My daughter Julie moved to Israel, inspiring me to visit this fascinating part of the world - my first visit to a Middle Eastern country.
Julie turned out to be an accomplished host and guide. In her short time, she had explored Tel Aviv's neighborhoods and cultures. Her favorite place is the miles-long beach that stretches the length of Tel Aviv, listed by Lonely Planet as one of the world's 10 best beaches.
A promenade weaves along the length of the beach. In the south is the town of Yafo, also known as Jaffa. Yafo is a center of Arab life in Tel Aviv, and from Midron Yaffo Park can be heard the call to prayer broadcast from neighborhood mosques.
As it was lunchtime, we took a walk across Harry S. Truman Street to a restaurant called the Old Man and the Sea. We sat on the spacious deck with an unencumbered view of the Mediterranean and received a sumptuous vegetarian meal of about 20 small plates of every variety of local specialties.
Fully stoked, we made the short walk north to Old Town Yafo, where we lost ourselves in the serpentine alleys with their high-quality artist studios. Farther up the hill, once the site of a Crusader fortification, we found an archeological dig looking for history back to the biblical time of Jonah and the fish.
Julie loved sharing the culture of her adopted home. Just north of Yafo, she pointed out a group of Arab women in "burquinis," which are similar to burqas and which allow Muslim women to swim while maintaining the tradition of modest garb.
We were walking through another beachside park when we saw a burned-out relic of a building. Julie told me it was the Dolphinarium Discotheque, the scene of a 2001 suicide bombing that killed 21 Israelis, mostly teenagers. It is a sobering reminder of the tensions that affect this country.
Beyond the Dolphinarium is the heart of the beach and the city. It seemed time for a break. We stopped at one of the seaside restaurants to relax with our toes in the sand, cold beer in hand, a plate of hummus on the table, listening to waves lapping the shore.
As the sun begins its descent into the Mediterranean and the evening breeze picks up, the beach comes alive with activity. Tai chi and yoga practitioners share quiet areas. Just south of Frishman Beach, the sea is enlivened with kite surfers who entertain as they zip across the water, turn on a dime, and race back out to sea, launching themselves off waves into the air as they perform death-defying acrobatics.
For land lovers, there are volleyball courts, open-air fitness centers, and playgrounds - all of which are people magnets. There is no shortage of activities or participants.
Close to the Yarkon River at the northern end of the beach, I asked Julie about a high wooden wall that stretched from the promenade to the shore. She said it was another unique feature: the gender-segregated beach. For Orthodox Jews, this beach has separate days for women and men.
Having an opportunity to spend quality time with one of my full-grown children and sharing her world was, as they say, priceless.
John France splits his time between his home in Wilmington and Berwyn.
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