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Food Tel Aviv

Bnei Brak: A Glimpse into the Ultra-Orthodox World

Last month I joined a guided tour in Bnei Brak, the largest ultra-orthodox city in Israel. It’s right next door to Tel Aviv but feels miles away. Kids are walking alone in the streets, all the men are dressed in black and white, all the women wear skirts, and there are no coffee shops. Usually, secular people don’t go there unless they want to learn more about the Jewish ultra-orthodox community or taste the traditional Ashkenazi food. That is what we were doing on our tour.

The tour was led by Pini Gorelick, an orthodox Jew from the Hasidic dynasty of Chabad-Lubavitch. He doesn’t live in Bnei Brak but visits quite often. So, you can count on him to show you the most interesting places. He also has great stories to tell about the ultra-orthodox community. I booked the group tour in Hebrew, but you can try to book a private tour too. No matter how you plan to tour Bnei Brak, just make sure to come in modest clothing that will respect the place. By modest I mean long pants or skirts and sleeved shirts for the women, and long pants for the men.

We walked in the streets of Bnei Brak for four hours and talked about many aspects of the Jewish ultra-orthodox world. In this post, I’ll only touch a few.

Table of contents:

The history of Bnei Brak

Ashkenazi VS Sephardic Jews

The mikveh

Kosher internet

The difference between Rav and Rebbe

The obligation of giving

Matchmaking and marriage

Food!

The history of Bnei Brak:

We started our tour with a short overview of Bnei Brak. Today it is the largest ultra-orthodox city in Israel. It is also the 8th-most densely populated city in the world, with almost 28,000 people per square kilometer. But like many large cities in Israel, it started as an agricultural village.

It was established in 1924 by a group of religious Jewish people from Poland. They bought the land from an Arab family who lived in the nearby Al-Khayriyya village. The village was named Bnei Brak after an ancient city by the same name.

In the time of the Second Temple, ancient Bnei Brak was a Jewish city. After the First Jewish-Roman War, it became a center of Torah learning. Rabbi Akiva, one of the leading Jewish scholars, opened his yeshiva in Bnei Brak and taught many students there. A yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution focusing on the study of religious texts. The Haggadah of Passover mentions Bnei Brak as well: “It happened that Rabbis Eliezer, Joshua, Elazar ben Azaryah, Akiva and Tarfon were reclining at the seder table in Bnei Brak. They spent the whole night discussing the Exodus until their students came and said to them: “Rabbis, it is time for the recitation of the Shema.” The ruins of ancient Bnei Brak are found near the city, next to Mesubim (“reclining”) Junction.  

Bnei Brak was declared a city in 1950. From then on, it started expanding tremendously. When more and more people started arriving in the city, a question arose – should Bnei Brak continue as a religious-Zionist city or turn to an ultra-orthodox city? Eventually, the ultra-orthodox population dominated the city, and the other groups left to the surrounding cities.

The main street of Bnei Brak in 1928

Ashkenazi VS Sephardic Jews:

We walked on Rashi Street and stopped at the junction with Bertenura Street. Our guide pointed to the west and said: “See that huge building over there? That’s Ponevezh Yeshiva, the most famous yeshiva in the Lithuanian world. Sephardic Jews are not accepted there.”

Let’s leave the tour for a moment to talk about Sephardic Jews. To understand the different groups in the ultra-orthodox world, you first need to understand the difference between Ashkenazi Jews (which also include the Lithuanians) and Sephardic Jews. The difference is mainly connected to their historical origins. In the Middle Ages, “Ashkenaz” referred to the area along the Rhine River in Western Germany and Northern France. The Jews who lived there developed their own traditions and rites. Today, the term “Ashkenaz” has expanded to many parts of Europe. So, when we say Ashkenazi Jews, we mean Jews who have roots in those areas.  Sephardic means “Spain”, but Sephardic Jews are associated with many other countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of southeast Europe. For some reason, the Ashkenazi Jews saw themselves as superior to the Sephardic Jews, especially in the ultra-orthodox world.

Lithuanians VS Hasidim:

Our guide said that today, most Ashkenazi communities no longer reject Sephardic Jews. But still, there’s the Lithuanian community. They are still racist towards the Sephardic community. Following this racism, the religious political party of Shas was established as a Sephardic-Lithuanian movement. They wanted to give space to Sephardic Jews who were not accepted to Ashkenazi educational institutions.

Aside from the Lithuanians, there are also the Hasidim.  About 300 years ago, the Ashkenazi community in eastern Europe believed that the most important thing is to study Torah. Whoever wasn’t capable of studying was rejected from the community. In some places, there were even separate synagogues for students and the rest of the public. This ended when the Baal Shem Tov, one of the greatest Jewish mystics, founded the Hasidic movement. He said: “Everyone is equal in the community and is measured by his effort and not his success.” So, in the Hasidic communities, Sephardic Jews can be accepted as long as they show effort. The most accepting Hasidic dynasty is Chabad.  

The mikveh:

To the west of the junction stood a huge house. “This is the house of the Rebbe of the Machnovka dynasty,” our guide said. It’s a huge house because it’s also where the Rebbe meets his Hasidim, consults them, and eats Shabbat dinner with them. It’s also where he studies. And besides all that, there’s also a mikveh in the building. Most secular Jews are only aware of mikvehs for women, but there are also mikvehs for men, and this is one of them.

In Judaism, a person can be in two states – impure and pure. In the time of the Jewish Temples, there was more significance to the impurity and purity, because many actions could not be performed during impurity. According to Jewish law, women need to go to the mikveh before their marriage. After they are married, women get impure every time they have menstruation. But after the period, they can get pure again by immersing in the water of a mikveh. Until she does that, her husband is not allowed to touch her.

So, what exactly is a mikveh? It’s a bath used for Jewish ritual immersion to achieve purity. The water in the mikveh is natural water, that comes from rainwater or a natural spring. A mikveh can also be a natural lake, river, or sea. When you immerse in the water, you must be completely naked and with no objects that might interfere the contact with your skin.

Men in the mikveh:

So why do men go to the mikveh? Our guide explained that the Hasidic men go to the mikveh every day. Why every day? Because they must immerse in the mikveh after every night they had an ejaculation. Of course, they don’t have an ejaculation every night. But to avoid discomfort, the Hasidic movement decided that everyone will go to the mikveh every morning.

Unlike mikvehs for women, in a mikveh for men there is no privacy. All the men immerse in the same space and can see one another. Because they are all naked, it is inappropriate to talk about the Torah. Instead, they gossip and spread rumors. “The hottest news is spread in the mikveh,” our guide told us.   

Kosher internet:

When we say “Kosher” in the secular world, we talk about food. If the food is kosher, it means that it is compliant with the Jewish dietary laws. But in the ultra-orthodox world, “kosher” is a much wider term that can refer to clothing, the internet, phones. All those must be compliant with the Jewish laws.

We stopped by a Lemehadrin Kosher internet café. The ultra-orthodox houses don’t have computers. If you work in the computer field, you can ask your Rebbe for permission to have internet at home. In any case, the internet must be kosher. What does it mean? It means there’s a software that scans all the websites and blocks inappropriate and unmodest content. That includes photos of women, abusive language, and so on.

Whoever wants to stay on the safe side, can use Lemehadrin Kosher internet. That’s the most strictly kosher internet. The supplier of the internet only shows websites that were reviewed and approved. If someone wants their website to appear on the Lemehadrin Kosher internet, they need to go to the supplier and ask him to check their site. Who checks the websites? People who have left the ultra-orthodox community. On one hand, there’s no problem that they will see inappropriate content because they aren’t ultra-orthodox anymore. On the other hand, they came from the ultra-orthodox world, so they know what’s not allowed.

The internet cafe. One door for women, one door for men

The difference between Rav and Rebbe:

We wandered a bit in the streets of Bnei Brak and then stopped next to a synagogue on Rabenu Tam Street. Next to the synagogue was a room called House of Teaching. This is where our guide told us the difference between a Rav and a Rebbe.

The Rav teaches Halakha, which are the Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah. So, people come to him to ask what to do according to the religious laws. “But we are raised in a world full of protocols. Everything is written. So why do we need someone to ask about the laws?” our guide said, “It’s because some of the laws are connected to personal judgment. When there’s room for personal judgment, many people prefer that the Rav will use his judgment.” People believe that the Rav is wiser and has more experience, so it’s better that he’ll take the call.

The fact that there is personal judgment means that someone can go to one Rav, get an answer, and then go to another Rav and get a different answer on the same question. That’s why people choose which Rav to go to depending on what they want to hear. Sometimes, a Rav will even give a different answer to two different people on the same question.

The Rebbe, on the other hand, is not a teacher of Halakha. He is the spiritual leader of his community. His people come to him to ask daily life questions. For example, they ask if they should do a driving lesson, which profession to learn, what school to send their children to, and so on. Usually, the Rebbe is very charismatic and often considered a sage.

The obligation of giving:

During the tour, we visited the Rabbanit of the Machnovka dynasty, the wife of the Rebbe. She told us: “Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea get their water from the Jordan River. The difference between them is that the Sea of Galilee receives the water from the north and releases water from the south. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only receives water. Maybe that is why the Sea of Galilee is so full of life and the Dead Sea so dead.”

Giving tzedakah:

While touring Bnei Brak, we discovered that giving is one of the most important things in ultra-orthodox life. “The people here always want to be the ones who give and not the ones who are needy. Sometimes they will buy less food just so they will have enough money to give charity. They’ll say: ‘My condition isn’t that bad. There are people who need this money more than me,'” said our guide.

We stood in the busy junction of Rashi Street and Rabbi Akiva Street. All around us, we could see charity boxes. Well, not exactly “charity” but rather “tzedakah boxes.” Unlike charity, which is usually done as a spontaneous act of goodwill, tzedakah is something you do because of ethical obligation. We learned that the ultra-orthodox give tzedakah every day, even a small sum. Most of them know the people behind each tzedakah box, so they know who they trust and put their money in the relevant box. 

A tzedakah box on the street

Opening gemachim:

We also learned about the gemachim (gemach in plural). In Hebrew, the word “gemach” is an acronym for the Jewish term “gemilut chasidim”, which means the giving of lovingkindness. Traditionally, a gemach was a money-lending fund, free of interest. Today, a gemach is a place where you can borrow useful items free of charge. And everyone can open a gemach. If you have a lot of household tools that you don’t use all the time, you can open a gemach for tools. People who need to fix something in their house don’t have to go buy a tool. They can simply come to you, take it for a while, and return it when they’re done.

Our guide told us that before the plastic dishes became common, one of the most needed gemachim were dishware gemachim. The ultra-orthodox families usually have many children, but sometimes they also host people from outside their family, and then they need more dishware. Instead of buying dozens of dishware, they can borrow some dishes, and return them after the meal. Some gemachim don’t even ask you to clean the dishes because they do it anyway.

How do you find the gemachim? In the phone book. “There is even a gemach for lost children,” our guide told us. “If you find a lost child on the street, you take him or her to the gemach, and the parents know to look for them there.”

Matchmaking and marriage:

Near the end of the tour, we stopped to talk about matchmaking and marriage. In Bnei Brak, there is no such thing as meeting your second half by chance. Every relationship begins with a matchmaker. During high school, the teenagers perform a DNA test through an organization, which keeps the results for the matchmaker. They never see the results. When the time comes, the matchmaker thinks of a match, contacts the organization, and checks if there is any genetic problem with the match.  If it’s ok, he or she goes to the parents to ask them if they think it’s a good idea. They don’t even ask the young couple.

After the matchmaker comes to the parents, they usually hire a private investigator specializing in matchmaking inquiries. The investigator knows who to ask and how to ask to get all the information they need about the potential spouse. They ask about beauty, character, genetics, their family… Everything. If the parents are happy with the results of the investigation, they organize a meeting between the couple.

The couple sits together in a room and gets about 20 minutes to talk privately. Then, the father of the potential bride comes in and asks: “Well, ok?” If they say it’s ok, everyone comes into the room and bless the couple: “Mazal tov! Mazal tov!” which means “congratulations.” This means they’re going to be engaged. This is how things go in some of the stricter Hasidic dynasties. In others, they might get a few more meetings before they need to decide, but not more than 4-5 meetings. Anyway, “You don’t marry the one you fell in love with. You fall in love with the one you married,” our guide said.

Food!

All along the tour, we got to taste some of the delicacies of the Ashkenazi community of Bnei Brak. Because no cultural tour is complete without a taste of the local food!

Kugel:

Our first food stop was at Muchan U’mezuman Restaurant at 17 Chason Ish Street. There, we stopped to taste kugel, a kind of pudding made either from egg noodles or mashed potatoes. We got to taste both variations. It is a very popular dish during Shabbat because you can keep it on the heating surface from Friday evening. Some said that it was a bit spicy, but I felt it was a bit sweet. Anyway, it was my favorite dish!

Kugel from egg noodles and mashed potatoes

Galareta and gefilte fish:

Next, we stopped at Deliketes at 92 Rabbi Akiva Street. There, the highlight dishes were gefilte fish and galareta, also known as “calves’ foot jelly.” I know gefilte fish from my grandmother’s house, so it was familiar, but have never tasted galareta before. It looked like jelly but had such an awful taste that I just couldn’t eat it. The other people in the group ate it without any problems, so maybe my taste buds are too sensitive.

The galareta is made from the feet bones of calves or chickens. In times of shortage, families from eastern Europe used every bit of the meat, and that’s how the galareta was born. They cooked the bones for long hours on a small flame, added salt, pepper, and garlic, and waited for the bones to soften. After they softened, they grounded and crashed them, and placed them aside to cool down. While cooling down, the smashed bones turn to jelly.

The brownish jelly is the galareta

Gefilte fish are grounded fish balls usually made from carp. They were also invented in eastern Europe, where the majority of Jews were poor. On Shabbat, it is a religious commandment to eat meat, poultry, or fish. Because the fish were cheaper than the alternatives, many families chose to eat them during Shabbat dinner. To get the most out of the fish, they grounded and made fish balls out of it.

Both the galareta and the gefilte fish are popular Shabbat and holiday dishes. Personally, we eat gefilte fish every Passover.

Sliced gefilte fish and salads

Cholent:

Our last stop was at Shloimi’le on 4 HaRav Shach Street. This kiosk is located right next to a 24/7 synagogue. It has everything you can imagine, from cakes and pastries, through sandwiches, to cooked food. We came there to taste the cholent, also known as hamin. It is one of the most popular Shabbat morning dishes amongst many Jewish groups.

The basic ingredients include potatoes, beans, barley, and meat. But because Shloimi’le is a dairy kiosk, there was no meat in our cholent. The ingredients are put into a big pot on Friday, before the Shabbat begins, and are simmered overnight in a slow oven. Usually, they are simmered for about 12 hours. The slow overnight cooking strengthens and blends the flavors and produces the great taste of the traditional cholent.

Those were the main points of the tour. We finished with a warm dish of cholent, happy and insighted.

The pot of cholent in the kiosk

Have more questions about Jewish people in Israel?

Read my post – Jews in Israel: 8 Questions You Might Ask.

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If you have any questions about travel in Israel, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

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Yours,

Lior

Categories
Free things to do Hiking in Israel Israel National Trail Tel Aviv

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Tel Aviv to Tel Afek

The previous day, we arrived in Tel Aviv and had an interesting night at the Roof Farm. We woke up early to catch the bus to this day’s segment and got off on road 482. Then, we walked off the road to Yarkon Park and continued east on the Israel National Trail. By doing this, we actually skipped about 3.8 km of the trail. I think we missed all the interesting spots in the park. But… That’s what we did.

The segment from Tel Aviv to Tel Afek is easy and fun. It goes along the meandering Yarkon River, the largest coastal river in Israel. In the end, it reaches the Yarkon National Park, where the sources of the river are located.

Trail length: About 20 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 6-10 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Best season: Fall (October-November), Winter (December-January), and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: There are drinking water taps close to the starting point of the segment, in Yarkon Park. Then, after you leave the park, the next drinking tap is only next to the Baptist Village (about 17.5 km from the start). There’s also a drinking tap at the campsite at the end.

Stay options at the end of the trail: There is a free campsite at the end, with a drinking tap. The campsite is called Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground. I also know you can stay at the nearby Baptist Village. You can find the contact details in this list.

Table of contents:

  1. Safety instructions and general notes
  2. How to get to the head of the trail?
  3. A bit about the Yarkon River
  4. The trail from Tel Aviv to Tel Afek

Safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with heatstroke. There are many parts without shade on this segment. Also, after rainfall, parts of this segment could be muddy.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). For this segment, you will need to download this map and this map. The maps are extremely basic but give you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

This segment starts in Yarkon Park, next to road number 482. It’s hard to find parking in Tel Aviv, so it’s best to come by public transport. If you still want to come by car, you can park at the Yarkon Park Parking Lot and continue on foot to the start point.

By public transportation:

From Tel Aviv, it depends where exactly are you coming from. It’s best to use Moovit or Google Maps to find the best route for you. Type in the search “Raoul Wallenberg” (in Hebrew: מבצע קדש/ראול ולנברג). This is the station we got off.

From Haifa, it is best to take a bus or train to Savidor Center Station in Tel Aviv. From there, take bus number 142 or any other bus that arrives at “Raoul Wallenberg” station (in Hebrew: מבצע קדש/ראול ולנברג). It takes about an hour and a half to arrive.

From Jerusalem, go to the Central Station and get on bus number 480 to Savidor Center Station in Tel Aviv. From there, you can take bus number 143 or any other bus that arrives at “Raoul Wallenberg” station (in Hebrew: מבצע קדש/ראול ולנברג).

A few words about Yarkon River:

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Since this segment goes parallel to the Yarkon River, let’s learn a bit about it. The Yarkon River spreads to a length of about 27.5 km. It meanders all the way, which gave it its Arabic name, “al-Auja”, which means “curving”.

The river was a source of water for many settlements, that were established on its banks. One of those settlements was Tell Qasile, founded by the Philistines in the 12th century BCE. Another settlement was Tel Afek, which was established as a city in Herod’s time, in the 1st century BCE. He called it Antipatris in honor of his father, Antipater.

Today, the river looks ridiculously small and not at all threatening. But long ago, this river was flowing with a lot of water. People had to go to the river’s sources to be able to pass it. That is why it was a natural obstacle in both ancient and modern times. During World War I, the Turks established a line of defense along the northern bank of the river. They tried to block the British but were unsuccessful. Later, when the British ruled the Land of Israel, they transferred the water of the Yarkon to Jerusalem.

When Israel was founded in 1948, we started using more and more of the water. The flow got terribly slow, and the river shrunk. We also started draining sewage into the river. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was a river of sewage, filled with toxic substances, organic garbage, flies, and more. Following the Maccabiah bridge collapse in 1997, we understood how dangerous the water is and started working on rehabilitation of the river. Still, the water isn’t suitable for swimming.    

The trail from Tel Aviv to Tel Afek:

From road number 482 to road number 5:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We took the bus to “Raoul Wallenberg” station (1). From there, we got off the bridge of road number 482 and entered Yarkon Park. Before starting the hike, we stopped for coffee and cookies on a stone picnic table.

After the refreshments, we continued on our way. People were jogging, walking, and bicycling in the park. We continued for about 1.7 km on the asphalt trail until a right turn onto a dirt route (2). The route goes right next to the Yarkon River. We couldn’t see the flow because of all the water plants growing next to it, but you can sense it. The humidity was terribly high.

The righ to turn to the dirt path

After about 540 meters, we reached the bridge of road number 4 (3) and passed underneath it. We continued on the trail for about 2.5 km and arrived at a big sign talking about a stone dam (4). It said that the stone dam is supposed to help mix the water and clean them. There are several dams like this along the Yarkon. From there, we continued another kilometer to the bridge of road number 5 (5).

Orchards on the way

From road number 5 to Abu Rabah mill:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

The trail continues on quite a boring route along the river. Most of the way, you can’t see the river because of the water plants. Then, after about 5.2 km, we reached a charming point where the trail is shaded by an archway of reeds. This shading archway continues for a while. When we got out of it, we could see Tel Qana to our left, in the distance (6). There was once an ancient settlement there, on the banks of the Yarkon River. Today, it’s a small mound.

We crossed an old bridge above Nahal Hadar (7), a small seasonal river that flows to the Yarkon. Afterward, we turned right with the trail, passed through another archway of reeds, and reached another bridge (8). This time, it was a small bridge of the Yarkon River. We crossed it to the other side of the Yarkon and slowly left the side of the river.

The shaded passage
Tel Qana in the distance

At some point, we took a wrong turn, that brought us nearer to the river. Then, we thought we lost the trail because it seemed the trail was on the other side of the river. So, we thought about crossing the Yarkon River, but the flow was too hard. Nitai crossed it by passing over some stones. But the rest of us didn’t want to take the chance. So, we retraced our steps and reconnected to the Israel National Trail. It went far away from the river, on a wide Jeep route. Then, it returned to the river and reached Abu Rabah mill (9).

The mill was built in the 1880s by Sheikh Abu-Rabah. It ceased working as a flour mill in 1948. In 1950, it was used to irrigate the citrus groves of an agricultural contracting company. Today, it’s no longer functional.

The Abu Rabah mill

From Abu Rabah mill to the Baptist Village:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

Next to the Abu Rabah mill, there was an easy way to cross the river. Then, we continued for about 900 meters until the bridge of road number 40 (10). We crossed beneath it, although it was super muddy. Then continued for a bit until we reached an old, crumbling building. This is where we met our friend, Oria, who wanted to join us for a day and a half.

We met Oria over here

Then, we continued together for about 1.5 km and reached the Lea House (11). We didn’t look inside because it looked like an old and crumbling building, too. But we did stop next to the bank of the Yarkon River and took an afternoon nap. Lea House was built in the 19th century, in the heart of the orchards. There was a pumping facility on the first floor, that was used to pump water from the river to the nearby orchard. The second floor was built later and was most likely a vacation house for the orchard owners.

After the nap, we continued for another 350 meters and then passed by a shaded sitting area (12). There was a big sign there, saying that hikers and bikers were welcome to sit over there. They just asked to keep the place clean and quiet.

A rooster next to Lea House
The shaded sitting area

From there, we continued another kilometer until we reached the bridge of road number 5 (13). Here, the path underneath the bridge was completely muddy and part of it was flooded. So, we walked on the concrete sidestep, at the side of the tunnel.

230 meters afterward, we reached a bridge that crossed to the other bank of the river. We crossed it and then continued 840 meters to the Baptist Village (14).

Below road number 5

From the Baptist Village to Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We stopped to fill water at the drinking tap next to the Baptist Village. The Baptist Village was established in 1956 by a group of Christian Baptists from the USA. At first, it functioned as an orphanage and then turned into a school. Today it functions as a hostel and church for the Baptist community. Next to the drinking tap, there was a sign explaining the place. They also organize educational conferences for teenagers and soldiers who are part of the Messianic Jewish community. We opened the drawer next to the sign and found a lot of books connected to Jesus and Christianity.

The Baptist Village

Then, we continued for another 600 meters and crossed underneath the railway (15). From there, we walked another 500 meters to the back entrance to Yarkon National Park (16). There were no entrance fees. Right next to the back entrance, we saw the “Pillbox”. This circular structure was built by the British in 1936 to guard the railway from Arab rioters. The railway line that passes next to the “pillbox” was constructed in 1921. It was built to connect Petach Tiqva to Rosh Ha’Ayin. This way, the citrus fruit growers of Petach Tiqva could transfer their fruits more easily to Jaffa Port.  

We continued parallel to the railway for a short while and then turned right toward the Water-Lilly Pond (17). It’s a short detour off the trail. There’s a lovely pond over there, covered with yellow water lilies, also known as Nuphars. We stopped to rest nearby the pond and talked about jealousy, especially among women. Then, another hiker joined us, and we talked to him for a bit before continuing to the campground, which was 800 meters away.

The Pillbox and a train that went by

The Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground:

The campground is quite basic, with a flat area to place a tent and a drinking water tap. Beyond the fence is Tel Afek, which is part of the Yarkon National Park. According to archeological excavations, it seems that it has been settled continuously for about 5,000 years, from the Copper Age. A city and a fortress were built here by Herod the Great in the 1st century BCE.  I’m not sure if you can enter that area for free, because the trail doesn’t pass near the fortress.  

A bit south to the campground is a small pond, which is beautiful at sunset. There are also some herb plants that grow around it. The problem is that it draws mosquitos. This was one of the only places on the trail that we used our mosquito repellent. Oh, and there’s the train that passes nearby almost all night long.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Tel Afek to Shoham.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment – You will need to walk about 1.6 km to road 483 and catch a bus from the station called “Afek Park/483”. You will probably need at least 2 buses, so it’s best to check the best route for you by using Moovit or Google Maps.

Read more:

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Looking for a guide on the Israel National Trail? Contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com or read more here.  

Save this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

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And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Stays Tel Aviv

Roger’s House: A Tel Avivian Hostel with Cool Vibes

I’ve spent another weekend in Tel Aviv and this time I spent it at Roger’s House Hostel, a fairly new hostel that opened about a year and a half ago. The hostel is situated in a beautiful Templar house, which dates back to 1929, and stands between the neighborhoods of Neve Tzedek and Florentine. I loved its inner design, especially the colorful Templar floor tiles. The first thing I saw when coming to the reception was the wall covered Birra Roger bottles – a beer brand made by the hostel, which has a very special taste (and it’s the only hostel that makes its own beer).

When I started wandering around the hostel, I could find Roger everywhere. I guess you just need to come to the hostel to understand what I mean.  

Here’s a short video by Roger’s House Hostel that gives you a bit of the vibe:

In this post I’m going to tell you the main things I have to say about Roger’s House Hostel. If you don’t have time to read through it all, here’s a very short summary:

Location: 5 stars – Perfect location between the neighborhoods of Neve Tzedek and Florentine. It’s also located in a fairly quiet street. 

Cleanliness: 4 stars – Overall it was quite clean, but there were some places which seemed like they needed a bit more cleaning, especially the showers. Still, even there it was OK.

Staff: 5 stars – Friendly and welcoming.

Security: 5 stars – There was a buzzer at the front gate of the hostel, which means only the reception could open it. There was also an entrance code for the dorm.

Facilities: 4 stars – The hostel is still being upgraded, so there are some facilities which need some improvement, but overall you have everything you need. There isn’t a bar, but the reception sells beers, amongst them Roger’s Birra. 

Atmosphere: 5 stars – Loved the atmosphere. The hostel has a good vibe and offers great common areas for interactions between travelers. Seems like this hostel attracts mainly young travelers. And it really feels like a house!

Value for Money: 5 stars – The price of a bed in a dorm is quite cheap – between 60 to 80 Shekels – so for this price I believe the hostel is totally worth it! 

Bottom Line:

Roger’s House is a beautiful hostel in a quiet, but very central area of Tel Aviv. The fact that it’s located in an old Templar house really gives it a different feel, especially thanks to the amazing colorful tiles all around the hostel. The place has great potential and I’ve heard it’s going to get upgraded soon. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here and recommend this place if you’re on a tight budget and want to stay in a hostel with a great vibe. It’s also great for those of you who are looking for a dorm which has some privacy, thanks to the curtains around each bed.  

And here it is in detail:

The hostel is located between the neighborhoods of Neve Tzedek and Florentine, which are both beautiful neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. In Florentine you can spend hours looking at graffiti works and in Neve Tzedek you can learn a bit about the history of Tel Aviv and enjoy the beautiful architecture. The hostel is also just about a 10-15 minutes’ walk from the beachside and a 15 minutes’ walk from Old Jaffa. If you’re into markets, it’s also about a 10 minutes’ walk from Levinsky Market and a 20 minutes’ walk from the Carmel Market. My conclusion is – The hostel has a PERFECT location, about 15 minutes by foot from all the main attractions of Tel Aviv.  

This is how it looks from the outside

There are nice common areas on every floor. At the entrance of the hostel there’s a nice front yard with comfy places to sit and chat with fellow travelers. On the second floor there’s also a nice indoors common area with sofas and books to read. If you’d like to breathe some air, there’s also a small balcony overlooking the construction works of the Tel Aviv light rail train – which I suppose won’t be completed in the next couple of years. The common area on the third floor is a bit dusty, so… nobody was really there.

The front yard – cool place to sit in the evenings
The common area on the second floor

The dorm is quite spacious. I stayed in a 10-bed female-only dorm, which had quite enough space for everything. I could easily walk between the beds and around the room without bumping into anything. The beds all have a curtain around them, which gives a lot of privacy. There’s also a small shelf, light and USB plugs for each bed. And the bed is super comfortable – one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept on in hostels. If you want to get a bottom bed, you should try to get to the hostel as early as possible, because when you enter the dorm you get to choose which bed you want, as long as it’s not occupied. There’s also great A/C!

There’s a connected locker room, which has a lot of space. The lockers have been refurbished recently. If you want to store something in a locker, make sure to bring your own lock with you, since the hostel doesn’t provide a free lock. If you forget to bring a lock, you can get one in their vendor machine for 20 ILS, which is quite expensive, so try to not forget!

The dorm I stayed in

The dorm doesn’t have an en-suite bathroom. There’s a small female-only bathroom on the dorm floor, which has two showers and one toilet. The showers have curtains. There’s not much room to move around there, so I preferred to go downstairs to the shared bathroom on the second floor, which is open to both women and men. It has plenty of showers, which all have doors which you can lock, and plenty of toilets. There’s no soap, so make sure to bring your own. I’ve been told that the bathroom on the third floor will be upgraded soon, so… let’s see.

The better uni-sex bathroom on the second floor

Other than the dorm I stayed in, there’s also a HUGE dorm on the ground floor, which is called the OMG Dorm and has 30 beds in it! There are also many other dorms, which have an age restriction of 18-45, but if you prefer to stay in a private room, they are also available. The most unique private rooms are located in the hostel’s backyard. There, you can sleep in an Urban Caravan or a T3 camper 1985.

If you have a problem with climbing stairs, you should make sure to book a room on the ground floor of the hostel. The OMG Dorm is on the ground floor, and the private caravans are also down there, in the yard. There’s no elevator to the upper floors, but it’s not a long climb. The guest kitchen is on the second floor.

The caravans in the backyard

The hostel was quite clean, and I even saw the cleaners working in the morning, but somehow, I felt it wasn’t clean enough. The common area on the third floor, for example, felt very dusty and stuffy to me, and the shower I used was a bit dirty, but I guess it also depends on the people who use the shower.

There’s no breakfast in the hostel. Though, you do get “surprise” pancakes in the morning starting from 9:30AM. Each guest can get two pancakes, but they’re quite small, so don’t count on them for breakfast. Instead, you can use the fully equipped guest kitchen to make your own breakfast. There’s also free coffee and tea 24/7 and a water cooler.

Part of the guest kitchen
Another part of the kitchen

There’s free WiFi, which worked well along my entire stay. The hostel also provides bed linen, blanket and a towel for the shower. You can’t take the towel to the beach, though!

If you need to do laundry, there’s a laundry room next to the reception. Also, there’s a luggage storage room next to the reception, which you can use for free if you just want to leave your luggage for a few hours. If you want to leave it there for more than a day, you’ll need to pay. Keep in mind that the luggage room is the same as the laundry room, so there’s free access to the room. Don’t leave your valuables there!

The staff were very friendly. It seemed like they were mostly volunteers or people who came from abroad, so they have no problem with English. At check-in, they give you a tour of the hostel’s main facilities and show you to your room, which is nice. It also seemed there was always someone at the reception if needed.

The hostel offers a pub crawl, a graffiti tour and other activities. Since I stayed there on Shabbat, I joined the Shabbat Dinner, which costs 45 ILS. The menu of the Shabbat dinner includes mainly shakshuka, but also burghul and a yummy salad, so it’s vegetarian. Usually, most families in Israel eat a non-vegetarian meal on Shabbat dinner, so don’t think we don’t eat meat on Shabbat. There was a short explanation about Shabbat at the beginning of the dinner. Actually, I as an Israeli was asked to explain about the Shabbat. When I explained about the challah, the special bread we eat on Shabbat, I was disappointed that there was no challah to show. That was my only disappointment. The meal was very tasty and the atmosphere was great.

The shakshuka served during Shabbat Dinner

So… Bottom line – Roger’s House Hostel is a beautiful hostel with a young vibe, perfect for those of you looking for a budget hostel with a great atmosphere!

You can book your bed at Roger’s House directly through their website.


Other recommended hostels in Tel Aviv:

Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv

Little Tel-Aviv Hostel

HaYarkon 48 Hostel


The review was written on July 2019. I’ve been invited to the hostel, but can assure you my review is loyal to my experience.

Think this post is useful or helpful? I would really appreciate a like, a share or a comment 🙂

Also, check out my Facebook page, Backpack Israel.

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out my new app, Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iPhone. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab in the app.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Tel Aviv Trip Planning Tips

Jellyfish in Tel Aviv: When and How to Deal With Them

The Israeli summer usually begins in June. Along with the crazy heat and humidity also come the jellyfish. The most common ones, which arrive at Tel Aviv and other cities along the Israeli coast, are the nomad jellyfish. And they LOVE the warm and pleasant water in Israel, just like we do! 

The “Meduzot B’Am” project has created a great interactive map that shows the latest jellyfish sightings along the Israeli coast. Unfortunately, the map is only in Hebrew. Wherever you see a red jellyfish on the map, it means there are stinging jellyfish over there.

Post last updated on 29 June 2021.

Table of contents:

When is the jellyfish season in Israel?

Do the jellyfish sting?

What to do if a jellyfish stings you?

Does this mean you should avoid the beach?

More about the nomad jellyfish

More about the Meduzot B’Am project

When is the jellyfish season in Israel?

You can expect to see jellyfish from June to August. Usually, the jellyfish start appearing along the Israeli coastline in June, but sometimes the season starts later. They stay about four weeks in the area, from the first sighting.

Do the jellyfish sting?

Yes, they sting. The nomad jellyfish usually come in a swarm. At the peak of the season, about 2-3 weeks after the first jellyfish sighting, it’s hard to swim without getting stung. Also, the jellyfish are not so good at swimming. They go with the flow, which sometimes carries them to the shore. Even there, they can sting you. So stay away from any jellyfish you see, whether in the water or on the beach.

They don’t even have to sting you. You can get a skin rash from just swimming next to the jellyfish. Nobody has died from a jellyfish sting in Israel, but you should still be careful because getting stung isn’t a fun experience.

What to do if a jellyfish stings you?

If you don’t want to get stung, try to avoid the jellyfish as much as possible! If you do get stung by a jellyfish – the Israeli Health Department recommends you do the following steps:

  • Get out of the water and use a plastic stick or bag to get the jellyfish remains off your body.
  • Wash the affected area with seawater.
  • Afterward, wash the affected area with a strong and direct flow of tap water for a couple of minutes. Do not touch the area.
  • If there’s a first aid station on the beach, you can go there for further medical assistance. If you experience symptoms that aren’t a simple skin rash, you must immediately go to a medical center. These rare symptoms could include a breathing problem or weakness, and the affected area might change to blue.

Things you should not do:

  • Do not rub the affected area. This action might help the venom get deeper into your skin and worsen the situation. 
  • Do not rub the affected area with alcohol. 
  • Do not pee on the affected area. Unlike what people thought a few years back, new studies say it doesn’t help and might even worsen the pain.
  • Do not use vinegar. A new study says that vinegar could make the sting worse. 

Does this mean you should avoid the beach?

No! Go to the Israeli beaches. They are beautiful and a great place to hang out in the sun. Just keep an eye out for those jellyfish, especially at the season peak! 🙂

More about the nomad jellyfish:

Until the 1970s, the nomad jellyfish were found only in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But then those adventurous jellyfish decided to cross through the Suez Canal and invade the Mediterranean Sea. Since then, they call the Mediterranean their home. During the winter months, they hide somewhere deep in the sea. When the water temperature rises in the summer, they start making their way towards the shores.

More about the Meduzot B’Am project:

The “Meduzot B’Am” (in Hebrew, “Jellyfish Ltd”) project was founded by Dr. Dor Edelist and Dr. Dror Angel, both marine ecologists. The project is a kind of science project run by citizens. People from all over Israel can report jellyfish sightings along the coast and help track the movement of the swarms. This way, both the swimmers and the ecologists win. The swimmers know which places to avoid and can read fascinating information about jellyfish brought to them by experts. The ecologists can use the data collected to learn more about jellyfish and their migration traits.  


Have a safe and enjoyable time at the beach!

If you liked this post or found it useful, I’d really appreciate a like, share or comment from you (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And check out the Top Free Things to Do in Tel Aviv.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Stays Tel Aviv

Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv: Cool Stay in the City Center

Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. I have stayed at Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv and recommend it!

I spent three nights with my friend in Tel Aviv. She came from abroad and had only five full days in Israel, so we decided to split it between Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and Tel Aviv. And since I have not yet stayed in the famous Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv, which everybody is always talking about, I figured it would be a great opportunity to stay there. I told her: “If it is like the one in Jerusalem, then it should be awesome!”

Here’s a promotional video by Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv, which includes some shots from inside the hostel:

Short summary:

In this post I’m going to tell you the main things I have to say about Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv. If you don’t have time to read through it all, here’s a very short summary:

Location: 5 stars – Perfect! Near Rothschild Boulevard, many restaurants and nightlife venues.

Cleanliness: 5 stars – Everything was very clean.

Staff: 5 stars – Friendly and always at reception.

Security: 4 stars – I felt safe, but it seems like there are no security measures like in other hostels, such as an entrance code to the building. The doors seem to always be open.

Facilities: 5 stars – The common areas are huge and awesome, there’s a cool bar and everything needed.

Atmosphere: 5 stars – Abraham Hostel always has something going on, but if you don’t feel like doing something there’s always an option to chill out in one of the more quiet corners of the hostel.

Value for Money: 5 stars – Compared to other hostels in Tel Aviv, it’s reasonably priced (around 80-140 ILS for a bed in a dorm, depending on season), and the facilities are great.

Bottom Line:

Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv is the largest hostel I’ve ever been to, but despite its huge size it felt like home. The staff members were always friendly and attentive, breakfast was good (and free), the spaces were clean and there was everything I needed for my trip to Tel Aviv. I was just a bit disappointed that the hostel doesn’t have locks for the lockers, but they sell locks for just 10 ILS, so it was OK. Also – I really liked the beautiful wall paintings in the main lounge! If you’re looking for a hostel with quality facilities and an endless number of activities going on all week long – Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv could be the one!

Want to book a stay at Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv?

Book through Hostelworld or compare prices on Hotelscombined.

A detailed review of Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv:

The location:

The hostel is located in the heart of the city. Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv is located just a few steps from Rothschild Boulevard, the first street of Tel Aviv. In this area there are plenty of restaurants and nightlife venues. The Carmel Market is about a 15 minutes’ walk from the hostel. The beachside and Old Jaffa are about a 30 minutes’ walk. But if you don’t feel like walking, you can always take a bus from one of the many bus stations located near the hostel. The Central Bus Station is only 20 minutes by foot from the hostel, so yeah… The location is perfect!

The entrance to Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv

The common areas:

The lounge is huge and offers a lot of resting places. The common lounge is the largest I’ve seen in my life. It is full of sofas, many types of chairs and even has four hammocks, which means you can rest in many different styles. If you don’t feel like resting you can play table soccer or billiard, go watch TV in the TV Room or get a drink from the bar, which operates from 6PM till late. There’s also a cool rooftop on the 3rd floor. There isn’t a great view from up there, but in the evenings it was nice sitting up there enjoying the good weather.

The main lounge in Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv

The dorm:

The dorm is very spacious. We stayed in a 6-bed female-only dorm that actually had 8 beds. Everyone had enough space for their luggage and stuff. There was one sink, one shower, and one toilet, which was fine for us. If there’s a queue you can always go to the shared showers and toilets, which are on the same floor as the dorms. There’s soap in the shower if you forget yours.

The beds were comfy, but a bit squeaky. Each bed has an electrical socket, a reading light, and a small shelf. When you first come in, you need to choose an available bed and place your name on the board according to your bed number. You also get bed linens and a towel when checking in.

There were both A/C and fans, which worked fine in the Israeli summer. The only thing that was a bit disappointing was the lockers in the room didn’t have locks, so we had to buy a lock from the reception. It costs 10 ILS.

If you don’t want to stay in a dorm, there are plenty of private room options, too.

Everything was very clean, both the dorm and the shared spaces.

Breakfast:

Breakfast is free and quite varied. It is served every day between 6:30 AM to 10 AM. They serve bread, halva, chocolate spread, jam, different kinds of cheese, salad, hard-boiled eggs, and cereal. You also have a free coffee and tea stand 24/7. You just have to wash all your dishes and cups afterward.

Part of the breakfast…

And if you prefer to make your own food, the common kitchen is spacious and well equipped. There are also two big refrigerators, where you can keep your food.

Part of the guest kitchen

WiFi is also free and works great.

Paid services:

As I said, if you need locks for the lockers you will need to pay 10 ILS for a lock. If you need to do laundry, there are laundry machines on the rooftop, which charge money. Also, if you forget to bring a beach towel, you can purchase one for 15 ILS and keep it.

The staff:

The staff were very friendly and always there. There are a lot of staff members in the hostel and they were all very friendly. Some even told us “good morning” when they passed by us on the staircase. When we did check-in the staff member at the reception was very nice, explained everything we needed to know about the hostel and also answered all of our questions, including which bus leads to the airport.

The activities:

There are tons of activities and tours. Abraham Hostels aren’t just the main hostel chain in Israel, but also one of the leading budget tour operators in Israel. There are plenty of self guided and guided tours leaving directly from the hostel to many interesting places in Israel, so it’s worth to check which tours happen on your travel dates. It’s also worth checking out the hostel’s weekly activities. There are many parties, cooking workshops and language exchanges going on. Not all of them are free, but they are all on a budget.

Because we stayed in the hostel during Shabbat, we decided to join the hostel’s Shabbat dinner. It costs 50 ILS per person, which is a great price for the amount of quality food you get. At the beginning of the dinner, you get a short explanation about what Shabbat is and about the different Shabbat prayers and rituals. Then you begin the Shabbat feast, which in Abraham Hostel is mainly vegetarian, and get to know the fellow travellers who also came for the Shabbat dinner.

Conclusion:

So… Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv was great. I’m not sure if it’s better than the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem like some people say, but it doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is – STOP WORKING, START TRAVELLING!


More recommended hostels in Tel Aviv:

Little Tel-Aviv Hostel

Hayarkon 48 Hostel

Roger’s House Hostel


Review written on June 2019. My stay in Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv was part of a personal trip and was not sponsored by Abraham Hostels or any organization.

Think this post is useful or helpful? Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment 🙂

Also, check out my Facebook page, Backpack Israel.

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out my new app, Travel Israel on Google Play or iTunes. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Stays Tel Aviv

Little Tel-Aviv – A Great Stay in the City Center

Last month I decided to spend a weekend in Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps. It was quiet spontaneous, so most hostels were already totally booked. I was left with only a few choices, amongst them Little Tel-Aviv Hostel, which was also almost fully booked. I stayed in this hostel for one night in a female-only dorm and it was great!

In this post I’m going to tell you the main things I have to say about Little Tel-Aviv Hostel. If you don’t have time to read through it all, here’s a very short summary:

Location: 5 stars – Perfect!

Cleanliness: 4 stars – Everything was very clean, but I didn’t like the smell in the bathroom.

Staff: 4 stars – Knowledgable and friendly, but not always at the reception.

Security: 5 stars – There’s an entrance code to the building, which worked well.

Facilities: 5 stars – The common areas are awesome and everything needed is available.

Atmosphere: 5 stars – A place to chill out and have fun. It didn’t seem like a party hostel, which I personally liked, but there are plenty of common areas to make friends.

Value for Money: 4 stars – Compared to other hostels in Tel Aviv, it’s reasonably priced.

The hostel entrance at night… The name of the hostel disappeared in the photo!

And here it is in detail:

Its location is perfect! It is just a few steps away from Rothschild Boulevard, the heart of Tel Aviv. On Rothschild Boulevard you can find plenty of restaurants and bars, as well as historical sites. If you’re into architecture, you can also find many beautiful buildings along the boulevard and a great amount of international style buildings (commonly referred to as Bauhaus). Around the corner there’s a small supermarket and on the other side of the road there’s a bakery. Marketplaces are also a few minutes’ walk away. And when you’re coming or going, the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station is just a 20 minutes’ walk away. Bottom line – The location is amazing!

This is beautiful Rothschild Boulevard

The lounge is beautiful and fun. It’s huge and has sofas as well as chairs and tables. There’s a closet full of social games and books, so if you don’t want to mess around with your phone, you have plenty of other things to do! Though, you should take into account that if you’re planning to work in the lounge, there’s music playing in the background, that might get you out of focus. If you want to enjoy some sun or some good air in the evening, there’s also a cute garden.

Part of Little Tel-Aviv’s lounge…

The dorm is a bit small, but is finely furnished. I spent my night in a female-only dorm with four beds (two bunk beds). There’s not much room to move around, espeially if each of the girls brings a lot of things with her, but the point of staying in a hostel is not being stuck in the room, right? There are four open lockers and four small safety boxes that can be locked (if you have a lock). Each bed has an electricity socket, a reading light and a small shelf for small things, like a phone, glasses, etc. There’s also an A/C, but we didn’t use it. What I found unusual (but interesting) is the sink we had inside the dorm, which means we don’t have to stand in line inside the shared bathroom when it’s time to brush teeth in the morning.

My cozy little dorm (:

And if we’re talking about sinks… There weren’t a lot of shared toilets and showers on the dorm floor. I counted only two toilets and two showers in the women’s bathroom. But it seems that they were enough, because I didn’t have to wait for any of them… I’ve also heard there were more on the other floor, if you want to climb upstairs. Like the dorm, the showers are also quite small and you’ll need to hang your things outside the shower. 

A sneak peek into the women’s bathroom…

The breakfast isn’t free, but it’s reasonably priced and has a wonderful range of options. The breakfast costs 20 ILS and includes bread, different spreads, pancakes, cereal, fruit and vegetables. You can even ask for one of the staff members to make you eggs! It was totally worth the price.

The yummy breakfast!

And if you want to cook something for yourself, the common kitchen is awesome and fully equipped! I really loved the colorful kitchen and it seemed like it had everything you need to cook yourself a great meal – dishes, cutting boards, bowls, utilities, pans, microwave, stove tops and a variety of spices.

The amazing kitchen!

WiFi is free and works great. 

If you don’t want to spend extra money, you should bring a lock for the safety box. Inside the dorms there are small safety boxes, which can be used to store a laptop and other small valuable things. From what I understood, a lock costs 10 ILS.

If you wish to get a towel, you can get one for free at the reception. Just ask 🙂

See the colorful boxes down there? Those need locks!

The staff were friendly and helpful. They explained well about the hostel and were also able to give me good answers to some of my questions, such as “Where’s the nearest supermarket?” Problem was that they weren’t always at the reception. When I came for checking-in, there was no one there and I had to wait until someone showed up. Also when I came for checking-out, I had to wait until they came back from the kitchen. I just think it’s more welcoming to find someone waiting at the reception, at least when arriving… But overall, they were very nice, especially one of the volunteers, which I had a great conversation with! 

To sum it all upLittle Tel-Aviv Hostel is a superb place for those of you who want to stay near Rothschild Boulevard and the coolest nightlife venues of Tel Aviv. It’s clean and reasonably priced for a hostel in Tel Aviv. The dorms and bathrooms are small, but there are plenty of large and fun common areas where you can chill out and meet new friends.


Review written on December 2018.

Want to stay at Little Tel-Aviv Hostel? Check out prices for Little Tel-Aviv Hostel through hotelscombined (it’ll help me raise some funds for the site) or visit their site to book direct.

Think this post is useful or helpful? Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment 🙂

Also, check out my Facebook page, Backpack Israel.

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out my new app, Travel Israel on Google Play or iTunes. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab.

Yours,

Lior

 

 

Categories
Tel Aviv

Pub Crawling Tel Aviv – the City That Never Sleeps

Tel Aviv is one of Israel’s main cities. With all of its business centers, hi-tech companies and cultural centers, it is one of the leading cities in the WORLD.

Last week, I’ve decided to spend three days in Tel Aviv and try to feel like a tourist. As far as I know, tourists find Tel Aviv attractive thanks to its beautiful beaches, its great food, Old Jaffa and… the WILD NIGHTLIFE! So, to get to know the nightlife of Tel Aviv, I joined D-TLV Pub Crawl on a crawl through some of Tel Aviv’s top night venues.

What to Expect?

With D-TLV Pub Crawl you get to know four of Tel Aviv’s best night venues, meet new people and party till the early morning. The pub crawl begins around 10:30 PM. A local guide meets you and guides you through the places, while giving you drinking games and challenges along the way. There are also some free chasers and other surprises!

Some Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Drinking alcohol in Israel is permitted only from age 18.
  • To enter the bars and clubs in Tel Aviv you might need to pass through a security check.
  • The nightlife is the wildest on the weekends, from Thursday to Saturday.

Get an awesome backpackers’ price for a D-TLV Pub Crawl with this promotional code:

The Pub Crawl:

Jackie’s Pizza Bar:

This place was our meeting point at Rothschild Boulevard 39. It’s a nice place to start the night, with music that isn’t too loud, pizza, drinks and football games all over the screens. If you’re looking for a cool place for late dinner – this is a great choice!

Sputnik Bar:

From Jackie’s we followed our local guide to the first bar of the pub crawl – Sputnik. We got in through the VIP line and entered a huge space full of people, sitting around tables and enjoying their drinks with friends. We were led to an inner room, where it was less crowded and got some beer.

Sputnik Bar is a chill-out place, with good music and drinks. Besides the inner rooms, there’s also a huge garden. If you want to sit down on a cup of beer and listen to your new friends’ stories, this bar will sure do the trick!

After hanging out for some time we got some chasers and were out to our next night venue.

ZooZoo Club:

Well, this was my favorite. When we got here around midnight, the place was packed with party people. The music was loud and awesome, and people were dancing all around the bar AND on the tables! “ZooZoo” in Hebrew means “move”, and people were surely moving. If you’re looking for a place to go crazy and dance on the bar – ZooZoo could be a perfect fit.  

Lima Lima:

Then we went a short walk to Lima Lima, a huge dance bar. When we entered, a cloud of mist greeted us. Lima Lima brings the vibe of South America to Tel Aviv, with a huge open space designed like a rainforest and a huge dancing floor. We took our chaser from the bar on the dancing floor and then kept on dancing until early morning. There’s another bar in the rainforest area, so if you just prefer to smoke, drink and chill out, there’s also an option.

Kuli Alma:

Near 2AM we reached Kuli Alma, our last stop. It’s a super huge place, that has plenty of options for an ultimate nightlife experience. If you want to just drink and chill out – there’s an open space for that, with a great variety of drinks. If you want to dance all night long – there are dance floors just waiting for you. And if you’re into art, the place is covered wall paintings and there’s even an art gallery open all night long. People say the pizza is great as well!

Those were the night venues of that night. If bars and dance clubs are your thing, and you don’t know where you can hang out in Tel Aviv, I highly recommend joining a pub crawl for the ultimate nightlife adventure!


If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

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Yours,

Lior

Categories
Free things to do Tel Aviv

A Visit to Old Jaffa: What to See?

If you’re planning to visit Tel Aviv anytime soon, I highly recommend you visit Old Jaffa. Old Jaffa is today part of Tel Aviv, but a long-long time ago was an independant city. Actually, from Jaffa came the people who established Tel Aviv in 1909.

In this post I’ll give you a short overview of Jaffa’s history and also suggest you a short route you can take through the main things to see in Old Jaffa.

Let’s start with some history…

Jaffa (or Yafo in Hebrew) started expanding as a city in the Bronze Age. Because it is situated on the coastline, it was an important city of the Egyptians, who used it as a port city for transporting their merchandise.

Many Biblical stories are connected to Jaffa’s port. The most famous of them is the story of Jonah, the prophet who wanted to escape God’s mission, got on a boat in Jaffa’s port and starting sailing away. His boat got caught into a storm and he was swallowed by a whale (or “a big fish”, according to the Bible). After 3 days, he got out of it whole. Another story mentioned in the Bible tells us about King Solomon, who imports Cedars of Lebanon through Jaffa Port. Those cedars were intended for the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Later, the Hasmoneans conquered Jaffa and made it a mixed settlement with Jews and non-Jews. When the Romans come to Jaffa during the First Jewish–Roman War, they slaughter its Jewish dwellers. When Jerusalem falls to the Romans’ hands in 70 CE, Jaffa also falls in its importance, because its port is no longer useful.

Many years pass, Jaffa goes up and down in its importance, until it is destructed by the Mamluks sometime in the 13th century. Afterwards, in the Ottoman period, the city is built again and Zahir al-Umar, the autonomous Arab ruler of Northern Palestine, builds a wall around it. Then comes Napoleon in 1799 and destroys the city again. 

At the end, in the early 19th century, the Ottoman governor of Jaffa, dubbed “Abu Nabbut”, builds the city again. This time, it remains built until today.

Walking in Old Jaffa:

Everything in Old Jaffa is within walking distance. Old Jaffa is located next to the shoreline, so if you’re close to the Jaffa-Tel Aviv Promenade, you can walk along it to the south until you reach Old Jaffa.

I always like to start my visit in Old Jaffa at the Clock Square (in Hebrew: “Kikar HaSha’on”, “כיכר השעון”). The clocktower (1) is one of the symbols of Old Jaffa. It was built around 1903-4 in honor of Abdul Hamid II, who had celebrated 25 years of reign over the Land of Israel in 1900. This clocktower was one of over 100, which were build for this special occasion. 6 clocktowers were built in the Land of Israel: in Jaffa, in Jerusalem, in Acre, in Haifa, in Nablus and in Safed.

The clocktower and the restored facade

To the east of the Clock Square you can see a beautiful white facade, connected to nothing really. This is the restoration of the Turkish governor’s building, which was destroyed by the Jewish paramilitary organization, Lehi.

To the west of the square is the Qishle, the Ottoman jail, which turned after 1948 to the regional headquarters of the Israeli police. Maybe sometime soon it will become a hotel.

Now we’ll start walking…

From the square, proceed south and turn right (west) onto Mifrats Shlomo Promenade (טיילת מפרץ שלמה). You’re supposed to see a mosque to your right (2). This mosque was built by Abu Nabbut (remember him?) in the early 19th century and called Mahmoudiya Mosque. It is the largest mosque in Jaffa. Although you can’t enter if you aren’t a Muslim, but you can take a look at its beautiful outer building. Next to the mosque is a beautiful sabil, a public fountain, which was also built by Nabbut at the entrance to the city. Opposite to the sabil, at the other side of the road, you might be able to spot the arch, that was part of the gateway into Old Jaffa, before its walls were demolished.

The Sabil of Abu Nabbut

Continue up the promenade until you see a beautiful view to your right. If nothing has changed, then you’ll see a huge square that the municipality had put here to signal a good photogrpahic opportunity. You can see Tel Aviv’s shoreline from here. 

A picture perfect view

After enjoying the view, you can continue up the promenade until you reach the reddish Church of St. Peter (3).  This is a very important church, because it commemorates the time when Peter began spreading the Christianity abroad, beyond the sea. On top of the church, you’ll be able to see a small cross stuck in a rock. The rock is a symbol of Peter, as he was called “the rock”, “the foundation” of the community by Jesus in Caesarea Phillipi. If the church is open, you might also want to enter to appreciate the interior.

Saint Peter’s Church (to see the cross in the rock, you’ll need to come here)

More or less opposite the church is a road leading up towards Ha’Pisga Park (The Peak Park). There is a sign pointing towards the place. Go up the road and within a few steps you’ll see a bridge to your right (4). This is the Zodiac Bridge (officially called the Wishing Bridge). There are zodiac signs all along the bridge. According to the local legend, if you put your hand on your zodiac sign, look towards the beautiful sea and make a wish – your wish will come true!

Check out Zahi Shaked’s (Israeli  tour guide) video:

After making a wish, you can keep on going to Ha’Pisga Park, which is situated on the top of Jaffa Hill (5). On this hill were found the most ancient findings of Jaffa, some dating back over 4,000 years. Today, there is an interesting statue on top of the hill and wonderful views of the surroundings.

From the hill, climb down to its southwestern slopes. There, you might be able to find the Ramesses Gate (6). The ancient Egyptians were here as well, and Ramesses II built a nice gateway, that led to a magnificent fortress built here about 3,300 years ago. The gate is just a restoration, but it is worth a quick look.

The Egyptian Gate from Beyond the Bushes

From the ancient gate, you can go on and enter the ancient alleys of the city. The different alleys are named after the different zodiacs and a few other things. It is an enchanting experience, wandering through them. Try finding the Floating Orange Tree, an interesting sculpture by Ran Morin, that consists of a real orange tree. In the past, Jaffa’s oranges were one of the city’s symbols and people from all over the world wanted to purchase Jaffa Oranges. Today, Ran Morin’s orange tree is maybe the last one in the area.

Ran Morin’s Floating Orange Tree

Make your way through the artists’ alley and then turn towards the sea, to Jaffa’s Port (7). This was one of the most important ports of the Land of Israel throughout the ages. As I’ve already mentioned, this might have been the port from which Jonah fled from his mission and King Solomon got the wood pieces for the Holy Temple.

In modern days, big ships have never docked next to the shore, because of the many boulders near the shoreline. The ships would set anchor beyond the boulders, and the people of Jaffa would come to pick up the passangers or merchandise by smaller boats.

Many of the Aliyah waves have arrived through Jaffa’s port. There is a point along the Jaffa promenade, where you can see the stairs, from which the new Jewish immigrants ascended ashore and then fell down to kiss the Land. 

The port of Jaffa became less and less important during the British mandate. The British established a larger port in Haifa, and the largest ships sailed there. Furthermore, the Arabs closed the Port of Jaffa during the Great Arab Revolt in 1936, what made the Jewish people establish the Tel Aviv Port not far from Jaffa’s location. These led to the downfall of the Port of Jaffa.

Jaffa’s Promenade

You can keep on exploring the port area, return to the clocktower area or start making your way along the promenade towards the modern part of Tel Aviv.

If you want, you can take a short 30 minutes boat ride into the sea to see the skyline of Tel Aviv. I went on the Keif Boat (כייף), which docks at the Jaffa Port in front of the restaurants. It costs just 25 ILS for the ride.

Near the port, in the sea, you might be able to spot a rock with an Israeli flag on it. This is Andromeda Rock. This rock is connected to the Greek mythology, that tells a story about Andromeda, who was tied to this rock as a sacrifice to sate the sea monster that was sent by Poseidon. Perseus, who just happened to pass by, saw beautiful Andromeda, untied her and saved her from the monster.

If you have time, you can also visit the Jaffa Flea Market, that’s near the clocktower. There are also two interesting museums in Old Jaffa. One is the Visitor Center at Kdumim Square (the wide square next to St. Peter’s Church), where you can learn about Jaffa’s history and archeology.  The other is Ilana Goor Museum, a nice art museum with artworks of Ilana Goor. At the entrance to the Ilana Goor Museum is a sculpture of a cute whale, that connects us to the story of Jonah. Both of the museums have an admission fee. The rest of Jaffa’s attractions are free.

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Hope you’ll enjoy your time in Old Jaffa! Have anything else to add or something to correct? Let me know!

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

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For more info about Israel – check out my new app, Travel Israel (free download on Google Play  and iTunes).

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Jerusalem Tel Aviv Trip Planning Tips

5 Places that I Love in Israel

This evening we will celebrate Tu B’Av in Israel. This Jewish holiday is corresponding to Valentine’s Day. It’s the holiday of love. So on this special occasion, I want to share with you 5 places that I trully love in Israel. There are more places I love, of course, but let’s leave them for next year. You’re also welcome to share yours!

Here are my 5 places that I love in Israel:

Mount of Olives Observation Point – 

I’ve become fond of observation points this year and the Mount of Olives Observation Point is without a doubt my favorite. It overlooks the Old and New City of Jerusalem, which I love as well, and is located on Mount of Olives, an interesting hill per se. Day and evening, this observation point is fantastic! The climb to the top is quite challenging, because a very-very steep road leads to it, but if the weather isn’t too hot and my legs aren’t too tired – I’ll climb up it a thousand times to see the view from here.

Lookout over the Old City

Aish HaTorah Overlook –

Yes, this is another observation point. I discovered this overlook just a few weeks ago and fell in love. It’s located on the rooftop of Aish HaTorah, a Jewish Orthodox organization and yeshiva in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. From the top of the building you get an amazing view over the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. I’ve never seen such a great view of those two holy sites. And the model of the Holy Temple here is really impressive.

 

It costs 10 ILS to climb up to the rooftop.

The view from the rooftop…

Agamon Hula –

When I’m in the Upper Galilee, I like to stop here to enjoy a good bicycle ride. In the center of Agamon Hula Park is a beautiful artificial lake, where water birds rest, nutrias swim andaquatic plants grow. Everything around is green and the path that encircles the lake goes on for about 8.5 kilometers, so I can easily bike here for around one-two hours (I’m a slow biker). Bikes can be rented at the entrance to the park, and if you prefer to walk around the lake that’s also possible.

The entrance to the park is free. You only need to pay if you want to rent bikes or golf carts. It’s open Sunday to Thursday from 9:00AM to 4:00PM and Fridays and Saturdays from 6:30AM to 4:00PM. There are some buses that stop close by (such as 111 and 500), but the easiest way to get here is by car.

I really love this nutria!

Ein Avdat National Park – 

One of the most enchanting places in Israel is Ein Avdat. It’s in the middle of the desert, but has flowing water in it. The Tsin stream passes here in a beautiful canyon, full of aqua plants and magnificent trees. There’s a beautiful spot with a waterfall, and then you start climbing up a cliff, where monks once lived in caves. I really like climbs and beautiful oasises in the desert, so this place in the Negev is one of my favorites!

The problem is that it isn’t very accessible. You can get there by taking a bus to Sde Boker, but getting on a bus at the other end of the trail can be difficult. If you’re coming with a car, that’s difficult as well, because you’ll need one for pickup at the end of the trail. So… The only logical option is to go back the way you came.

This park is under the responsibility of Israel Nature and Parks Authority. It’s open Sundays to Thursdays and Saturdays from 8:00AM to 5:00PM, Fridays from 8:00AM to 4:00PM. In the winter, it closes an hour earlier. The entrance costs 28 ILS for an adult. If you plan to visit more national parks in Israel, I would recommend you check out the Money Saving Tickets.

Water in the desert

Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade – 

I love walking along the promenade between Old Jaffa and the Tel Aviv Port. The beautiful Mediterranean Sea is spread on one side, the modern city of Tel Aviv on the other, and people pass by on the promenade itself, some on foot, some on bikes. It’s really enjoyable during the summer evening, when it’s a bit chilly. During the day, you can see people enjoying their time on the beachside. The walk takes about an hour and is a great way to relax after a long day of city touring!

One of the beaches along the promenade

Happy Tu B’Av full of love!


Those were my five beloved places in Israel. And yours?

If you liked this post, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to connect with me on Facebook – Backpack Israel.

For more info about Israel – check out my new app, Travel Israel (free download on Google Play  and iTunes).

Yours,

Lior

 

Categories
Free things to do Tel Aviv

Top Free Things to do in Tel Aviv

So, after Jerusalem and Eilat, I’ve decided to write about the top free things to do in TEL AVIV, the city that never sleeps! Tel Aviv is probably one of the most famous cities in Israel. It is also one of the vibrant cities in the world, with a long stretch of beaches, colorful markets, and crazy nightlife. So, what to do in Tel Aviv? Here are my top picks.

Post last updated on 8 November 2021.

Want to learn more about travel to Tel Aviv?

Read my full travel guide to Tel Aviv for budget-conscious travelers.

Table of contents:

Have fun on the beach

Explore the beautiful streets of Old Jaffa

Take a walk from Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port

Enjoy the graffiti of Florentin

Visit Rabin’s memorial at Rabin Square

Take a stroll through the German Colony of Sarona

Enjoy the atmosphere of Nachalat Binyamin Market

Explore the Independence Trail

Participate in one of Tel Aviv’s free tours

1- Have fun on the beach:

If you want to enjoy the sun, sand, and wonderful sea, grab a beach towel and head to one of Tel Aviv’s beaches. It’s free!

Tel Aviv is famous worldwide for its fantastic beachside along the Mediterranean Sea. The beach strip is divided into 13 declared beaches, each having a different vibe. All include showers, changing rooms, and toilets and are well maintained. Some beaches have sports facilities. Some offer lounge beds, chairs, and sun umbrellas during the season (April to October).

I love Charles Clore Beach, a few hundred steps away from Old Jaffa. It’s a quiet beach compared to the others, has a great view of Old Jaffa and a great bar-café on site. Other recommended beaches are Jerusalem Beach and Gordon Beach, which are very close to each other. Hilton Beach is a gay-friendly beach, not far away as well.

Jerusalem Beach

2 – Explore the beautiful streets of Old Jaffa:

In my opinion, Old Jaffa is one of the most enchanting places in Israel. Jaffa is one of the most ancient settlements in Israel, but today is part of Tel Aviv. Actually, the people who established Tel Aviv in the early 20th century came out of Jaffa’s Walls.

But, as I said, Jaffa has a very long history. The first settlement began at the end of the Neolithic period and started expanding in the Canaanite period, about 3,000 years ago. One of the most famous Biblical figures connected to Jaffa is Jonah, who sets sail from Jaffa’s port on his flee from God’s mission. Jaffa has its ups and downs throughout history, but even when it was demolished by certain empires, it was re-built soon after. The last person to re-build Jaffa was Muhammad Abu-Nabbut, the local governor of the city during the Ottoman period. When you explore Old Jaffa, you can still see some buildings remaining from his time, including the Mahmoudiya Mosque near Jaffa’s Clocktower.

Take a full day to explore the streets of Old Jaffa. I recommend beginning at the Clocktower, which was built in 1903 in honor of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II and to commemorate his 25 years of rule over the empire. If you’ll proceed on Miprats Shlomo Promenade, leading west, you’ll soon see a beautiful view of Tel Aviv. Afterwards you’ll arrive at the plaza next to St. Peter’s Church, one of the most important churches in Israel, commemorating the time when Christianity began spreading to the whole world. Other things worth seeing is the Artists’ Street and the Old Jaffa Port, which is one of the most ancient ports in the world.

A Visit to Old Jaffa: What to See? 

Old Jaffa Clocktower

3 – Take a walk from Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port:

Linking between Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port is the magnificent Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade, stretching over 14 kilometers along the Tel Aviv beachline. Along the promenade are many restaurants and cafes and of course, beautiful views of the Mediterranean. The promenade extends beyond Old Jaffa, but I recommend walking from Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port, especially in the early hours of the evening. The walk takes about one hour and it’s a perfect way to relax, do some people-watching and explore the Tel Aviv beachside.

If you prefer biking, you can rent a bike through Tel-O-Fun (the green bikes that appear almost anywhere in Tel Aviv) and bike along the promenade. It isn’t free, but it doesn’t cost much (about 23 ILS for an hour) and it’s a great way to get around Tel Aviv.

More about Tel-o-Fun:

4 – Enjoy the Graffiti of Florentin:

One of the coolest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv is without a doubt Florentin, just a short walk from Rothschild Boulevard. It’s super famous for its beautiful graffiti works, that are scattered all around it. There are some alleys which are totally covered with graffiti, some of less known artists and some that were made by well known graffiti artists, such as Jonathan Kis-Lev. You can wander around the different streets and alleyways by yourselves, or you can join one of the great gaffiti tours that take place in Florentin. I highly recommend those done by Aaron Gertz Tours. He offers budget prices and great content! And if you’re already in Florentin, you might also want to check out the wonderful food options in the neighborhood.

A beautiful graffiti on a synagogue in Florentin

5 – Visit Rabin’s memorial at Rabin Square:

Yitzhak Rabin was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel from 1974 to 1977 and then was elected for a second term of office in 1992. In October 1994 he signed the peace agreement with Jordan. About a year beforehand, in September 1993 he signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, a brave step that granted him the Nobel Peace Prize and later led to his assassination by a right-wing Jewish extremist who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords. Rabin was assassinated on 4 November 1995.

The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin happened at the end of a peace rally, which took place in the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv, today known as Rabin Square. If you’re in the area, you can come to visit the square. The City Hall of Tel Aviv is located at the top of the square and in the square are two pools and a beautiful memorial sculpture for the Holocaust, designed by Israeli artist Yigal Tumarkin.

Rabin’s Memorial is located on Ibn Gabirol Street, next to the City Hall. There are two memorials there, one more official than the other. The one on the wall preserves part of the authentic graffiti that people made on the City Hall’s walls right after the assassination. The big word says: “Sorry”. You can also see spots on the boardwalk, that indicate where Yitzhak Rabin stood at the time of the assassination.

When I was there a while ago I was stopped by some tourists, who wanted to know what I think about the political assassination and if I think it could happen again. I’ll leave those questions open.

The Square is about a half an hour walk from the seaside. Many Dan buses arrive near the Square.

Rabin’s Memorial – “Sorry”

6 – Take a stroll though the German Colony of Sarona:

The German Colony of Sarona is located a short walking distance from the Azrieli Mall (the three towers that are rectangular, circular and square). In my opinion, Sarona is one of the most beautiful parts of Tel Aviv. It is a modern-looking shopping center, situated in the original preserved houses of the 19th century German Colony. There is also a food mall nearby, but the prices are up high. If you’re not interested in spending a lot of money, I just recommend strolling along the shops and seeing the preserved buildings.

The history of the colony begins in 1871. The German Templars arrived to this part of Israel and decided to establish a colony here, after establishing one in Haifa. The Templars were very religious Christians and began developing agriculture and industry in the area. They were doing well under the British Mandate until September 1939, at the beginning of World War II, then they were declared as enemy nationals and exiled from the Land of Israel.

Later, Sarona was turned to a British camp, which was attacked many times by the Jewish underground forces. In December 1947, when the British were starting to pack their bags and leave the area, they passed the camp to the Jewish leadership, which turned it to a camp of the Jewish force, the Haganah. After the declaration of Israel’s independence in May 1948, the new government’s institutions settled in the houses of the German Colony.  Today, as I said, it is a shopping and recreational center.

Sarona and skyscrapers in the background

7 – Enjoy the atmosphere of Nachalat Binyamin Market:

This is another shopping area in Tel Aviv, situated closer to the seaside.  Even if you aren’t planning to buy anything, it’s nice to stroll around and soak in the nice atmosphere. On Tuesdays and Fridays between 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, this pedestrian street is filled with music, street performances and arts and crafts stalls. Read more about it in the official site: Nachalat Binyamin Market.

Nachalat Binyamin is about a 20 minutes walking distance from the seaside.

8 – Explore the Independence Trail:

The Independence Trail is a new trail in Tel Aviv, meant to take you back in time to the very beginning of Tel Aviv and to the very beginning of the State of Israel, from 1909 to 1948. The trail passes by the first buildings of Tel Aviv and important institutions, that tell the story of the city and of the country, like the Haganah Museum, the first branch of the Bank of Israel and the Independence Hall (originally the first mayor’s house), where the State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948.

Coming Soon – a full guide to the Independence Trail

The starting point of the trail is at the first kiosk of Tel Aviv, which has been preserved. The kiosk stands on the crossroad between Rothschild and Herzl Streets. A short walk from there, on Rothschild 11, is the trail’s information center, where you can get the official map and all the information you need. I recommend starting the trail in the morning so that you will be able to see everything before most sites close at 4:00 PM.

The trail was created by the Tel Aviv Municipality together with the Tourism Department.

One last thing to be aware of – on Rothschild Avenue you need to make sure not to walk on the bicycle path (it’s lined out on the boardwalk). Many people ride electric bikes in Tel Aviv and it could be dangerous to walk there.

Read more about the trail in the official site: Independence Trail.

Independence Trail starting point

9 – Participate in one of Tel Aviv’s Free Tours:

If you want to discover Tel Aviv with a guide, but don’t want to pay too much, you can always join a Free Tour. But, keep in mind that not all Free Tours are really free. Some will expect you to leave a tip at the end, and the recommended amount of tip is about 50 ILS. So… which Free Tours do I recommend?

SANDEMANs have a Free Tour of Old Jaffa, which I participated in. It’s about two hours, the guides are certificated and interesting and you really get to see the main sites of Jaffa, so yes, I would recommend them. Due to the COVID-19 situation, they do not offer the tour at the moment.

(by the way, Yafo is Jaffa. For some reason, tourists say Jaffa, so that’s how I called it throughout the post…)

More Free Things to Do:

Top Free Things to do in Safed

Top Free Things to do in Acre


So, as I said, those were my top picks of free things to do in Tel Aviv. If you have any more suggestions, you’re free to type them in the comments or let me know through a message to my Facebook page – Backpack Israel or email at lior@backpackisrael.com.

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

For more info about Tel Aviv and other places in Israel – check out my new app, Travel Israel – Land of Creation (free download on Google Play  and iTunes).

Yours,

Lior