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A walk along the Tel Aviv beaches on the boardwalk

A visit to Tel Aviv is incomplete without a stroll along the boardwalk and the gorgeous beaches. All the beaches are similar in the facilities they offer, but there are minor differences that may be important to you if you are staying put for a while.

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Tel Aviv has 13 beaches and the boardwalk (tayelet in Hebrew) stretches for 14 Km from Tel Aviv port near Park Hayarkon in the north to historic Yaffo in the south, although you may not want to walk this entire distance. Described here is a 3 Km/ 1½-hour walk from Tel Aviv port to Bugrashov Beach. You may also want to consider renting a bicycle or rollers. At any time, stop for a beer at one of the beach restaurants or take a swim.


The walk starts at Tel Aviv Port. Enter “Tel Aviv Port” on Waze or Moovit and walk to the coast. The port was opened during the 1936 to 1939 Arab riots as an alternative to Jaffa Port, but was only fully operational for 2 years.  It was closed in 1965 and its facilities moved to the then newly opened Ashdod port. There are many restaurants and shops here. Also bars and a thriving nightlife.


The first beach you will come to is Metzitzim Beach. This name comes from a 1972 comedy movie Hof Metzitzim, which translates as the “Peeping Tom Beach.” However, this name has no more basis to reality than any of the other beaches. The swimming area is in a small bay created by a breakwater. There is a cold-water fountain. Plenty of gazebos provide shade. There is a small play area for children. There is a restaurant partly on the beach with umbrellas and partly on the sidewalk. This beach is described on the internet as a popular place for young people and teenagers.


Between this beach and the next, is Nordau Beach for separate male and female swimming. It is enclosed by a wall and is open for women on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and for men on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Like the other beaches it has chair rentals, restrooms, outdoor showers, changing room, children’s play area and a fitness area. You do not have to be religious to use the beach and many like this beach for non-religious reasons - it is a bit quieter than the others.


The next beach you come to is Hilton Beach, so-called because it is overlooked by the luxury Hilton Hotel. The delineated swimming area is in an artificial bay. There is a kid’s activity area. There are lots of gazebos. There are spacious restrooms. A restaurant extends onto the beach. Surfing equipment is available for rent and this beach is used for kayaking and windsurfing activities. This beach has the reputation of being the city’s gay beach. It is the only beach where dogs are officially allowed.


Before reaching Gordon Beach, you will pass the Gordon Pool. This is a Tel Aviv institution. It has an Olympic size pool set up for laps, a smaller pool and a pool for toddlers. It is open Sunday 1.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Thursday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is 65 NIS and 52 NIS for children. There are sunbeds and chairs. Their phone number is 03-762 3300.


Gordon Beach is considered Tel Aviv’s main beach, especially for physical activity. It is overlooked by the Sheraton Grand hotel. It has lots of volleyball courts. Sports equipment can be rented. There are shaded benches on the boardwalk. There are cafes and restaurants around the beach and a restaurant mainly on the beach. There lots of gazebos. It has swings. There are also free showers.


Frishman Beach has the reputation as being one of the most family and child-friendly beaches with play areas, swings and a delineated swimming area. It has restrooms and indoor and outdoor showers. There are lots of gazebos. There is a restaurant partially on the beach.


Bograshov Beach is the last beach on this walk. It has the reputation of being the most popular beach in the city whatever the season because of its central location. It has restrooms and outdoor showers. There is a restaurant partially on the beach. It has volleyball courts. There are a lot of gazebos. There may be a Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday. The internet suggests (in other words I have not checked on this) that the water may be a bit calmer here than at the other beaches. Public transport is conveniently available from opposite the beach from the other side of the road.


Memorials by this beach are worth looking at. On the boardwalk is a small stone memorial to the sinking of the ship the Altelena.

The Altelena left France for Israel during the War of Independence in June 1948 carrying 940 Jewish immigrants and a large cargo of arms and ammunition organized by the former underground organization, the Irgun. This was during the first ceasefire of the war and arms were crucial for Israel’s war effort. Weapons valued at 153 million francs had been donated by the French government. The exact text of the agreement has not been found, and the French motivation is unclear.

David Ben-Gurion was adamant that no militias be permitted in Israel (such as an Irgun militia) and that there be only one centralized command. He insisted that all arms be given over to the newly created Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Irgun agreed to all this, including ceasing any independent arms acquisitions. However, because of the truce and the necessity to maintain secrecy, the Irgun organization in Israel was not informed that the boat had set sail. When the boat arrived, the head of the Irgun, Menachem Begin, wanted that 20% of the arms be given to his organization the Irgun, who were fighting alongside the Haganah in the Old City, and that the rest given to Irgun battalions within the IDF. This was rejected by government representatives and no accord was reached.


The Altelena attempted to move to Tel Aviv, hoping for more favorable conditions to unload the remainder of its cargo (the immigrants had already left the boat). The IDF shelled the ship as it approached the shore, leading to a fire on the boat and eventually its sinking. The boat ran aground and the IDF was ordered by the government to take over the boat and its cargo. The Irgun was told to cease unloading the arms, which they refused to do. Sixteen Irgun members and 3 IDF soldiers lost their lives during the ensuing fight. Begin was adamant that a Jewish civil war should be avoided at all costs, and during this entire episode he did not permit his men to retaliate and fire at the IDF. Ben-Gurion loathed Menachem Begin, although this would change with time as they got to know each other. This entire tragedy could have been avoided if there had been more open means of communication.


On the other side of the road opposite the beach is a memorial to the clandestine immigration to Palestine during the end of the British Mandate, called in Hebrew the ha’apala. Some 120,000 immigrants made their way to Palestine during this time, although most were placed in detention as soon as they arrived and were not permitted to stay in Israel until the British left Palestine and the State of Israel was declared.


The memorial takes the form of a ship with signs on its sides describing the fate of some of the boats that made their way to Palestine but were intercepted by the British. This includes the Exodus, the story of which is described in Leon Uris’ novel by the same name. The background to the ha’apala is also described on our webpage about the Atlit Immigration Detention Center. 

What was the ha’apalah?


The ha’apala was also called Aliyah Bet to distinguish it from Aliyah Aleph. Aliya Aleph refers to the very limited immigration permitted by the British, whereas Aliyah Bet is a shortened form of Aliyah bilti legalit or illegal immigration.


This illegal immigration occurred in two phases. The first was from 1934 to 1942 and was led by several Zionist organizations, including the Revisionists, to enable European Jews to escape from Nazi persecution and genocide. The second stage is known as the Bricha (flight or escape) and occurred after the end of the Second World War. This was the effort by Zionist organizations to bring to Palestine desperate Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who were languishing in refugee camps in post-war Europe, especially in Allied-occupied Germany and Austria.


This effort was led by the Mossad LeAliya Bet (the Institute for Aliyah Bet), and was an arm of the Haganah, and specifically its maritime branch, the Polyam, who took the responsibility for commanding and sailing the ships from Europe to Mandatory Palestine. HaGid'onim were male and female radio operators of the Haganah who kept up a constant communication between stations in Europe, headquarters in Palestine, and the ships at sea. Over 200 youngsters from the United States and Canada also volunteered to serve on the ha’apala ships.


Over 100,000 people attempted to enter Mandatory Palestine illegally in 142 voyages in 120 ships. The British navy had imposed a blockade on the coasts of Palestine implemented by 45 battleships. Nevertheless, 66 ha’apala ships made it to the shores of Eretz Israel with more than 70,000 immigrants (ma'apilim). At the beginning, illegal immigrants were put in a detention camp in Alit. When this camp was full, additional British camps were established in Cyprus. These detention centers were not supposed to be pleasant, so as to act as a deterrent, but this had no effect and desperate immigrants continued to arrive in ma’apilim ships.

Of considerable interest is the role of the Jewish Brigade. This was composed of Jewish soldiers who had fought in the British army during World War II. After the war, and before they were demobilized, they became involved in the displaced persons camps and in bringing the refugees to boats that would take them to Palestine, often using British army transport equipment. All this was, of course, completely against British policy, but in the chaos following the war they were able to get away with it and help thousands of Jews.


The actions of the British and their dealings with the ma’apilim elicited considerable world sympathy for the Zionist cause. This included for the Exodus boat, which was sent back by the British to a deportation center in Germany. This may have helped achieve a successful vote in the United Nations General Assembly for a Jewish state in November 1947.

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The memorial to the illegal immigrants appropriately takes the form of a ship.

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The Exodus was intercepted by the British and the illegal immigrants were sent back to deportation camps in Germany.

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