Israel’s Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv is undoubtedly one of the most liberal places in the Middle East, if not the world. The city has beach for miles and an exciting mix of traditional and modern flavors. So is it a suitable home? What would it be like to live in Tel Aviv?
Tel Aviv is part beach resort paradise and part hipster party town. It’s like Miami if Miami had been through a war recently. It’s an amazing place to be young and gay. Gay culture is everywhere from the beaches to the bars. People, young and old, enjoy their days at sidewalk cafes in neighborhoods like Florentin and go get their groceries and lunch at sprawling markets like Shuk HaCarmel. It’s all kind of laid back and fabulous, which is really nice. But from Friday night to Saturday night, the city is dead as people go home to celebrate Shabbat with their families. No markets, no bars. Friday nights after a week of work are really the best days to be home doing nothing. But the idea that I couldn’t do anything even if I wanted to makes me feel too restricted.
The food in Tel Aviv is showstopping. I haven’t had a single meal that I haven’t wanted to repeat before leaving. Even the flaky spinach and cheese bureka from the no-name bakery down the street and the falafel sandwich from an equally small dive – everything is truly special. The food in the markets looks appetizing and ends up tasting better than it looks. If I lived here, I would always want to go out hungry to take advantage of all the different incredible cuisines.
But nothing is more impressive to me about Tel Aviv’s food scene than their love of breakfast. Because I, too, love breakfast. And where the rest of the world confines its brunches to weekend mornings, Tel Aviv is like fuck your rules, and they put breakfast on the menu constantly. Do you know how happy I would be living in a place where I could get a mimosa and eggs benedict on a Tuesday at 3 pm? It’s like peak civilization. The rest of the world needs to catch up.
The people here are predominantly carefree and kind. It’s like an entire culture full of grandfathers who want to help you out. They’ll overhear you talking about a place to eat and offer a recommendation and directions. The bus drivers will let you ride without paying the fare because they don’t have change. And everyone else is just out here having the time of their lives. People seem generally happy and relaxed unless you piss them off. Then they’ll get out of their car and put you in your place. It’s probably exactly the kind of attitude that you’d develop living in a place where you’re basically under threat of warfare your whole life. They’re just trying to have a good time and not give any fucks.
Safety and security
One of my concerns coming here was the possibility for any kind of war or violence. People who live here kind of wave those concerns away saying, don’t worry almost every building has a bomb shelter, which is not nearly as comforting as its intended to be. You can’t help but think about the fact that every building needs a bomb shelter. Whether it’s threats from Iran or Hamas rockets coming from Gaza, there are very real dangers all around Tel Aviv. And as admirable as I think it is that locals might hear a bomb siren and continue to go about their day knowing they’ll probably be fine, I think it would take a long time for me to acclimate to that kind of life.
The positive thing is that as a country that has lived with this since their founding, they are well-prepared. Security is insane. There are metal detectors and security checkpoints at malls, train stations, bus terminals. While this is somewhat comforting, it’s also annoying. And it’s a kind of unsettling reminder that some shit could pop off here at any minute. As much as I’ve loved being here, my anxiety has gotten the best of me more than once on this trip.
All that beauty and entertainment (and security) comes at a price – Tel Aviv is pretty pricey. Think around $1200 for a one-bedroom and $13 for a good cocktail, $10 for a completely mediocre one. I’ve definitely gotten spoiled by beers that are a euro, so the thought of paying $8 for a cold one seems outrageous to me. One of the cheapest things to do in Tel Aviv is rent an umbrella on the beach, which I suppose could double as a bungalow home on the sand, and it would be the only place where I could realistically afford to live in Tel Aviv.
I’m no stranger to hot weather, and the good thing about Tel Aviv heat is that it’s dry. You don’t have that intense subtropical humidity of similar beach cities around the world. That being said, when it’s hot it’s HOT. Everything has air conditioning, but for someone who likes to walk around a lot, getting sunburned going to the market sounds like a drag. Despite the fact that it’s beautiful to behold and relaxing to lay on, and even when it’s hot as fuck outside, the water on the beach is cold. The Mediterranean is my least favorite body of water because it’s such a tease. It looks incredible and feels like the ice bucket challenge. If I was going to live in any sea-side town, it wouldn’t border this sea.
Total Livability Score 4/10
Visiting Tel Aviv is really fun and more delicious than my stomach has the capacity to handle. But living here would be too stressful for me.