Tel Aviv is beautiful – and safe! (Photo: Getty Images)
I am terrified walking the streets of Tel Aviv, but not for the reason you might think. Israeli drivers are among the most bold and brash I have seen in the entire world. They drive with an entitled self-confidence and lack of fear that should instill terror in the heart of visiting pedestrians.
That fact aside, I feel safer in Tel Aviv than I do in many American cities. I arrived here earlier this week and it is my first visit to Israel. I have a few friends who have lived here and many who have visited, but I came into the country relatively cold in terms of what to expect. I also arrived just a week after violence between the Palestinians and Israelis began to escalate once again in the Southern part of the country.
My mother worries when I travel and she was incredibly nervous about Israel, even going so far as to ask me to cancel my trip. I thought my very new husband would be concerned, but he just threw his hands up in the air.
Cafes along Rothschild are packed throughout the day. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
“It will be an adventure!” he said. Nothing ever rattles Nick Aster.
So I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. Checkpoints on the street? Armed guards all over the place? Metal detectors?
I have seen none of those things.
My hotel, the Dan Tel Aviv, has one visible security guard posted at each entrance, the same as any hotel in the States.
I have yet to see more than one police officer at a time and I certainly haven’t seen nearly as many police as I typically see during a stroll in New York City or San Francisco.
What I have experienced is a vibrant city with people going on about their daily lives with what I can only describe as gusto. I’ve been waking up at 6 am, a combination of jet lag and the need to train for a half-marathon I am not even a little bit ready to undertake in a couple of weeks. Before the sun is up the promenade along the Mediterranean Sea is bustling.
Morning yoga starts before daybreak along the Mediterranean. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
I’ve seen entire families working out on the beach together. I crashed a yoga class on the boardwalk. Senior citizens are out on paddleboard expeditions in dangerously small bathing suits.
In the afternoon the cafes on Rothschild Boulevard are packed with Televivians noshing on street eats and grabbing iced coffees. At night the restaurants and bars are bustling until well into the morning.
On my first day here I stopped by Tel Aviv’s Gindi Fashion Week. I am an NYC fashion week veteran. I even once wrote this story about how to penetrate the fortress of security surrounding NY Fashion Week. Entry into Tel Aviv Fashion Week was quite civilized. There was security, but it was much less than I am accustomed to in New York.
An incredibly civilized red carpet entrance. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
But does it look like I belong here?
I drove an hour North of the city to the Zikhron Ya'akov wine area. Traffic was terrible trying to get out of Tel Aviv, but at no point did we encounter any uncomfortable security checkpoints.
During a Visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art we were asked to walk through a small metal detector, the same kind you encounter in lots of art museums. The security guard was friendly and much more concerned about me bringing in a chocolate croissant than anything else.
I don’t say any of this to make light of the terrible things happening elsewhere in the country. I have yet to visit Jerusalem (I will be there this weekend and report back), but so far my experience here in Israel has been incredibly comfortable.
A sense of gratitude is pervasive in the city of Tel Aviv right now. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
What I want to convey is that I see people living their lives to the fullest here, grateful for each day. I haven’t experienced a moment of fear and that is saying a lot. I’m a naturally neurotic person. I have pangs of anxiety when I get on the subway in New York City. I concoct elaborate schemes to escape a potential terrorist attack every single time I fly that involve a cell phone charger cord and a nail file.
But right now, I don’t feel any of that anxiety in Tel Aviv. That may change in the coming days and I will keep you updated, but as of today, I feel very comfortable telling American tourists that Tel Aviv feels like an incredibly safe place to be.