"Is Tel Aviv really that cool?" asked the last issue of TimeOut Tel Aviv, and addressed the question with the utmost cynical-seriousness so typical to the magazine. TimeOut TLV decided to get to the bottom of this matter in light of a complimenting article about Tel Aviv published on July 20th by the Travel section of The New York Times. The flattering NYT piece titled "Seizing the Day in Tel Aviv" crowned Tel Aviv as the Capitol of Mediterranean Cool and pointed out that the city is the next new trendy holiday destination.
When Israelis go abroad they tend to speak highly of Israel, but when Israeli converse among themselves they are the hardest and meanest critiques of Israel and Israeli culture. This is why it is so enjoyable to have non-Israelis rave about Israel, or Tel Aviv in this case, and the fact that Henry Alford*, who wrote the NYT article, is not even Jewish (or religious Christian) makes it a gazillion times more exciting….
Just a few quotes from Seizing the day in Tel Aviv (Aguide2israel recommends reading the whole article, it's clever, amusing, and the photos are fantastic):
"…All these new people and buildings add to the city’s fundamental charms: good flea markets, terrific food and lots of witty and complicated natives."…."….But if the intermingling of many different kinds of people is what gives Tel Aviv its pulse, it’s the clash of old and new that still gives this city its surprising and slightly uneven gait."
"… For Israelis, the 45 minutes that separate Jerusalem from Tel Aviv are a fitting metaphor for the cultural gulf they see between, on the one hand, the hidebound, pious cradle of world religion and, on the other, the libertine, nightclub-filled Mediterranean idyll. But for us visitors, the proximity of the two cities is a huge boon — it’s rare that you can pair a beach vacation with 5,000 years of history."
"An equally relaxing way to spend an afternoon is to poke around the tiny, space-starved boutiques and cafes that have sprouted up in the Greenwich Village-like Neve Tzedek, a tranquil area of about a dozen tiny streets."
"The other comfort-providing commodity that one attaches oneself to in Tel Aviv is, of course, food. Ms. Kalman had told me about a restaurant directly on the beach called Manta Ray. (“It’s where Madonna ate,” she’d said. My brain instantly brought forth Madonna’s Hebrew name, and I said, “You mean, Esther?”). Like a haut beach shack on stilts, Manta Ray is a fan-shaped pavilion that opens onto the sea. One of the five mezzes that we order is an elegant column of four layers of ingredients that sound all wrong for each other — crabmeat, feta, dates, harissa peppers — but are in fact Il Divo of food. I order a gin and grapefruit juice, and the juice is fresh-squeezed. Happiness trickles through my body as my companion and I watch the sun slowly slip over the edge of the Mediterranean; I contemplate having a T-shirt made that says, “I’m with Esther.”
*HENRY ALFORD is a contributing editor at Travel & Leisure and Vanity Fair.
**Photos by The New York Times