Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Friday, August 13, 2010

National Geographic Top Ten Beach Cities: Tel Aviv Is #9!

Gordon Beach in Tel Aviv

According to National Geographic, Tel Aviv is the #9 best beach city in the world.  Who knew?! Well basically everyone, at this point: the article came out nearly a month ago. While us Tel Avivians happily accept the compliment, I can't help wondering what it means, exactly.

 A "Top Ten Beach City": is it a true and full assessment of the city+beach combination?  Did they concoct some scientific formula that calculates how the awesomeness of both beach and city are mutually dependant?  Do they evaluate the beach and city separately? Is it just another "Top Ten" title to draw readers and internet surfers?  Or are they just a list of cool cities that happen to have beaches nearby? I'm not quite sure what NG's criteria was, but it certainly couldn't be clean sands and crystal clear water:  The Tel Aviv beaches are laden with cigarettes and plastic crap, paddle ball players and dogs.

And yet, the N.G. team labled Tel Aviv the "Miami Beach on the Mediterranian". While I won't argue with the awesomeness of Tel Aviv, and I can't contend with the fact that the beach definitely adds to the value of the city....I do have some issues with their little blurb:

"Call it Miami Beach on the Med. Tel Aviv is the Dionysian counterpart to religious Jerusalem. In the “bubble,” as it’s known for its inhabitants’ tendency to tune out regional skirmishes, some restaurants, discos, and clubs are open until dawn. By day, the scene shifts to the city’s promenade and eight miles (13 kilometers) of beach literally steps from town. Head to wide and sandy Gordon Beach to sit in a seaside café or take a dip in the saltwater pool."

Whatever you call Tel Aviv, it is definitely not Miami Beach. Miami Beach is known for having some of the cleanest, sandiest, most well patrolled beaches in the United States. Not to mention the availability of public facilities.  Much of Miami Beach is also privately owned, unlike the beach in Tel Aviv which is entirely public. This has most likely led to the general lack of clean restrooms, working   It is much smaller, much dirtier, and much more crowded.

To be honest, Gordon Beach, the beach that National Geographic specifically highlights, is the one beach that I typically avoid.  Due to the width of its sandy coast, beach events are frequently set up there including beach volley ball, concerts and other special activities.  It is cradled by the beginning of the hotel strip which has made it conducive to the settlement of cheesy bars, tourist oriented kiosks (bodegas), and overpriced fast food restaurants.  Of course, all of these events, bars and hotels has made Gordon Beach possibly the most polluted beach in all of Tel Aviv.  I refuse to go in the water. Its usually swimming with plastic bags, bottles and warm with the urine of young European toddlers.

Photo from treehugger.com

All of that said, I love this city and there is something about the dirtiness that in some way implies freedom.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not promoting littering or pollution.  However.  There are no policemen patrolling the Tel Aviv beaches. There are very few signs prohibiting this and warning you of that.  While there are life guards on duty till about 6:00pm, and they do their job well,(despite the fact that they abuse their speaker-phone at times to whistle at good looking women) they aren't angry, reprimanding or cruel. You can set up your blanket on the beach, crack open a beer, lie out in the sun, and do your thing.

In the end of things, dirty or not, the beach is always a promise of freedom: the possibility of escape, the suggestion of new worlds unknown that lay just beyond the horizon.  It's a place where you can strip down and show your skin.  You can feel beautiful and healthy.  You can heat up in the sun and cool down in the water. And in Tel Aviv, everyone is welcome.

In Tel Aviv, the beach saves the city in the summer when the heat becomes unbearable.  The sea makes the heat "worth the while" with calm, pleasant Mediterranean waters and soft sand.  It also contributes to the laid-back attitude, especially regarding dress code.  And, it keeps everyone looking, or trying to look, pretty darn fit.

In the end of things, I don't really care if National Geographic got their facts all right.  They got the gist of it.  Tel Aviv, with its beaches and it's land-life, is a pretty fantastic city.

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