From playing your music too loudly to endangering others with your sporting skills, here are the best ways to hit the beach like a true local
By: Naama Barak
No vacation in Israel is complete without hitting the beach, if only to guarantee that light tan that will make your sun-deprived colleagues back home even paler with envy. But going to the beach here is not without its unique traditions and particularities and could potentially leave you feeling like a fish out of water.
Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Just scroll down to discover the 10 best ways to blend in on an Israeli beach, and we promise you won’t stand out too much in the sand.
1. Come already tanned
The surest way to blend in on an Israeli beach is not to be glaringly pale, or worse, deep purple from a beach day gone horribly wrong.
So how are all your sunbathing neighbors sporting that golden tan? The secret lies in military-grade planning that involves hitting the beach all the way back on that freakishly hot day in March, which was completely dedicated to skipping school or work and getting started on summer skin.
So basically, you can’t compete. Just make sure you spend time in the sun responsibly, slather on that sun lotion and don’t fry yourself in the hopes of catching up.
2. Hit on/snicker at foreign tourists
A favorite Israeli beach side pastime involves feeling immensely superior to everyone else (see above for thoughts on sunburned tourists) or, alternatively, dedicating yourself entirely to hitting on foreign female beach goers.
While we certainly don’t encourage you to pester anyone around you like the average group of Israeli teen boys, or to look down at other nationals’ efforts to enjoy a day in the sand, a raised eyebrow and bossy demeanor will most definitely keep you looking local.
3. Leave your valuables unattended
In slight contradiction to the above point, your intimidating Israeli neighbors will, at some point throughout the day, ask you to watch out for their valuables while they go for a dip in the sea.
While you might find it bizarre that they’re entrusting complete strangers with their credit cards, keys and wallets, it’s perfectly normal Israeli behavior. Don’t be shy in asking them to return the favor; it really is the way things are done here.
4. Terrify your fellow beach goers with your matkot skills
Matkot is a sport that unfortunately ranks as the No. 1 Israeli beach activity. This game of beach paddle ball resembles ping-pong (minus the table and net) and involves less-than-amazing players shooting off balls in all directions, most usually your head.
Our first tip: Don’t be shy. There’s really no need to spend the day in fear of losing an eye, so feel free to ask matkot players to take another step or two away from you.
Our second tip: Ask if they can teach you how to play. Not only will the chances of a ball hitting you immediately drop, but you might make some new local friends.
5. Grab a bite, or two
No occasion in Israel is complete without consuming too much food, and a day at the beach is no exception.
What may look to you like provisions for a lengthy famine is just an ordinary family picnic here – think mountains of fresh fruit, burekas (there’s got to be burekas) and savory snacks, all topped off with an ice cream from the vendor trawling through the sand.
To be fair, the salty air is an appetite stimulant, but the obscene amounts of food consumed while wearing minimal clothing really is something special. The most important thing to remember is to keep your food items well above the ground – Bamba and sand really don’t mix well.
6. Leave your trash behind (but hey, we’re improving)
In the not-so-distant past, Israeli beaches at the height of summer very much resembled landfills, full of trash left behind by families and individuals alike.
Recent years have seen improvement, but many local beaches are still not as clean as could be. The usual suspects? Cigarette butts, snack wrappers (see Bamba from above point) and plastic bottles.
So please, don’t do like many locals and actually use the trash cans generously spread out along the sand, making sure to leave your spot at least as clean as it was when you got there.
7. Share your great musical taste with everyone around you
This one’s a real big issue. You head to the beach, full of hopes for a blissful, relaxing day. Instead, you end up wishing you’d brought along earplugs to drown out the terrible music being played loudly by your seaside neighbor. And no, their music is never good.
Playing loud music is actually forbidden in some beaches, but this doesn’t mean the general public adheres to the rules. If you find yourself greatly disturbed, ask for the volume to be turned down. Or even better, wait for a fellow beach-goer with better Hebrew to do so first.
8. Refuse to pay for beach chairs
Beach chairs are for tourists, and remember, you’re trying to blend in. No Israeli would ever pay an extortionate amount for the pleasure of sitting on a sticky, sweaty plastic chair, and neither should you.
Instead, lounge around like a true local: Bring a large sheet, spread it over the sand and sit picnic-style together with family and friends. And don’t spend too much effort trying to keep the sand off everything; it won’t work.
9. Completely ignore the lifeguard
Wondering why the lifeguard is repeatedly bellowing out on his deafening sound system? It’s because some Israeli is completely ignoring his instructions to come back near the shore.
The famous Israeli self-confidence unfortunately also extends to the sea, with many beach goers sure they know best and have everything under control. This means they often go into the water against the lifeguards’ warnings, in the nighttime when they’re not there or after having a drink or two, sometimes with tragic results.
So on this point, don’t do like so many Israelis. Instead, only go into the water when a lifeguard is present and make sure to follow instructions (don’t worry, they also bellow them out in English).
10. Walk back into the city half-naked
The great thing about many of Israel’s beaches is that they’re right on the edge of the city, blurring the lines between civilization and nature. At no point of the day is this more prominent than the early evening, when beach-goers make their way back into the city, crossing the streets still clad only in their swimwear.
There are some rules to be followed here, though. It is generally acceptable to keep flashing some skin on the beach side promenade and the street or two adjacent to it. Farther into the city, however, most people put their clothes back on.
Our advice: See what others are doing and just follow suit.
Bonus point:How cool is it that you’re on the beach?
Ask Israelis what they best love about their country, and quite often the beach will be right up there next to things like “the food” or “family.” This is because it really is extraordinarily fun to live in a place where the beach is so accessible and routine, and not a far-away resort for special occasions.
So do like an Israeli, and revel in the fact you’re on a fabulous beach that you probably reached by foot. That really is perfect.