A burning sunset in Tel-Aviv.
Plenty to buy at the markets.
We all know Israel is the holy land and the coastal town of Tel-Aviv is its lifeblood. But do you realise how modern and individual this town really is?
Tel-Aviv is the first Hebrew city, founded in 1909, and is known as the city that never sleeps. The rest of Israel stops on Friday nights for Shabbat, but Tel-Aviv just keeps on going.
The Carmel Market is a crowded and lively place selling clothing, fruit, vegetables, spices and meat from mobile carts. Bargaining is the norm here, and you can usually pay about one third of the original asking price. Things go very cheaply on Friday afternoon, just before closing for Shabbat.
From Tuesday to Friday the Nachalet Binyamin, next to the Carmel Market, is a colourful place to go. Local artists sell their jewellery, pottery and paintings, and buskers entertain the crowds.
Sheinkin Street is the trendy spot. It's good for people-watching and sipping coffee in trendy cafes. The area is full of shops, backpackers, yuppies and locals, and a fascinating mix of orthodox Jews and funky hippies.
Going out for fun before midnight in Tel-Aviv is considered early. Nightclubs open at 10pm, but people start wandering in at 1am. They close at 6am, or midday on weekends. Allenby 58 is one of the biggest and best clubs. It has theme nights such as zoo night, when everyone dresses as an animal. Swing Bar is a trendy, ultra-snobby bar where people keep an eye out for local celebrities, smoke Cuban cigars and listen to modern, mellow music.
The tayelet, or beach promenade, is so popular it has been extended to nearby Jaffa. The white sand beaches are lined with chairs, gazebos and cafes, and most are patrolled by lifeguards. Life is centred around the beach, and there's an endless summer atmosphere. White flags indicate safe swimming, red flags mean it's dangerous, and black means swimming is forbidden. There are no beach fees here, but you have to watch out for thieves.
If you find the modern ways of Tel-Aviv disappointing, a visit to Old Jaffa, just 15 minutes away, will take you back 6000 years. The old port has winding streets, stone houses and a romantic atmosphere. It also has the best views of the Tel-Aviv shores.
Immanuel House in Jaffa is a Christian hostel. These can be found in many areas of Israel and are run by the Anglican church. They are generally cheaper than other hostels, but most have curfews. They are particularly good for pilgrim travellers.