A Staycation in Tel Aviv
JNS.org – Although the bus ride from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is just about one hour, stepping off the bus seems like stepping into a completely different country — a little warmer, more humid, and lots of palm trees. Tel Aviv is different from Jerusalem in more ways than the weather. The crowd is different — more young café-goers with dogs on leashes, and fewer yarmulkes and Anglos. It kind of doesn’t feel like Israel anymore, perhaps more of a European city. For a Jerusalemite, Tel Aviv is a great place for a “staycation,” somewhere to have a vacation experience not far from home.
My boyfriend and I spent just 24 hours in Tel Aviv for a much-deserved staycation before Shabbat. We arrived to our hotel,Dizengoff Avenue Hotel, on the happening street of (you guessed it) Dizengoff. This hotel, along with one of my new favorite spots in Tel Aviv, Sarona Market, made our staycation unique and simply amazing.
The hotel itself is a microcosm of Israel — welcoming, inventive, and diverse. It has even continued to do its thing after feeling the physical effects of Israel’s less-than-welcoming neighbors.
As we checked in, we sat for a glass of wine with the hotel manager, who told us about the hotel and some recommendations for dinner and entertainment. She told us that the hotel opened during Tzuk Eitan, the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, a terrorist group that sent 4,564 rockets towards Israeli civilians during the war. A piece of one of those rockets fell into the hotel — an unexpected welcome present from Israel’s Palestinian neighbors.
Each of the 29 rooms in the hotel is named after a Tel Aviv locale, and decorated as such. The manager explained how she feels like an ambassador not only of the hotel, but also Tel Aviv and Israel. She chooses receptionists who are new immigrants like myself, as we are the ones most excited about Israel — and perhaps we understand the concept of good customer service better than sabras (native-born Israelis).
My personal favorite part of the hotel is the two-hour wine reception (complimentary wine from Jerusalem wineries!) that happens every evening. This gives guests the chance to mingle, make friends, and interact — something that is not only rare at hotels, but also in general as we are normally surrounded with smart phones and gadgets.
After hearing some recommendations for dinner, we made a reservation and went to “say hello to the beach,” as my mother says. As my boyfriend opened his mouth, about to say something as we watched the sun set in Tel Aviv, I expected him to say he was ready to move. Instead, spoken like a true Jerusalemite, he said, “The thing I love the most about Tel Aviv is how close it is to Jerusalem.” As we passed a synagogue on our way to the beach, my boyfriend exclaimed with surprise, “Look, a synagogue!” and then laughed, as he had forgotten we were still in Israel.
After a nice walk, we headed to the new Sarona market, established “to be the heartbeat of Israeli culinary art.” This place, to put it mildly, was a foodie’s dream. (And they call me Foodie Rudee.) We ended up canceling our dinner reservation to stay for dinner at the market — a decision we regretted not at all.
After a fun night of food, drinks, and Tel Aviv exploration, we went back to the hotel, to sleep for just five hours so we could make it to Friday morning brunch before leaving Tel Aviv.
In the morning, we ventured into the Tel Aviv sun and saw a group of Israelis on a tour. It struck us as funny at first, but then we remembered that we too are Israeli tourists coming to Tel Aviv for something different from our normal surroundings.
As we sat at a cool café on Dizengoff, enjoying some smoked salmon Eggs Benedict, Israeli salad, and café hafuch (cappuccino), we decided we would soon need to do another staycation in Tel Aviv.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.