Tel Aviv and the coastal plaint
Edging the Mediterranean Sea and dotted by waving palm and eucalyptus trees, this area is flat and very hot and humid in summer. Rain falls in winter, which is milder than in Jerusalem and in the north. There are a number of kibbutzim and moshavim here. This section of the coastal plain (which runs from Rosh HaNikra in the north down to the Gaza strip) is the Sharon Plain.
Tel Aviv, Israel's first modern Jewish city built on sand, soon incorporated nearby Jaffa into its municipality. It is vibrant, westernised, secular and progressive. Although buses do not run on Shabbat, nightclubs and restaurants stay open. With 320,000 inhabitants, Tel Aviv is the largest city in Israel including its sprawling suburbs. It is the best city in the country for shopping, nightlife and the theatre, as well as for music and the arts. The two main points of entry are Ben-Gurion airport at Lod and the central bus station (tachanah mercazit), which has recently been upgraded and has changed location. It is hectically busy, efficient and has an information desk so that travellers can find their way about far more easily than at the old tachanah mercazit. Aside from the palm-fringed boulevards with their tiny shops, the magnificent beaches, the promenade and the warm blue sea, Tel Aviv's attractions are many. They include the Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel market), the craft market on Nahalat Binyamin Street, the Shalom Tower, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Beit HaTfutzot (the Museum of the Diaspora), and Dizengoff Centre, a huge shopping mall. Nature-lovers can visit various parks and reserves, among them HaYarkon Park, the Zapari Bird Park, the Ramat Gan National Park and Zoological Centre, and the Modi'in Forest where you can plant your own tree. In summer there are plenty of water sports to be enjoyed, such as sailing, surfing and windsurfing. The nightlife is always lively with outdoor seating in most restaurants, pubs and cafes. Cultural events also attract large audiences, as Tel Aviv is the base for the Israel Philharmonic. There are also a number of theatres for dance, music and drama. Outdoor rock and pop concerts are held in HaYarkon Park in summer.
Jaffa (pronounced Yafo in Hebrew) is one of the oldest working harbours in the world, and one of the few fully mixed Arab-Israeli spots in Israel. It is fast becoming a trendy place for young Israelis to live in and so it is a centre for hectic nightlife. Jaffa has a beautiful old city with many art galleries. Make sure you see the famous Frank Meisel gallery of sculptures in silver and bronze. Other attractions include the old clock tower, the Museum of Antiquities of Tel Aviv-Yafo, and a number of mosques, churches and historical spots. The green and peaceful HaPisga Gardens is a perfect spot for picnics. A famous attraction situated in a rather grotty part of town is the flea market, called Shuk HaPishpishim, one of the country's most colourful Arab markets where you will find items ranging from clothing, silver, beads, jewellery, rugs, lamps and other typically Middle Eastern knick-knacks.