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Surprises along Tel Aviv's beach

Paul Goldman / NBC News Producer

A runner enjoys Tel Aviv beach's six-mile long promenade that runs from Old Jaffe to Sde Dov airport.

TEL AVIV – Israel doesn’t usually conjure up images of fun in the sun, but Tel Aviv’s beach front sure does.
The white sand beach, which runs about six miles long, from Old Jaffa to the Sde Dov airport in the northern part of the city, must be one of the most beautiful, interesting and bizarre beachfronts in the world.

For starters, it’s a runner's and biker’s paradise with a dedicated path running the length of the beach. It’s a kid-friendly, safe place that allows visitors to enjoy every sea sport imaginable including, kite surfing, wind surfing, surf boarding, kayaking and sailing.

But all the above can be found in most beach front cities around the world. What makes this beachfront so amazing is its unique and bizarre attractions.

One of Tel Aviv's landmark sites is the Gordon swimming pool built in 1956. It just went through a major renovation and is situated right next to the boat marina overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The Olympic-size open air pool has a unique feature – the water is drained daily and then refilled with fresh sea water pumped from one mile deep in the Mediterranean.

Paul Goldman / NBC News

The Gordon Swimming Pool at Tel Aviv's beach was recently renovated for a more modern look. The pool's water is drained and refilled daily from the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.

But the real action happens on the promenade.

How about dozens of men and women dancing the hora, a traditional folk dance where people hold hands and spin in a circle while loud music blasts over loud speakers, every Saturday right.

Not far away from the dancers you can hear a strange popping  sound which gets louder and louder as you get closer. Here men and women are playing Israel's unofficial national sport called “matkot.” The game is similar to beach paddle ball. It involves players hitting a small black ball back and forth with wooden paddles without letting the ball touch the ground. The simple, but adrenaline-pumping sport is as great to watch as to play.  

Paul Goldman / NBC News

A sign outside Tel Aviv's religious beach says, "Welcome to a public authorized separate swimming zone." It lists which days of the week men and women are allowed to swim at this section of beach and asks bathers to "Please keep modesty at the beach."

Continue north and you’ll see something else you are unlikely to find elsewhere. The Hilton beach has a closed off section dedicated for religious men and women who want to swim at the beach separately.

If you ask me, that is sort of contrary to why I go to the beach, but Israel has religious Jews who believe in modesty – so they have separate days for men and women to swim. Women have the beach to themselves on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday; men can swim there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

While the beach is beautiful and the long promenade is accessible, clean and safe, my favorite part may be the people watching.

And Near Jaffa, right next to the crushing waves, I spotted two refugees from Sudan. One was sitting on a rock and the other was standing above him holding a razor giving his friend a haircut.

Paul Goldman / NBC News

Two Sudanese refugees take advantage of the scenery of the beach front near Jaffe to get a haircut.

I also saw a father and son holding a long rod with a circle at the end of it.  Turns out they were holding a metal detector in search of valuables left behind by sun seekers.

Never mind the section of Hilton beach marked off just for dogs – and it's hysterical to watch the dogs cooling themselves in the Mediterranean.

And Tel Aviv just launched its own large-scale public bicycle-sharing system, like the one in Paris and other international cities, called Tel-O-Fun. There are 10 bike stations along the beachfront making it very easy and cheap to tour the coastline.   

This past Saturday I ran the Tel Aviv half-marathon which started and finished on the promenade near Jaffa.  The race had an incredible turnout – 25,000 runners came out to enjoy perfect weather in the race which included a full marathon, half marathon and 10K runs. That’s a huge number given the fact that Israel's population is about 8 million, with 400,000 residents in Tel Aviv. 

Paul Goldman / NBC News

Sunset on Tel Aviv's scenic beach.

And I forget to mention another great feature Tel Aviv has to offer: its food. There are dozens of small quaint and independent restaurants and coffee along the shore line. Making the options endless for where to stop to eat or sip your favorite cappuccino.

Here’s to you, Tel Aviv.