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In Tel Aviv, people from all walks of life spend a Saturday at the beach

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Let's spend a few minutes in a summer place - Tel Aviv at the beach on a late Saturday afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF WAVES CRASHING)

RASCOE: Saturday is the Sabbath - Shabbat, the day of rest. Trains don't run. Most shops are closed. And the beach is packed with an unlikely mix of Israelis, Palestinians and others escaping the summer heat and the stresses of Middle Eastern life. Here's NPR's Daniel Estrin.

DANIEL TILMAN: (Singing inaudibly, playing guitar).

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Saturday at the beach in Tel Aviv - Shabbat. You're here with your guitar. What's on your mind?

TILMAN: Nothing. That's the fun of it. I live in the poorer part of Tel Aviv, and there's, like, lots of stress and junkies and stuff, you know? So it's not really calming being around that, you know? And you hear people hitting each other. So it's not really calming. I'm just playing, enjoying the beach, the view, you know? Nothing else is on my mind. Like, it's, like, suddenly, you're not all stressed out.

(Singing, playing guitar) Swimming in the floods, add a little love, and, you know, I ain't worried about it (whistling).

ESTRIN: Daniel Tilman on the guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF BALL BOUNCING)

ESTRIN: Where the sea meets the sand, couples play the paddle ball game known in the U.S. as kadima and here as matkot.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing in non-English language).

ESTRIN: And on the boardwalk, a hundred men and women dance in a circle - Israeli folk dancing.

CARMIT DAHAN: My name is Carmit, Carmit Dahan, and I love folk dance. This is my life. Every Saturday is here, but...

ESTRIN: What do you love about it?

DAHAN: Hang out - to go and hang out with no alcohol - sports, music, for hours of fun and all free...

ESTRIN: It's not just Israelis at the beach.

Where are you guys from?

MOOZ HAILU: We're from Eritrea.

ESTRIN: Eritrea. Nice.

HAILU: Yes.

ESTRIN: Mooz Hailu came to Tel Aviv in 2018. He escaped the dictatorship in Eritrea.

HAILU: Like you see, I came to beach. We got some beer, and we discuss.

ESTRIN: They're talking about their future. They don't know how long they'll be able to stay here.

HAILU: We don't have future - not here, not in Eritrea. But we have a small freedom here - more than Eritrea.

ESTRIN: A few steps away in the water is Zahara Ahmad.

ZAHARA AHMAD: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She's a Palestinian from Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

ESTRIN: It's the first time she's managed to get an Israeli military permit to come to the sea in about 12 years. Her sister-in-law was supposed to be here with her, but she didn't have the right permit and was turned away at the Israeli checkpoint.

(CROSSTALK)

ESTRIN: A scooter ride along the boardwalk brings you past the gay beach. Rainbow-colored awnings give shade. Right next door is the Orthodox Jewish beach. It's walled off and gender segregated.

EILAT ARNON: So there is a Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday - it's for women. And the other days, it's for men. And Saturday, it's for all.

ESTRIN: And Saturdays is when Eilat Arnon, who lives across the street, visits this beach - when it's open to all, even though she's not Orthodox. She thinks the segregated part of the beach is another way of making the beach inclusive for all.

ARNON: It's beautiful. Everyone can enjoy the beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

ESTRIN: And everyone does until the sun sets and the day of rest is over. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALOE BLACC AND KING MOST SONG, "WITH MY FRIENDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.