Congratulations, you’ve made it to the most populated and un-Israeli part of the country: unabashedly liberal, modern, and—every now and then—utterly insane, Tel Aviv is a bastion of the West in the Middle East. Indeed, anything that reaches the country seems to pass through this area first, starting 70 years agowith the state of Israel itself, which began here. And though Jerusalem may have the Knesset, Tel Aviv takes the cake on designer labels, Bauhaus architecture, European-style megaclubs, and an odd penchant for ’80s kitsch. In a land ravaged by ideological struggles between new and old, religious and secular, it’s pretty clear where Tel Aviv sits on the spectrum.
Apparently Tel Aviv is sexy. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before. It’s hard not to talk about the city without bouncing around the same old clichés about scantily clad beach-goers, short-skirted clubbers, and the conspicuous lack of anyone over the age of forty. But clichés exist for a reason: sometimes, things really do live up to the hype. Whether you find yourself in a cloud of dry ice at a trance club at 7am or holed up in a tragically hip or plain old cooler-than-thou bar come dusk, you’ll soon realize that Tel Aviv is often over-the-top, somehow maintaining the surreality of a story that has always seemed just too crazy to be true. Stranger than fiction, sure—why not “cooler than” too?
While she may truly live and define herself by the night, Tel Aviv escapes a hangover in the morning as 20-somethings saunter toward the beaches or settle into the swanky cafes perched on every corner. This is not like the rest of Israel—Orthodox men are just as rare a sight as M16-toting teenagers—but more akin to a glamorous European Riviera town, with its laissez-faire approach to life. As the languid morning turns into late afternoon, the crowds migrate back toward the bars in preparation of the night ahead.