's about $8. Drinks and desserts are extra. No credit cards. Tables are wheelchair accessible but the counter is not (accommodating staff will bring selections to the table); restrooms might be tricky, but not impossible.


Cafe' Habima (K - dairy) - Lobby of Habima Theater, Rothschild Blvd. Live easy-listening or light-classical music in the late afternoon and evening. Lunchtime buffet of salads, quiches, and the like are good value ("all you can eat"). A lot of Israeli movers and shakers can often be seen here, and it's generally a great place for people watching. Open daily except Saturday. Major credit cards. (Indoors)


Cafe' Kazze - 19 Sheinkin St. Vegetarian, dairy, and cool. Dining is in three rooms of a converted apartment, plus the garden in the back. "It's like, y'know, a cafe' ..." -- roughly the meaning of the name. Breakfasts until noon; huge salads, and great sandwiches. Check out the vegetarian couscous on Tuesdays. Wheelchair accessible (but tricky for restroom); for the garden, walkway from the street. Major credit cards.


Erez Cafe' and Breads - 52 Ibn Gvirol and 73 Yehuda Hamaccabi. Handmade breads from all-organic ingredients are the specialty, made into great sandwiches, along with croissants and various cakes. On Ibn Gvirol, the bread shop and cafe' are located two doors apart. Wheelchair accessible.


Judith's (K dairy - lemehadrin) - Gan Ha'ir (City Garden Mall), Ibn Gvirol St., next to City Hall. Exquisite cakes and light meals. Major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.


Orna and Ela - 33 Sheinkin St. Extremely popular among the hip, the Gay, the celebrated, and those simply seeking the tasty food and cakes on the eclectic menu. Plan to wait for a table. Get your name on the list, find out the approximate waiting time, then browse among the neighboring stores while waiting. Major credit cards. Side entrance enables wheelchair access; host will show the way.


Picasso - 88 Hayarkon St. (Not hard to locate, thanks to a mural of the artist painted on the building) The menu is out of the ordinary, if pricier than most. The location is great, with a wonderful view of the Mediterranean from the terrace. Open daily. Major credit cards. Not wheelchair accessible; three steps; no access to restrooms.


Tnuva - 34 Ben-Gurion Blvd. Simply one of the especially enjoyable places, both for atmosphere and menu. This particular restaurant set a new standard for many others of the genre through its menu offerings. Open daily. Major credit cards. Wheelchair access is problematic (three steps at entrance); once in, access is clear, including restrooms.


Wissotzky Tea House - (K dairy) 103 Hahashmona'im St. (Buses 9, 63) Many make their way to this location (a street of office buildings but with a great variety of restaurants; a few minutes walk from the Tel Aviv Cinematheque) for the special menu of 60 varieties of tea, the assortment of tea sandwiches, the English high-tea goodies, and the diverse menu of dairy and fish dishes, plus cakes. Open daily until midnight (closes 2:00 pm on Friday and re-opens Saturday evening); tea shop open until 9:00 pm. Major credit cards. Wheelchair access, including restrooms.


Yotvata - (kosher dairy and vegetarian products but open on Saturday) 78 Herbert Samuel Esplanade. With its location opposite the seaside promenade, the restaurant is extremely popular with Israelis and visitors, alike. Something about the colors, excessively bright lighting, and laminated menu with pictures is reminiscent of the old Howard Johnson restaurants of the 60s, but don't let that put you off. Though not affiliated with it, the restaurant uses the dairy products of the Yotvata Kibbutz (near Eilat). Portions are huge, so consider sharing. Salads are daunting even for two people. Great selection of fruit juices and smoothies. Very child friendly, including children's menu and play area. Major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.

Basel St.


Visitors to the city would not have a particular reason to seek out this street, which connects Dizengoff and Ibn Gvirol, just south of Nordau Blvd., but it's very much worth a visit. The square around Basel Towers (at the Ibn Gvirol end) has a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes with a very relaxed, neighborhood atmosphere. The square is formed by the streets Basel, Ashtori HaFarhi, Alkalay, and HaShlah. On the Basel leg are a number of cafes, including the ever-popular Basel Cafe' (open daily for breakfasts and light meals; child friendly) an excellent wine-and-cheese shop, and a branch of Tushiya Bakery (breads and cakes). Ashtori HaFarhi St. has a variety of restaurants, including hummus and sushi; a branch of Candles on Sheinkin which also features the natural soaps from another shop on Sheinkin St. (see below); and B.Z.T, which specializes in housewares but often has some Israeli-made products which are out of the ordinary. Aden, at 3 Alkalay, is a cooperative of four jewelry designers and features their beautiful work; most of it in silver and gold.


In the unfortunate chance that one needs first-aid medical attention, the Magen David Adom station on HaShlah St. (near Nordau) has a walk-in facility.


Dizengoff St.


The jury is still out on the urban struggle between shopping streets and malls taking place in Tel Aviv, as it has in so many cities around the world. An effort is currently underway to revitalize Dizengoff St., which used to be synonymous with style. It still has a number of shops which make a visit to it worthwhile, as does the recent addition of a charming series of sculptures along a central segment.





A metal sculpture by David Gerstein points the way to Rosenfeld Gallery.



Some will argue that the proliferation of malls is responsible for the street's decline, but they would be overlooking a different key factor. Whereas it used to be a favorite pastime to converge on the center of Tel Aviv for the sake of strolling on Dizengoff (even generating a slang word in Hebrew meaning to do just that, li-hizdangeff), the preferred venue for this is now the seaside promenade. This loss of pedestrian traffic had an understandable ripple effect, including negative impact on the various shops and restaurants. This was further exacerbated by two terrorist incidents which took place in the mid-90s and the fact that low-end shops and eateries began to proliferate around the area of Dizengoff Circle. Now, there are signs that renovation of the Bauhaus-style buildings in the vicinity is contributing to upgrading the area.


In fact, the problematic portion is only the central one between Dizengoff Circle and Arlozorov St. Below the circle, the Dizengoff Center Mall is extremely popular and busy, while, north of Arlozorov, there is a proliferation of Israeli-designer boutiques, popular cafes, and upscale shops featuring European fashions, and fine jewelry.


Dizengoff Circle Architecture


Dizengoff Center


Dizengoff and King George Streets Buses 5, 13, 24, 25, 47, 48, 61, 62 (1, 2, 66 from the South) Shops are open from 9:00 am or 10:00 am, Sun. to Thurs., until as late as 9:00 pm; 3:00 pm on Fri.; cinema and some food outlets open Friday night and Saturday. Fast-food and cafes galore.


The floors of this mall, which straddles both sides of Dizengoff, are very confusing. Because of the way they are ramped around an atrium (similar layouts on each side of the street), getting to the opposite side of the atrium involves changing levels and a circuitous walk. Escalators only go up, so stairs must be used for descending. Both a bridge and an underpass connect between the two sides of the street. Wheelchair access is augmented by elevators.


The variety of shops is dizzying. The following are worthy of note and are all located on the side of the Hamashbir department store.


Gold Optic (entrance level) - If you need emergency help with your glasses, Motti and Eli are the guys to give it to you. Superior selection and service.

Lev Cinema multiplex (uppermost level)

Max Brenner Chocolates (upper level) - Handmade Israeli chocolates which are a great indulgent treat and make a lovely host/hostess gift if you are invited to an Israeli home.

Tee-shirt shop on the entrance level, Hamashbir side; quality selection of souvenir shirts, including custom appliques.

Hamashbir department store, in-store boutiques for Israeli designers

Golf (entrance level) - Tailored Israeli fashions.

Topper (entrance level) - Young Israeli fashions.

Zara - Spanish fashion chain (next to Hamashbir).

Rosh Indiani (lower level) - Young Israeli fashions.

Click (roughly in the middle of the top floor, above Gold Optic) - high-quality selection of Israeli crafts which makes a trip to this mall worth the effort, Judaica, hand-crafted jewelry (silver, gold, semi-precious stones), and art (sculpture, paintings, prints).


Northward on Dizengoff


From Dizengoff Circle, going northwards to Arlozorov, the following bear noting, along with the good-quality jewelers, Judaica, and souvenir shops. Whereas city bylaws used to require shops to close at 7:00 pm, along with an afternoon "siesta" and a full day or afternoon off on Tuesday, the city is now encouraging the shops to remain open until 9:00 pm, without the afternoon break or Tuesday closings. Increasingly, many are doing so.


Chen Cinema multiplex (Dizengoff Circle)

Hod Cinema multiplex (arcade parallel to Frishman)

Steimatzky's - Two shops of the largest Israeli book chain (plus various Israeli souvenirs, newspapers in English from around the world, etc.); one on either side of Frishman St., on Dizengoff.

Gideon Oberson - 36 Gordon St., near Dizengoff. Israeli beachwear, plus casual and eveningwear by this noted designer and his daughter.

Dorin Frankfurt - 164 Dizengoff, main showroom of one of Israel's dynamic young designers.

Gottex - 148 Dizengoff, showroom of Israel's world-famous beachwear designer; also features resort and eveningwear. Open 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, daily.

Book Boutique - 190 Dizengoff (in the arcade), a used-book store which also buys books and magazines from individuals for credit against purchase; very convenient when you run out of reading material for the beach.





Landmark restaurants along this stretch include the Pinati Cafe', near the corner of Frishman; Cafe' Kassit, long a hangout of the literati and various Tel Aviv personalities and characters; Keton (East-European style, but not kosher), near the corner of Jean Jaures St.; and Cafe' Batya (East-European style; kosher meat but kitchen is not rabbinically supervised) at the corner of Arlozorov. Those seeking kosher food will likely enjoy the Pizza Hut on the opposite corner.




Continuing northward, stores become less dense but more upscale, and trees proliferate. Israeli designers who have boutiques along this stretch include Yuval Caspin, Ilana Efrati ("Line"), Jerry Melitz, and Gershon Bram.

[Just past Ilana Efrati's boutique, near Nordau Blvd., is a neighborhood grocery. Ask Yossi for a carton of his sublime, lightly marinated herring or boned-skinned-sliced smoked lakerda.]


The Silberstein Cafe' features excellent baked goods and light meals. There's another shop of Max Brenner Chocolates at the corner of Dizengoff and Nordau, next to which is Octave, which provides Internet service by the half hour and hour. Opposite is Cafe' Hafukh, a popular hangout, and further along, at the corner of Malachi St., is the first Ben & Jerry's in the country. [Nipping into Malachi, one comes upon one of Tel Aviv's oldest and most beautiful neighborhood parks, Gan Hanevi'im - "Prophets Park," so named since most of the streets in the area are named for the prophets.] On the same side of the street, slightly further, are two more excellent cafes, Gitanes and Cafe' de la Paix. Opposite are upscale shops for European fashions, crystal, jewelry, and the like.




At Yirmiyahu, turning to the right leads to a number of restaurants, including Yossi Peking (excellent kosher Chinese), Shoshana's Hungarian Blintzes (kosher), Hummus Ashkara (kosher and possibly the best in the city), and Jasmine Garden (Chinese cuisine and patronized by Chinese, not kosher). Just before Jasmine Garden, at 52 Yirmiyahu, is a small place which has arguably the best grilled chicken in the city (kosher). The unpresuming sign is for Ace Sausages, but the specialty is this wonderful chicken, which can be enjoyed at the counter with salad and side orders for under $5. [Yiddish and German speakers can enjoy the fact that the owner's name is Fliegelman ...]


Opposite is the Pe'er Cinema multiplex. Behind that is the beginning of the Yarkon River Park. If one continues along on the street leading leftward from the cinema and continues for a few hundred meters/yards on Shimon Hatarsi St., one comes to a small square with an extraordinary park. Walking around its periphery reveals it is both an archaeological site (where ancient tombs were found) and an historical one (commemorating a British victory against the Turks), along with having a small children's playground and a landscaped garden with waterfall. [Continuing in the same easterly direction leads to Ibn Gvirol St.]


Back at Dizengoff, turning left on Yirmiyahu leads quickly to the Mediterranean, including the Old Tel Aviv Port and the restaurants on Yordei Hasira St. Ben Yehuda Street is very close to Dizengoff at this point, and returning southward is easy, with convenient bus lines on Dizengoff (1, 2, 56; 5 south of Nordau) and Ben Yehuda (4, 9, 55) , along with the No. 4 sherut.


Kikar HaMedina


Buses 7a, 13, 61, 62, 66.


The official name of this huge circle is Heh b'Iyar, the date the State of Israel was proclaimed. Kikar HaMedina translates to "the State circle." Quite unlike the humble beginnings of the country, the circle almost-exclusively features upscale, expensive shops such as Gianni Versace, Yves Saint-Laurent, Donna Karan, and their ilk, along with jewelers, pricey delis, banks, and a handful of more pedestrian shops.


Somehow, the great plans for the circle (which is mainly accessed by Jabotinsky St. and Weizmann Blvd., each at two points) never quite got off the ground. The lawns and potential facilities at its center were never developed, leaving a vast expanse around which all the shops and expensive apartments are situated.


What might be most remarkable about Kikar HaMedina is the paucity of cafes or restaurants; likely because of a combination of high rents and the relative soulless nature of the street. On the southern segment of Weizmann Blvd. (coming from Arlozorov St.), however, is the Beit Leissin Theater, which features a popular-priced coffee shop, and a large resto-cafe', Croissonette.


Nachlat Binyamin St.



Ceramicist Michal Ben-Yosef is a regular at the Nachlat Binyamin Crafts Fair.


Buses 1, 2, 4, 13, 24, 25, 47, 48 (and any going to Carmelit Terminal; alight at the stop for "the shuk" -- Carmel Market)


This popular street has several personalities, depending on the time of day, the day of the week, and whether one is on the pedestrian-mall segment or that which carries traffic. Every Tuesday and Friday, the pedestrian mall (which includes branching streets) is the venue of an excellent and lively crafts fair which is at least as popular for Israelis as it is for visitors. Much of the day, but particularly at night, a number of the cafes are popular meeting places for the Gay-Lesbian community, along with others taking a break from the nearby dance clubs on Allenby Rd. Shops feature a sundry variety of goods from wine and wooden toys to yard goods and women's fashions, and there is a range of restaurants and cafes offering kishke to quiche [Kapulsky, near Allenby, is kosher; few others are].


Several influences affect the nature of the street, along with the above: The proximity to Sheinkin St. (on the other side of Allenby), which is a natural complement, the location parallel to the Carmel Market ("the shuk"), and the mix of commerce (wholesale and retail) in the vicinity. It is also experiencing some transition, though not many of the architecturally interesting buildings have been refurbished.


Together with Sheinkin St., Nachlat Binyamin is a successful example of how an aging urban area can be revitalized. During the early 1980s, then-mayor Shlomo ("Cheech") Lahat took the controversial step of creating the pedestrian mall. This segment had a concentration of shops featuring yard goods, and the proprietors preferred having the exhaust-spewing buses going through, fearing there would be a decline in walk-in traffic. Around the same time, the mayor instituted a system of easements for building/renovation permits in the Sheinkin St. area, where the population was aging. In tandem, the resulting effect was a rejuvenation of the entire area, both in demographic profile and spirit. Ultimately, the merchants on branching streets demanded the pedestrian mall be expanded to include them.


South of the pedestrian portion, Nachlat Binyamin still features a happy patchwork of businesses. It's worth wandering down for a delicious and inexpensive meal at Cafe' Birnbaum (31 Nachlat Binyamin; kosher dairy) or seeking out the specialty spice shops, where one might find such treasures as dried Persian lemons.


Sheinkin St.


Buses as for Nachlat Binyamin, plus 5 from the Rothschild Blvd. end




This is Tel Aviv's one-street Village or Soho and has even yielded a term: Sheinkinite, denoting a person who is hip and socially-politically liberal. The surrounding neighborhood is peopled by a combination of the very young, the elderly, and the Orthodox, and all coexist in harmony. This is particularly in evidence on Fridays, when, next to the park at the center of the street, one is likely to see stands with leaflets for liberal causes side-by-side with Orthodox men offering passersby the opportunity to fulfill the commandment of donning tefillin. It was the natural place for the first Israeli-Arab woman elected to the Knesset (Israel's parliament) to do a victory walk-about among the many sidewalk resto-cafes.



Part of the Sheinkin scene: freshly made crepes spread with Nutella and chopped walnuts. [photo: Mimi Hiller]


The street is bounded by Allenby Rd. and Rothschild Blvd. Entering from the Allenby end, there is a shop a few doors in on the right-hand side which offers an eclectic selection of souvenirs and Judaica much like those to be found in the Old City of Jerusalem. Prices are reasonable, and there are some gems to be found. Tastes and interests being what they are, every shop bears examination. A few, though, are particularly interesting. Michal Negrin, at 11 Sheinkin, specializes in costume jewelry and objects which feature either roses or angels (few men make it more than several steps into the store and are usually seen standing timorously in front of the air-conditioning unit next to the entrance or bolting for the nearest cafe').


 Michal Negrin's shop.


Further down the street, past Cafe' Kazze (wonderful dairy and vegetarian dishes) is Candles on Sheinkin, at 27 Sheinkin. Nearby is the wildly popular Orna and Ela restaurant, at 33 Sheinkin. Further up the street, on the opposite side, are two special shops, one selling a magnificent array of natural soaps by weight, and Kakadu, an Israeli company which creates beautiful home and work accessories in wood, including many which are not heavy and pack easily (such as colorful place mats).









They're with us, for better or for worse. The Hebrew word created to mean mall is kenyon. So, if you sometimes see the word canyon appearing incongruously, this is likely the reference.


Azrieli Center - This is among the largest of the malls in the city; located on the first floors of the massive towers which can be seen from most of Tel Aviv and points beyond. It is accessible via all of the buses which travel on Petach Tikva Rd. and the Shalom Rd. (Derech Hashalom) train station. The mall features a large number of middle-to-upper-range stores, food outlets, cinema multiplex, and a large health club.


City Garden Mall (Gan Ha'ir) - This is a small and aesthetic complex of largely upscale shops, plus cafes and restaurants, located on Ibn Gvirol St., next to City Hall. Also located here (roof level) are the Slik (Israeli-folklore nightspot) and the Enav Cultural Center.


Dizengoff Center - See Dizengoff Street.


Kenyon Ayalon - This was the first of the American-style malls in the country, anchored by large department and grocery stores, with various smaller ones, a food court, and cinema multiplex between. It is located at the northeastern edge of Tel Aviv, bordering on Bnei Brak; best accessed by taxi or Bus No. 27.


London Mini-stores - The complex at the corner of Ibn Gvirol St. and Shaul Hamelech Blvd. includes a number of stores, large range of food outlets, a 24-hour (except Saturday) pharmacy, the Tzavta Theater, and Limor Cinema. Buses 12, 26, 32, 70, 82.


Opera Tower - Don't confuse this with "the opera house;" the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. This is the terraced tower at the foot of Allenby Rd., overlooking the Mediterranean and the seaside promenade. Along with resto-cafes and a cinema multiplex, it features a number of excellent little shops on its first three floors, including silver, jewelry, and crafts. It takes its name from the fact that it stands on the site of Tel Aviv's first opera house, and its design (the pointed archways) pays homage to the style of the original building. Accessible by all buses traveling the length of Ben Yehuda St., most of those which travel on Allenby, and those which serve Jaffa.


Ramat Aviv Mall - This upscale mall is located in the wealthy Ramat Aviv neighborhood, near Tel Aviv University. It is bounded by Namir Rd., Brodetzky St. and Einstein St.; buses 13, 25, 27, 90. Along with the many superior Israeli shops, cinema multiplex, and food outlets, it has a great activity center for children, featuring inflated enclosures for bouncing, sliding, and crawling.


Tel Aviv Central Bus Station - This may well be the largest mall, per se, in the city, in terms of both size and the number of establishments. The shops and food outlets are diverse beyond description and include the good, the bad, and the tacky. As the name implies, it is the main terminus for both inter-city and Tel Aviv buses, including the No. 4 and 5 bus lines and sherut taxis. The main Tel Aviv Tourist Information Bureau is located on the sixth floor. A bus map of Tel Aviv, which is also an excellent street map, can be purchased at Dan Information for about $0.75.






Crafts Fair












Buses 1, 2, 4, 13, 24, 25, 47, 48, or any which travel along Allenby Rd. or to the Carmelit Terminal. Alight at the Carmel Market stop.


Twice weekly, on Tuesday and Friday, the Nachlat Binyamin pedestrian mall (parallel to the Carmel Market) is dotted with colorful parasols and tables upon tables of crafts for every taste and style. Silver jewelry, ceramics, sculpted candlesticks, mobiles, wind chimes, wooden toys, name signs, and myriad novelties -- many of them worthy of judged shows -- are displayed and sold by local craftspeople.






Locals and visitors, alike, rub shoulders -- particularly on Fridays -- in a relaxed and festive atmosphere ... here a string quartet of Russian immigrants playing waltzes and light classics ... there a troupe of South American-Indian musicians playing songs of the Andes ... there a traditional Druze tent, with women baking large, thin pitas on a campfire oven (which can be purchased -- spread with either chocolate cream or tangy labane, sprinkled with za'atar, -- and eaten in the tent). Innumerable cups of coffee are sipped and brunches devoured at outdoor tables, while the occasional street performer draws a crowd of onlookers, who express their appreciation in the coin of the realm.







[Photo: Sharon Stein Schach]


By about 10:00 am, most vendors have finished setting up their tables and arraying their wares, continuing through at least 4:00 pm (later in summer). Each is licensed to participate by the city, which has a committee for screening the craftspeople and their offerings and supervising the smooth operation of the fair.


All speak English (with many speaking additional languages; particularly Spanish or French), and many provide gift wrapping and/or appropriate packaging for fragile items. Some accept credit cards, but most deal only in cash. Displayed prices are usually firm; this is largely not a place for bargaining.




Many will want to make this their first stop for shopping. The pedestrian mall is fully accessible to wheelchairs.








Carmel Market

[Photo: Karen Selwyn]


Buses 1, 2, 4, 13, 24, 25, 47, 48, or any which travel along Allenby Rd. or to the Carmelit Terminal.


Have your camera ready. Be prepared to be jostled. Beware of pickpockets. But, don't miss it!


Small hills of the colorful fruits and vegetables of the season rising on either side of lanes narrowed by the endless stands ... freshly squeezed glasses of citrus juice, hawked by its vendor as "health in a cup" ... factory seconds and overruns of clothing to outfit young and old ... bread and rolls straight from the oven ("not hot -- not pay") ... cases filled with cheeses ... vats brimming with olives ... barrels filled with herring ... buckets upon buckets of fresh flowers in brilliant profusion ... the cacophony of stall owners calling out their prices in singsong.


[Photo: Elaine Radis]


Tel Aviv's Shuk HaCarmel, most commonly simply called "the shuk" [market] has to be experienced to be believed. The hard-working stall owners are up before dawn to stock their stands and work a long day until early evening, providing the freshest produce at likely the lowest prices in the city. It's one of the best shows in town, and it's free.


Consider buying a bit of this and a few pieces of that -- perhaps a carton of cleaned and sliced smoked fish or herring, cheese, some fresh bread, olives or pickles, and a bottle of something to drink -- and walk to a nearby beach for an instant picnic. Your memory will be challenged to remember something more enjoyable.


[Photo: Karen Selwyn]


Note that, coming from the Allenby end, the first third of the shuk is dominated by clothing. On the streets branching off to the right, the main product is poultry; not of particular interest. Where Rambam St. enters, on the left, is the fresh citrus stand. In the lower third (i.e., the segment near the Carmelit Terminal), one finds the fresh bakery on the right. Past that is an excellent cheese vendor, on the same side. Still further, a few hundred yards before the end, is a vendor selling olives and excellent-quality preserved fish (herring, smoked, salted, dried, etc.), which he cleans, slices, then packs in a plastic carton. [Yuval is a great example of the new generation in the market, as he is taking over from his father. He loves to speak English and is assiduous about his products.]


[Photo: Karen Selwyn]


The market is not inaccessible to wheelchairs, but the pavements are not particularly even, and the crowds can be excessive. For a more controlled experience which still affords getting a flavor of the place, consider approaching from the southern end, near the parking lots/Carmelit Terminal or from one of the connecting streets from Nachlat Binyamin (Rambam St.), and traversing only a segment. Otherwise, the most convenient starting point is from Allenby Rd.


NOTE: Years and years ago, the market was a favorite target for attempts by terrorists. Consequently, it tends to be heavily patrolled at entrance points. It is fair to say that there has not been any problem there in well over a decade, if not longer. At times of tension, however [the public is alerted via the news media], I do not go there and urge my guests not to, either. --RH








Jaffa Flea Market



Buses 10, 41, 46 to Yefet St.; 8, 25 to stop before Clock Tower Sq.


Start by treating yourself to a fresh-from-the-oven pita at the Aboulafia Bakery, walk up the street, and turn left. You will have no doubt that you are approaching the Jaffa Flea Market and soon find yourself at a row of shops primarily featuring oriental rugs and, more likely than not, at least one cluster of people huddled over a backgammon board [shesh-besh, from the Persian and the origin of the game]. The market extends along this street and those going off to the left. A series of left turns will eventually bring you back to Yefet St.


The entire area is colorful, fun, and provides an interesting glimpse at some of the segments which make up Israeli society, from recent immigrants selling used household goods arrayed on the pavements to shop owners offering a wide array of merchandise, both old and new. There are some excellent-quality items to be found here, such as the rugs, and no small amount of junk. It is a place for bargaining over prices, so knowing the psychology of it is helpful. Have no doubt but that the sellers have a keen appreciation of the value and quality of their inventories. If the shopper is knowledgeable, though, there are some good buys to be had (such as in rugs and some Judaica collectibles).




A quick lesson in bargaining, Middle-Eastern style: The seller will throw out a price, thereby establishing a point of reference. Even if you think it's reasonable, you refuse. He then asks what you're willing to pay.


Hmmmm .... "If he said 100 shekels, I can't very well insult him and say 30." But, you can -- and should, if not even a lower figure. Or, you might shrug and say you're not really all that interested -- certainly not for anything higher than x amount. Shrug again and start walking away. If he yells after you with another offer, consider it; either accept or make a counter-offer. Eventually, if he doesn't yell after you, you'll know your offer is under the threshold he considers realistic.


Even if you don't buy a thing in the entire market area, it's great fun to poke around. Those who are not concerned about packing bulky items will find some beautiful copperware, here. Note that there are two arcades which are worth seeking out, but take note of the fact that a lot of the items within them (clothing, earrings, and the like) are not Israeli, but imported from India and the Far East.


The morning, particularly in the early part of the week, is the best time to visit for serious bargain hunting. Many of the vendors have a superstition about making the first sale of the day or week to get them off to a good start, referring to it by the Arabic word siftakh. Like so many other places, it's not the deal you made, but the deal you think you made. So, some vendors will use the siftakh concept to make you feel their loss is your gain. Still, the flea market is more about fun than caution and well worth the visit.








Souvenir Tips

Shopping may be part of the fun of the visiting experience, but there is invariably the point that finding gifts and souvenirs becomes a chore; especially for the "person who has everything," or if you're the type who wants to avoid things which are emblazoned with "Israel" or camels and palm trees. Tel Aviv Insider also welcomes your additions to the ideas listed here.


Spices and seasonings


This land was always an important segment on the ancient Spice Route, and the tradition lingers. Devoted cooks may well appreciate the following. Where possible, buy them from specialty spice vendors (such as on Nachlat Binyamin St. or others in that section of the city). Otherwise, many are available in supermarkets and small groceries in cellophane packets, which pack more conveniently than the shaker bottles.


Za'atar - a wonderful, mildly pungent blend (reminiscent of oregano, but more subtle) of dried hyssop, usually mixed with sesame seeds, sumac, and sometimes salt. It's wonderful sprinkled on a variety of foods, from yogurt or young cheeses to meats, or very simply enjoyed by dipping bread into it. Olive oil particularly releases its flavors.


Dried Persian lemons - Available only at specialty shops; an essential of Persian cuisine.


Sumac - while related to what North Americans know as "poison sumac," only those with known food allergies need to be cautious about using this. It has a lemon-like flavor and, in Middle-Eastern restaurants, it is often sprinkled on raw onions. This is generally found only in spice shops.


Hawai'ej - a mixture of spices used in Yemenite cuisine. Note that there are two different blends; one to be added to soup and one for coffee (i.e., to be added to Turkish coffee for extra zip).


Cardamom - available around the world, but probably less expensive here.


Saffron - less pricey than in North America, but not cheap. Ask for it in specialty shops, as it's not often displayed.


Spice mixtures for grilled chicken, meat, or fish. These are popular in Israeli cooking, but note that they usually contain MSG.


Powdered soup mixes in plastic jars (chicken-flavored and pareve, beef, onion). These are not just for soups, but serve as great flavorings in many forms of recipes. The pareve forms are particularly appreciated by people who keep kosher kitchens.




Coffee is of Arabic origin, and what is widely known as "Turkish" coffee has its sources in Arab/Bedouin culture. It can be purchased in pouches, tins, and vacuum packs in grocery stores, or special aromatic blends can be purchased in specialty coffee shops.


Music and Videotapes


Israeli music of all styles and unique videotape titles are available in many music and book stores. When buying a videotape, make sure it is appropriate to your home broadcast system (i.e., NTSC for North America; PAL for Europe and most other regions).




Those which have markings implying they have anything to do with the Israeli army (IDF/Israel Defense Forces) may be cute to some, but note that they aren't genuine, and most are manufactured in China. Check out the tee-shirts by Lipti (sold in many shops plus the company's own store on Hayarkon St., near Allenby), a growing number on ecology themes, and the like, available in better shops, and the variety in the tee-shirt shop on the entrance floor of Dizengoff Center.




Key chains, magnetic picture frames with Israeli motifs, Kakadu wooden crafts (especially table mats), Druze weavings worked into a variety of products, Bedouin and Bedouin-style embroideries.







Crafts & Judaica

There are innumerable shops for crafts and Judaica along Ben Yehuda St. and Allenby Rd., along with other locations such as Dizengoff St. and Jaffa. The following have particularly fine selections or singular offerings.


Click - Dizengoff Center (corner Dizengoff and King George Streets), Gate 3, two floors above entrance. The shop contains a high-quality selection of Israeli crafts, Judaica, hand-crafted jewelry (silver, gold, semi-precious stones), and art (sculpture, paintings, prints).


Eretz Yisrael Museum Gift Shop - 2 Haim Levanon St., Ramat Aviv. [See Museums & Historic Homes page for buses and hours.]


Gabrieli Weavers - 12 Mazal Dagim, Old Jaffa. Hand-woven tallit [prayer shawl] sets, including custom orders, plus various other textiles (wall hangings, pillow covers, cloaks, bags, and the like). Open until late every evening, except Friday.


High Line (Adriana) - 15 Frishman St. (between Hayarkon and Ben Yehuda). This is a small shop which is big on quality. Adriana has a background in the hotel industry, so is also a font of information.


Mazkit - 94 Ben Yehuda St. This shop continues in the tradition of the defunct WIZO shop which used to be located at this address, stocking a wide variety of Israeli folklore items, Judaica, and jewelry, including many which are handcrafted. (Note that this is not the equally defunct Maskit shop.)


Tel Aviv Museum of Art Gift Shop - 27 Shaul Hamelekh Blvd. [See Museums & Historic Homes page for buses and hours.]


Shlush Shloshim - Ceramic Arts Gallery, 30 Chelouche St., Neve Tzedek. Permanent exhibition and sale of ceramic works by members of the "Shlush Shloshim" co-operative.








Gold, Diamonds and Fine Jewelry

Israel excels at producing machine-made gold chains, largely for export. The Israel Standards Institute has created a symbol for use by manufacturers who have submitted their goods for inspection of gold content -- a gold harp -- and is urging consumers to look for it when making such purchases. There are five variations:


- Gold harp alone: 22 or 24 karat

- Gold harp with the number 875: 21 karat

- Gold harp with the number 750: 18 karat

- Gold harp with the number 585: 14 karat

- Gold harp with the number 375: 9 karat.


Examine markings under magnification; imported chains should also have assay verification.


You will find jewelers price machine-made chains per gram of weight, with the shops on Allenby Rd. usually being slightly cheaper than those on Ben Yehuda St. The latter, however, are more likely to have English-speaking staff.


Diamonds and Colored Stones


When it comes to buying diamonds and other gems, there are truly good buys available, since Israel is a major center for the cutting and polishing of diamonds and precious stones, especially emeralds, along with semi-precious stones. But, there may also be some risks or uncertainties in terms of value, unless you are truly knowledgeable. Some cautions to consider:




Don't buy on impulse; make comparisons.

Don't allow yourself to be pressured.

Don't allow a tour guide to limit you to a certain store; his/her interest may be more in the commission the shop pays than your welfare.

Remember the above if you go on a "free" tour which ends up at the hosting company's showroom.

Demand an appraisal certificate from a certified gemologist.

A shop's claim to offering "tax-free" merchandise to tourists is genuine if it either provides you with the filled-in forms for V.A.T. refund upon your departure from Israel or requires you to claim the purchase only upon departure from the country. As for "duty-free", bear in mind that an item cannot be both "made in Israel" and duty free, since duty is levied only on imports.


Ultimately, however, the majority of jewelers are fine and reputable. Of those which advertise widely in the tourist-info magazines, the most reliable is probably H. Stern Diamonds and Jewelry, which has shops in the major Tel Aviv hotels (as well as the major hotels in other cities), the Ramat Aviv Mall, plus in the departure lounge of Ben-Gurion International Airport (including loose diamonds and other stones). H. Stern features both Israeli-made and imported jewelry in a wide range of styles and prices, from charms and pendants to magnificent gem-studded creations.


The company's duty-free claim is genuine, being the only jeweler to have its own bonded warehouse. In addition, with close to 200 shops around the world, H. Stern backs all purchases with an international guarantee.


Very fine and elegant jewelry is offered at Padani, at 185 Hayarkon St. (opposite the Hilton, with other shops around the city). Padani is the exclusive representative in Israel for such European companies as Cartier, Piaget and others. The company also offers its own designs, including extraordinary pieces with "invisible" settings.


A number of fine jewelers can be found on Dizengoff St., Heh b'Iyar (Kikar HaMedina), and various shopping areas and malls around the city.








Value-Added Tax

This is a progressive sales tax which is added to all goods and services at every stage of distribution or supply (producer, to wholesaler, to retailer, to consumer). It is a stiff 17%, which is high in American terms, but not in European ones. Shekel prices on merchandise already include the V.A.T.


Tourists are exempt from V.A.T. when paying for the following in a freely exchanged foreign currency: Accommodations (hotels, hostels, field schools, and camping); food charged to one's hotel bill; car rental; organized tours, including driver-guide with vehicle; flights and tours operated by domestic aviation companies; any services purchased abroad via a tour operator (including meals provided by the tour operator during organized tours).


V.A.T. refund is available on purchases of at least $100 under specific circumstances. (The sum used to be $50, but changes at the airports/ports of the body providing the refunds resulted in the higher threshold.)



The shop selling the products must be a registered participant in the V.A.T.-refund program. This is usually evident from signs on or in the shop, but it should be verified.


Payment must be made in a freely exchanged foreign currency.


The $100 minimum must be met for purchases in any single shop. In other words, purchases from different stores cannot be aggregated for a V.A.T. refund. Separate purchases on different dates in the same shop, however, can be aggregated, so be sure to save the receipts.


The arrangement does not apply to tobacco products, cameras, film, or other photographic supplies, or electrical appliances.


The salesperson must fill out a regulation form for the purchase and attach receipts. This requires showing your passport, for properly filling in the form.


At the airport/port, present the form at the desks designated for V.A.T. refund. You must have the products purchased under this arrangement available for examination. If you are using an advance-check-in service, therefore, you must have the goods in your carry-on bag and not in the checked luggage.



With close to nine miles (14 kilometers) of sparkling, sandy coastline stretching from near Herzlia to Jaffa, the visitor to Tel Aviv is never very far from the Mediterranean. The atmosphere along the stretch of beachfront hotels is that of a pure resort, yet, the city's major centers are only minutes away.


Along this length are 11 guarded beaches, some of them open year round, a marina, a beautiful promenade which is several miles in length, and most of Tel Aviv's major hotels.


Jogging/Walking: From Nordau Beach (next to the old Tel Aviv Port) to Jaffa, a paved path parallel to the beach allows strolling or running virtually uninterruptedly. (There is some vehicular traffic on the northern segment, but only infrequently.)


 The Promenade ("tayelet") : This specially paved segment extends from south of the marina (Ben-Gurion Blvd.) to the [defunct] Dolphinarium. Even in the winter, sunny weather draws people here by the droves. During the warm weather of most of the year, a particularly festive atmosphere prevails on weekends, with strollers enjoying it until the wee hours. Free musical performances are staged at various points several evenings a week during the months of July and August, while vendors sell everything from jewelry to silly string.


Marina: Anchorage services for yachts and cruisers, including Customs and Border Control; yachting and motor-boating schools and rentals; water-sport equipment rentals, restaurants. (Located near the foot of Arlozorov St.; entrance next to Carlton Hotel)


Israeli folkdancing: Every Saturday morning, next to beach, on the segment below the Renaissance Hotel (Gordon Beach). Even if you don't know the steps for joining in, it's great fun to watch.




The 11 guarded beaches generally feature changing facilities and rental of beach beds and parasols. There are also showers right on the beach for rinsing off the saltwater after swimming.


The importance of going only to guarded beaches cannot be overemphasized. The segments which are not guarded are not safe for swimming because of dangerous undertows and/or hazardous underwater rocks.


By the same token, it's important to heed the lifeguards on especially windy days. A white flag flying from the lifeguard station means ideal circumstances, red indicates dangerous conditions, while a black flag means no one is permitted to enter the water (due to undertows or -- on rare occasions -- contaminants in the water).


The city does a great job of keeping the beaches clean and orderly, and the water is clear and beautiful (tested regularly for safety). At the height of summer, the water can even feel too warm, reaching temperatures of as much as 27 C/82 F. This often coincides with the incidence of jellyfish, which should be given a wide berth (because of their sting). NOTE: If you should be stung by a jellyfish, apply wet sand to the area, initially, then check whether the lifeguard station has any first-aid treatment. Later, the "burn" can be reduced with vinegar or aloe vera gel. (If you know what the aloe vera plant looks like, the fresh juice from a leaf is possibly the best treatment. Just break off a piece of leaf and rub it across the affected area.) 

There will always be those who bake themselves in the sun all day. Increasingly, however, the locals are taking to going to the beach only during the early hours of the morning and the late hours of the afternoon; taking care, even then, to wear head coverings, use sun blocks, and drink large quantities of water. It is advisable not to be in the sun between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. (If you manage to get a sunburn nonetheless, head for a grocery store and buy a carton of leben or bio-active yogurt to spread on the burn.) NOTE: Topless sunbathing by women is not permitted on the public beaches. Some hotel pools allow it. 

Sun beds and parasols: If you see unoccupied ones, set yourself up. Someone will come along from the concession to collect the rental fee.


"Artic! Cassatta!:" This is the call of many of the vendors who trudge among the sunbathers, selling ice creams and ices. The prices aren't unreasonable, and the ice pops are refreshing.


Beach bats: Happily, they're not permitted at some beaches. If you hear an indefinable smack/pop when approaching a beach, it is likely from this game, called matkot by Israelis. It's played by two people with wooden paddles (like enlarged table-tennis paddles, without the rubber coating) and a hard-rubber ball. The velocity of the ball can get pretty fierce, so steer clear. On the other hand, if you want to try your hand at it, the paddles and ball can be purchased at toy stores and some souvenir shops.


The Guarded Beaches (north to south):


The official season is from Independence Day through the Sukkot holiday in the Autumn. Those which are open during the winter are guarded from 7:00 am to 2:30 pm. For these and all others, the hours in April, May, and September are 7:00 am to 5:00 pm; in June, 7:00 am to 6:00 pm; in July and August, 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.


The No. 4 bus/sherut route along Ben Yehuda St. provides easy access to the beaches from Nordau Blvd. to Allenby Rd.


The Cliff (guarded year round): Near the Mandarin and Country Club hotels; adjacent to Herzlia.


Tel Baruch (guarded year round): Near Ramat Aviv; via Propes St. (The area is referred to "knowingly" by locals, since the expanse between the main highway and the beach is the "business district" of transvestite prostitutes; prostitution is not illegal/criminal in Israel.)


Nordau (guarded year round): Adjacent to the old Tel Aviv Port; sometimes referred to as Sheraton Beach, since the first Sheraton Hotel was located nearby. Access is near Nordau Blvd. (Havakook St.). A special feature of this beach is a walled-off portion for the Orthodox, accommodating their standards of modesty. Use of this segment of the beach is designated for exclusive use by women and girls on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday; for exclusive use by men and boys on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Since Orthodox Jews do not go to the beach on the Sabbath (Saturday), other women who don't want anyone hitting on them often take advantage of this section.


Hilton: The beach is public, with the name only referring to the location below the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel. It is favored by the gay community and widely known as a meeting place (as is Independence Park, which provides access to the beach).


Gordon: At the foot of Gordon St. (near the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel). Nearby, the Gordon Pool (guarded year round) is virtually a Tel Aviv institution. The pool is filled every day with filtered seawater; opens at about 5:00 am for those who want to do their daily laps. The complex includes a gym with fitness equipment. Admission fee.


Frishman (guarded year round): At the foot of Frishman St. (near the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel). It's widely known among Israelis as a place for singles to meet. NOTE: It's pretty much the norm on all beaches for Israeli men to try hitting on women -- even when no interest is being returned. Totally ignoring them is probably more effective than engaging in any kind of conversation. 

Bograshov (guarded year round): At the foot of Bograshov St. (near the U.S. embassy).


Jerusalem Beach: At the foot of Allenby Road. The beach was so named by the city to give the people of Jerusalem a beach ... Access to it by public transportation is particularly convenient (Buses 3, 8, 10, 16, 17, 21, 25, 30, 33, 47, 48, 66, 90).


Aviv: South of Allenby Road.


West: Near the defunct Dolphinarium.


Givat Aliya: Jaffa.


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