IS­RAEL Boules and bou­tiques

The Jewish Chronicle - - Travel -

is tak­ing place in­land as well as along the wa­ter­front.

It is hard to think of an ur­ban thor­ough­fare more re­ward­ing to wan­der the length of than Roth­schild Boule­vard, lined with in­ter­na­tional style and eclec­tic build­ings which, al­though not yet to­tally res­cued from ur­ban de­cay, are grad­u­ally be­ing spruced up to re­flect the glo­ri­ous ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage of the 1920s and 30s.

And this is not just some ar­cane av­enue for ar­chi­tec­ture buffs, but a green throb­bing heart to Is­rael’s White City.

You do not need to know your Bauhaus from your Rus­sian rural ro­man­tic to get a kick out of strolling the cen­tral green reser­va­tion of Roth­schild on a Fri­day or Satur­day, pass­ing prom­e­nad­ing fam­i­lies, kib­b­itz­ing ca­nines, boules play­ers and art lovers en­joy­ing the dec­o­rated cows or ships or what­ever is the theme of the an­nual spon­sored art ex­hibit (this year it has been globes, and quite fan­tas­tic they are).

At the apex of Roth­schild, which wraps round the city from north to south, and more or less par­al­lel to the beach, is Shenkin, street of fashionistas and fairy-lit out­door cafes.

But shop­pers who find Shenkin too young, too over­whelm­ingly busy or ever so slightly over, are grav­i­tat­ing to the trendier, south­ern end of Roth- schild where it runs into Neve Tzedek, within spit­ting dis­tance of Jaffa. It was, in fact, the over­crowded al­leys of me­di­ae­val Jaffa — an­other pic­turesque tourist joy — which prompted the es­tab­lish­ment of Neve Tzedek in 1887, the first set­tle­ment to be built out­side the walls of Jaffa on the dunes which 25 years later be­came Tel Aviv’s first neigh­bour­hood.

Five years ago this neigh­bour­hood was derelict, but the artists moved in, and now all who own prop­erty there must be laugh­ing all the way to Bank Leumi.

De­spite its bizarre ap­pear­ance — rows of chic bou­tiques and restau­rants sur­rounded by builders’ rub­ble — Neve Tzedek is mak­ing a huge come­back, with lovely old build­ings be­ing ren­o­vated and new build­ings go­ing up un­der the strictest con­di­tions in what is now a con­ser­va­tion area.

To see why it is hot, start at the Suzanne Del­lal dance cen­tre, charm­ing oa­sis of green space and cul­ture, then wan­der up Shabazi Street try­ing not to shop till you drop — which is hard with home­grown de­sign­ers like Sigal Dekel, Ma Yu, Ma Cherie with its eclec­tic em­broi­dered vel­vet gowns and coats and Dou­nia, surely the most orig­i­nal hand­bag em­po­rium in the world, stitch­ing leather to glo­ri­ously eclec­tic fab­rics.

Shabazi is a five-minute walk from the Dan Panorama, which of­fers ex­cep­tional value for a beach­front ho­tel, the best break­fast in town and fast ac­cess to fash­ion­able Chinky Beach.

A £3 taxi ride brings you to the re­vi­talised port, where the beau­ti­ful peo­ple sip cock­tails with sand be­tween their toes at Shal­vati, or freshlysqueezed su­per­juice at the Gazebo bar in front of the Ella Yoga Cen­tre, as well as great cof­fee and in­fu­sions at nu­mer­ous cafés.

Low-cost fares also of­fer an op­por­tu­nity for a cul­ture break in the so-called “mu­seum quar­ter” in Ra­mat Aviv. It is so worth find­ing two or three hours to spend at the mag­nif­i­cent Di­as­pora

Mu­seum on the cam­pus of Tel Aviv Univer­sity.

It tells, most en­ter­tain­ingly, the story of who set­tled where and did what, of­fer­ing the pos­si­bil­ity to study one’s own fam­ily on the spot.

Nearby is the equally en­gross­ing Pal­mach Mu­seum. But it of­fers only guided tours which must be booked in ad­vance — it would have been nice to know that ahead of time, and also to find some signs in English.

This lack of English sig­nage on a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of es­tab­lish­ments, in­clud­ing trendy restau­rants and bou­tiques, is some­thing the Is­raelis will have to ad­dress if they are se­ri­ous about at­tract­ing for­eign tourists.

I would love to be able to tell you the ex­act lo­ca­tion be­hind Roth­schild Boule­vard of Pasha — home of glo­ri­ously won­der­ful kosher Turk­ish food, served with great panache — but my He­brew is not up to read­ing the ad­dress off a card. It was, hap­pily, just up to iden­ti­fy­ing Orna and Ella on Shenkin, where the yam pan­cakes and de­li­cious sal­ads and pas­tries are to die for, and also to lo­cat­ing Suzana, at 9 Shabazi, op­po­site the en­trance to the Del­lal Cen­tre and per­haps the most charm­ing al­fresco lunch spot in town.

It is hard to know what is miss­ing from Tel Aviv’s of­fer­ing, ex­cept, per­haps, a few bou­tique ho­tels — and they are al­ready com­ing up in Neve Tzedek and else­where — and bet­ter, more user­friendly pub­lic trans­port.

One is un­likely to have granted one’s wish for shops, mar­kets and mu­se­ums to close later on a Fri­day af­ter­noon, but the restau­rants, bars and clubs are at their busiest on Fri­day nights.

But if Fri­day evening and Satur­day are im­per­fect for shop­ping and cul­ture in Tel Aviv, there is nowhere more af­fect­ing to at­tend a Shab­bat ser­vice than at the West­ern Wall, and the mir­a­cle of Jerusalem is rea­son enough to book a low-cost flight to Is­rael.

Fly­ing bud­get to Tel Aviv: page 56

Tel Aviv’s beach: just a peb­ble’s throw from shops, nightlife and ho­tels

A re­fur­bished build­ing on Roth­schild with its res­i­dent sculp­tures

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