Benji Lovitt
Because the Middle East is Funny
Featured Post

The idiot’s guide to the Tel Aviv Beach

Useful tips for sun and fun, including a fashion guide, safety precautions, and where to go if you're a dog

Shalom from Tel Aviv-enjoying the Israeli “spring”? We’re already a couple of months into warm weather which means one thing: It’s time to sit on the beach and do nothing.

Apparently many have taken this recommendation to heart as evidenced by the large number of locals and tourists flocking to the Mediterranean on Fridays, Saturdays, and other days that end with “Y”.

And why not? If you hadn’t heard, Tel Aviv is approximately halfway between Jerusalem and the sun. With temperatures hot and getting hotter, what better place to spend your time than the beach?

Unless you want your appearance to scream “TOURIST!!!”, you’ll want to take the appropriate measures to fit in. Without further ado, here’s an idiot’s guide to the Tel Aviv beach.

From right: Birthright participant; Some Dumb Oleh

Choosing your location

There are many options in “the city that always sweats” so choose accordingly. For the god-fearing, you have the religious beach just south of the Tel Aviv port. A bit further, you have the dog beach for animal-lovers. And next to the Hilton, you have the gay beach. And for the gay, religious dogs reading this, avoid Hof Yerushalayim like the plague. The arsim will drive you nuts.


What to wear? “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Israeli men, even if you don’t got it, flaunt it like you do.

Since all our sharks have apparently been sent to Egypt by the Mossad, the most frightening thing on the Tel Aviv beachfront is a burly Middle Eastern man rocking skimpy briefs. The images of neck-to-shoulder-to-back-to-butt hair topped off with red speedos will cause you to wake up in the night screaming “Waltz with Bashir”-style.

Two things escape me: words and my lunch.

For the women, the rule is generally to wear whatever is fashionable, especially if you are over the age of 55 and enjoy wearing a bikini three sizes too small for your body. Kids four and under: Clothing optional.

Having fun

If you’re the athletic type, you may enjoy matkot. Matkot, “or beach paddleball,” according to Wikipedia, “is a popular traditionally non-competitive game in Israel, sometimes called Israel’s unofficial national sport.” It is played with two players who attempt to hit the ball back and forth as many times as humanly possible, creating a high-risk environment where beachgoers can enjoy the possibility of being hit in the cranium by a rock-hard projectile flying at Mach-2.

The object of the game is somewhat unclear. While matkot advocates claim that it is a leisure sport like frisbee, involuntary spectators have found more accurate comparisons to games such as Chinese water torture and banging your skull against the wall. For the tourists, “matkot” is Hebrew for “Duck and Cover.”

Jump in!

Ready to hit the waves? Let’s do it! Just be careful to avoid the jellyfish, known to locals as “medusa.” The medusot arrive just in time for summer and like to sting unsuspecting swimmers. Not only do they hurt something fierce, but their secretions float in the water and sting if they come in contact with you. (I just made myself throw up.)

Here’s the kicker: the legend goes that the best remedy for a jellyfish sting is to urinate on the affected area. This may or may not have begun as a hazing ritual in the IDF.

Goldberg ha’chayal: Ehhhh….m’faked! I hev been stung by medusa! What to do?

M’faked Shmuel (first whispering to senior platoon members): Heh heh, watch dees. PEE ON EET!

Getting hungry?

Assuming you escape the Mediterranean unscathed, you’re probably finding yourself ready to relax and replenish your body with something delicious. Not to worry-the beach is full of men peddling treats to hit that sweet spot with a variety of “artik” (ice cream) or “kartiv” (popsicle) treats.

The marketing plan of the typical beach peddler is to loudly scream the word “artik” as many times as humanly possible. It is only coincidentally an effective marketing technique; this is the only word the artik man actually knows.

Nevertheless, the artik man certainly earns his shekels, covering the beach with quickness, his eagerness to sell matched only by his desire to wear flowery shirts unbuttoned to the bottom of his beer gut.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 4.35.14 PM

If you’re looking for something more substantial, the beach cafes are great too. Do be aware that they function using their own currency system by which each menu item is valued at the normal price multiplied by 475. Pass the watermelon and feta!

As they are quite busy, do not expect the same level of service as you might find at other restaurants. Traveler tip: request the bill the minute you are seated in order to receive it before the coming of Moshiach.

Safety first

Of course, you should also be sure to wait after eating before returning to the water. Safety is a primary concern at any body of water and the Tel Aviv beaches are equipped with lifeguards ready to save the day. These Israeli hunks sit in tall huts on the sand, yelling things into megaphones which no one in particular seems to heed.

Dudu the lifeguard: “Ehhh….adonee (Sir)! Move to deh marked area, please!”

When the words come out of the speaker however, they sound to the listener more like: “Ignohr waht I em saying! Thenk you!”

Ignore the lifeguards at your own risk. What’s the risk? Not drowning, but rather incurring the guilt of lifeguards who hold certifications in both water safety and being an ima Polania (“Polish mother,” or “Jewish” in the rest of the world).

“Eef you drown, you’ll hev ohn-ly yourself to blame!”

Chicken soup, anyone?

While there’s just so much to do at the beach, the best activity is…nothing. Israelis have an incredible ability to relax, appreciate life, and to enjoy moments to their fullest. From the beaches in Thailand to the sands of India, you can find Israelis in every area of the world, traveling and enjoying their leisure time. As for those of you with plans to travel to Israel, I’ll see you at the beach.

For a stand-up comedy show about Israeli society in Israel or North America, contact Benji here.

About the Author
Since making aliyah in 2006, Benji Lovitt has performed stand-up comedy and educational programs for groups including Jewish Federations, Chabads, synagogues, Masa Israel Journey, and Birthright Israel. His perspectives on aliyah and Israeli society have been featured on Israeli TV and radio and in publications such as USA Today, Time Magazine, the BBC, and more. Benji has worked as a cross-cultural trainer with groups including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Masa Israel and is a popular presenter on the Limmud International circuit. During 2014's Operation Protective Edge, his humorous observations on the war led to his being called in Israel "the only reason to go on Facebook.”
Related Topics
Related Posts