This is the bustling modern face of Israel with long white beaches and an high-rise skyline.
by Peregrine on September 28, 2000
Long morning stroll along the immaculately maintained beaches
A walk through the old city of Jaffa
The "Israeli Breakfast"
We stayed on the beach in one of the high rises that affords a spectacular view of endless white beaches and a pebbled mosaic boardwalk. Like most hotels we stayed at in Israel, they were well appointed, comfortable, and plastic. The hotel could have been anywhere in the world – except for that view. We even had a small yacht harbor practically outside the door. This was also where I was first introduced to the incredible Israeli breakfast (see journal entry).
Like Medieval Pilgrims, we began our journey in Israel along the coast. Seven centuries ago, pilgrims would have landed at the ancient port of Jaffa while we touched down at Ben-Gurion airport a few miles north.
Jaffa is worth a morning’s wanderings through the old stone streets that curve and meander beside ancient buildings. The parts we wandered through, high stone walls, and pathways that became steps here and there, were virtually void of autos. Set in the side of buildings at each intersection were ceramic street signs written in Hebrew letters, Roman letters and pictograms (for those who can’t read). The streets are also lined with antique shops, gift shops, and coin shops, most of which don’t open until mid-day, so we were too early to shop.
Jaffa also has beautiful parts. We wandered through one lush park that opened onto a spectacular view of the skyline of Tel Aviv. In Rameses II Park, we passed an open archaeological site that shows you the various levels of occupation from the earliest, Hellenic, level, through the time of the Persians, the Canaanites, Pharaohs (Rameses II), Crusaders and medieval pilgrims to the era of British Mandate.
Jaffa is one of the oldest cities still inhabited, and over the past 4000 years they have accumulated a collection of interesting legends. Off the coast, Andromeda’s Rock brings to life the Greek myth of a beautiful young woman chained to a rock – and rescued by Perseus. Another legend says that treasure from all the sunken ships are swept to Jaffa and will be yielded up when the Messiah comes.
Tel Aviv was where I was introduced to 'The Israeli Breakfast'. Every hotel we stayed in during our two weeks in Israel presented a similar spread of vast magnitude. I suspect it was because I was staying in tourist hotels and Americans have an international reputation for demanding quantity in their meals.
Whatever the reason, we were greeted every morning with an impressive square footage of goodies displayed beautifully enough for a Presidential reception. For example: fruit (whole, sliced and in syrup), salad (tossed, fruit, and tabouleh), bread (flat bread, crispy poppy seed bread, Danish, croissants, muffins, rolls, and sandwich bread), eggs (scrambled, hard boiled, or however you wanted them), sliced meat (cold and hot) dozens of cheeses, including Israeli goat cheese, yogurt, cereals, and hot dishes I couldn’t name. All washed down with hot European roast coffee, or tea, or juice, or milk or soft drinks – whatever you wanted.
Since I’m not a breakfast person, this was all a bit wasted on me, but I did manage the yogurt with fruit and honey and a little granola every morning. Fabulous. I can heartily recommend the yogurt. Certainly beats the stuff in the paper cartons at home.
Tel Aviv has an impressive skyline of high rises and the longest, whitest beaches I’ve seen in a while. Nearly a century ago, the city, whose name means began to rise from the sand dunes north of the ancient port of Jaffa where wave after wave of invaders, colonists, and visitors have anchored for more than four centuries.
Scurrying around the high-rises, are the young and the yuppie. Women in short skirts, men in suits. It could be any modern business city in the world. Everything looks new (which it is) in contrast to most of Israel, which is built on the ancient.
Being more interested in the old, I really didn’t see much of the city, other than to drive through it. I did, however, take time to stroll along the pebbled mosaic boardwalk. I was still a bit chill for swimming in the Mediterranean (I was there in February), but the water looked inviting. They’ve built breakers a few hundred yards out so the waves are gentle on the beach, which is groomed every morning by trucks pulling enormous 'rakes'.
We did get a glimpse of the nightlife the morning we left for home. It was technically Saturday, but barely since we had to be at the airport at 2:30AM! We could hear the blast of the hotel disco long before we stepped off the elevator. It must have been near closing time because the nightclub seemed to be disgorging their last customers, mostly young women with too much makeup and too little dress with their arm invariably linked through older men with too much paunch and too little hair. A far cry from the old buildings and the ancient traditions of Jerusalem, barely an hour away.
Ben Gurion airport was another surprise. We had arrived in early evening and the airport was so empty we had trouble finding a ride to the hotel. Not so at 3AM the morning we left. The place was packed. After having dragged my sleepy self and luggage through customs, security, immigration, and ticket counter, I made it to the coffee shop. I needed caffeine. Now. The counter clerk handed me a cup with a filter on it, and a pot of water. Waiting for that coffee to drip slooooowly into the cup had to have been the longest 10 minutes I can remember.
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