human behavior

Finding shalom in Tel Aviv

Posted in Foreign Impressions, Travel by humanb on March 27, 2012

Tel Aviv was to be our last stop before flying back to Australia.

We hadn’t expected to like it very much, given the fact that its reputation is based primarily on its beach life and party scene. Sydney has plenty of beaches, and we didn’t fly to Israel looking for a party.

So after spending a day walking its streets, it was no surprise to us that we didn’t like the city very much at all.

The beaches were man-made and littered with umbrellas, chairs and beach goers. You can have a beach to yourself in some parts of Sydney.

The city itself lacked beauty. Compared to Jerusalem, Tiberias, Haifa, Majdal al-Shams in the far north – even Bethlehem, this city had a purely functional look about it.

At the risk of sounding 85 years old, I was particularly disturbed by the pollution in this city. Its thick and dirty air scratched at my throat and burned my eyes, the ugliness of so many of its streets assaulted my aesthetic sensibilities, and the never-ending noise of its traffic and machinery made my teeth rattle. By the end of an all-day’s walk through that city, I was at wit’s end, and desperate to get back to my hotel.


My hotel. It was called Shalom Hotel and Relax, a name whose quirky syntax beats that of the Double Happiness Hotel in Beijing.

But like that Beijing gem, its name held a promise well-kept.

That hotel was like a slice of Eden in Hell.

Even the patio managed to create a sense of peace on the bustling thoroughfare one block from the beach.

When the front door of the hotel closed behind you, you were met with the absolute, blissful silence that only a top-notch sound proof door can provide.

And the air. Wow. Comfortably cool and always scented with the subtlest flavours. Even the elevator was lightly scented.

I’m not sure how the hotel management achieved such a sense of utter tranquility in that hotel, but the artful and elegant decor went a long way in promoting a sense of calm and contentment.

The furnishings were gorgeous in their simplicity.

The attention to detail – to color, form and space.

The original art work in the common areas and bedrooms.

The stylish and contemporary bathrooms.

Even the service was exemplary. Every evening at 7pm the hotel offered a free happy hour with unlimited coffee, tea, whiskey, desserts and hot hors d’ oeuvres. It was a veritable feast – with plenty to fill you up for dinner if you were audacious enough to make return trips to the kitchenette, which I most certainly was.

And after you’d exhausted the happy hour, there was a rooftop bar that opened in the evening for paying customers. But buying a drink was just an excuse to enjoy the sunset in an equally tranquil space.

I’ve never been a hotel tourist. I travel for the experience of a city and its culture, to be immersed in the unfamiliar. And I would certainly never travel to a foreign city for the luxury of a hotel.

But when I think of Tel Aviv, I do think longingly of how lovely it would be to close the front doors behind me again in the Shalom Hotel and Relax.

Next up: Jaffa is for (Art) Lovers


2 Responses

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  1. Sheldon R Fernandez said, on March 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    As someone that dislikes Tel Aviv, but loves Israel… Nice Post!

    • humanb said, on March 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      Thanks. Yeah, I was surprised by how much Tel Aviv didn’t agree with me after a fabulous tour of half of the country.

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