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This week’s travel dream: Defiantly boisterous Tel Aviv

It never should have surprised me that today’s Tel Aviv would feel like a nonstop party.

It never should have surprised me that today’s Tel Aviv would feel like a nonstop party, said Raphael Kadushin in National Geographic Traveler. If Jerusalem is Israel’s “venerable heirloom,” the nation’s financial capital and second-largest city is “the visionary, open-minded experiment,” a place that looks always to the future and defies every threat of a rocket attack with a live-for-the-moment attitude that’s almost a communal creed. I spent two years in Tel Aviv when I was a boy, storing up lasting memories of bright sunshine, kinetic schoolmates, and pillowy pitas overstuffed with crispy falafel and dripping tahini. This time, my wake-up was a bartender in a lively restaurant who passed around shots of bourbon and lit a sage sprig on fire in front of us. “L’chaim!” we all shouted. To life—while we’ve got it.

The city’s entire population seemed to be soaking in the sun when I arrived one bright afternoon. “A briny perfume” was blowing off the Mediterranean, and café tables were filled. In recent years, Tel Aviv’s amazing array of Bauhaus-style buildings have been polished and restored, and their “bowed contours and boomerang-shaped balconies” suggest a city always moving forward. And it is: From leafy Neve Tzedek, a boho neighborhood for decades, I wandered into Noga, a newer gallery district where an innovative boutique might share a street with a shop selling T-shirts that wryly mock terrorism. In Jaffa, a historically Arab seaside neighborhood, something even more amazing is happening: Thanks to an influx of “young, arty Israelis,” Jews and Arabs are living side by side, learning from each other.

Of course, “Tel Aviv comes fully into its freewheeling own at dusk,” when everyone in town seems to be strolling along promenade-like Rothschild Boulevard or reveling in the clubs. But even dusk gets its due. One day, I was on a beach north of Jaffa when a voice on a loudspeaker announced that lifeguards were ending their day, so swimmers should leave the water. Instead, “after a collective Tel Aviv shrug,” everyone kept swimming and playing, “lifting their faces to the dwindling sun” and refusing to relinquish even a single precious moment.
At Brown TLV Hotel (browntlv.com), a new boutique hotel, doubles start at $245.

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