The Holy Land is holding

Off the beaten track in Israel. Photo: Timo


This is 21st century Hilton Beach, Tel Aviv. Out on the break wall, a male couple in Speedos have waded through the lagoon and are climbing the rocks. Once atop, despite having each other’s hand for balance or otherwise, they have misjudged, and are washed off by a set, legs akimbo.

This groundswell lifts through the gap and bounces onto the Hilton peak. 3ft A-frames are spinning blue and bright in a brisk offshore. On average, twelve paddle, around eight take-off.

Typically three go left and two right into each other, flanked by a pair of standard fades either side. Screams, sometimes thuds. There doesn’t seem to be beef after, they just paddle back out and do it again.

Meanwhile, the one widest on the left suddenly has open water in front of him, hits the first section high and hard, pumps for the inside bowl and whizzes fins free on the closeout. Some of them do it well.

Surf consistency: 3 Wave variety: 2
Climate: 8 Radness: 10 Budget: 6

Tonight, tonight. In Tel Aviv, tonight is any and every night. “Tel Aviv parties 24-7,” they’ll tell you, proudly. They’re not lying. The options are there. From Russian Ice Queen tittie (and pussy) bars to fussy jazz cafes.

A Doors tribute band, Belgian techno DJ, a death metal night called ‘C.U.N.T.’ (honest to goodness). It’s all there.

There’s a yogurt shop with a curtained doorway with bouncers and door picker on the back wall. The curtain leads down to the dance floor, it’s packed. The night starts late and goes on as late as you decide. There are very many Russians.

A day trip to Jerusalem yields almost too much to take in. No, not almost. Place names or people you sung in songs about at infant school, and now you’re standing there. Or perhaps places you’ve seen rocks hurled on the evening news in the 80’s. Or last week.

First stop, the Mount of Olives, where Jesus is said to have ascended to heaven. You look up. The sky is blue in Jerusalem today. Up… there? You look across to the walled city of Old Jerusalem. To Christians and Jews, the holiest place on Earth, for Muslims, behind only Mecca and Medina. You enter the Old City on foot through the Damascus gate, ancient masonry scarred with bullet holes. Pass the Armenian quarter, Jewish quarter, Muslim quarter, Christian quarter.

Stop and behold the Western Wall, the Al Aqsa mosque where Mohammed is believed to have ascended to heaven, to Jews, also the site of the First and Second Temples, the holiest of holies.

You climb, through narrow alleys of the Arab quarter, reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they say Jesus was crucified, his body anointed, buried. Pilgrims are soaking cloths on the Stone of Anointing, filing test tubes with holy water to take home to suffering faithfulls in Guatemala City, Chicago, Manila. Traders in the Jew quarter sell ‘Guns n Moses’ t-shirts and ‘Don’t Worry America, Israel is Behind You’ with a picture of an F-16.

A few alleys away, in the Arab quarter, it’s ‘Palestine’ t-shirts at the same price. You’re somewhere between the spot where Jesus fell and dropped the cross the first time, and where the Romans made Simon of Cyrene help him carry it.

You might be firm a believer, you might be the most militant of atheists since Karl Marx. Maybe all you believe in is the original Power Rankings. Either way, as you’re driven back east on smooth two lane highway, descending the Jerusalem hills for the coastal plain, drinking in a golden Middle East sunset contemplating an afternoon among the mortals, ghosts and divinities of the Old City, you find yourself not thinking much about what tomorrow’s low tide will be like.

Which after all makes perfect sense of course, beside the Mediterranean Sea.


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