On a Tuesday afternoon, you can meander down to one of the beaches in Tel Aviv, suck down your ice cafe latte slowly and swim in the moderately warm water wondering why anyone would ever work full-time. The Tel-Avivian coastline is generally quiet and peaceful all the way from Yafo to Hatzuk, an intoxicating and calm refuge from the bustling sounds of the city.
but that’s on a Tuesday.
Flash forward three days. It’s the weekend or “Sofash”, on the beach in T.A. and none of the above apply .
The thirteen beaches in Tel Aviv over the weekend – that’s Friday and Saturday in Israel for the uninitiated, are bustling, loud and exciting. They are the place to see all different types of people: from the avid body builders; to romantic couples; Florentine hipsters; Bograshov professionals and Rastafarian transcendental hippies, all coasting from one oceanfront to the next.
This fantastic salad bowl assortment of beach goers are all trying to find their place in the sun and may entice you to become a beach bum even if its’ only on the weekend. Here is my introduction to three cliques you can easily spot on the Tel Aviv shoreline.
The Matkot players
Love it or hate it, you can’t avoid it. Israeli racquetball (Matkot) dominates the coast on the weekend. The rules are the following: there are two players, they don’t keep score and there are no rules. Just hit the ball to each other. Matkot is one of those sports that truly define Israeli culture- “in your face” and relentless.
Participants literally play on the towels of non-playing sunbathers, disrupting any chance of peace and quiet, are so self-absorbed they barely notice anyone else on the beach and they get away with it
I try to imagine how this would play out on a European beach and picture Matkot players being beaten within an inch of their lives with their very own paddles. However as is with so many other things in Israel, the average Israeli doesn’t even flinch with annoyance and most don’t even mind playing a game or two. A noisy, hard-hitting way to meet people – ask the concierge at SEA Executive Suites where to buy a couple of Matkot racquets and a ball and simply ask people if they want to play, you’ll have 10 instructors in as many minutes.
Get your Gaydar on, it is pointing to the beach
Atzmaut Beach is the unofficial Gay beach in Tel Aviv (just below the Hilton.) Although there are no anti- gay beaches In Tel Aviv, around Gay Pride in the summer, this is the gayest beach in all of gaydom.
Tel Aviv has in recent years become a global capital for cultural acceptance of the LBGT community and you can see that reality being played out in beach life. Atzmaut Beach like Tel Aviv is open, liberal, expensive and packed full of the beautiful people.
The beach itself is completely wheelchair accessible* and close to Independence Park which was one of the first cruising areas for Israeli gay men. Somewhat ironically the beach is next to the religious beach which has separate bathing days for men and women.
In the summer Atzmaut holds late night swimming parties, bathing suits are optional.
The Rasta gang
Friday afternoon is the perfect time to get to the Dolphinarium beach, where you can join in a huge improvised jam session with all the bongo lovers in town. There are many bongo drum players fleshing out a beat ( locally called tarboukas) molding in with Capoeira dancers, all feeling the rhythm and hanging out around the rocks on the beach until the sun sets.
It’s a more sparse area of the coastline with fewer cafes than other beaches yet there is a Surf center with many activities available, including windsurfing. This really is a great weekly opportunity to just chill out with the locals, accompanied by the non-stop beat of a hundred tarboukas.
Be yourself on the beach this weekend; be on the beach in Tel Aviv.
*Also wheelchair accessibleare: Tzuk, Northern Tzuk and Metzizim beach