In Eilat

While Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have been busy transforming themselves into modern metropolises, beautifying and gentrifying already existing neighborhoods, Eilat did not stay still either. When I hitchhiked here with two friends in 1976, we had a problem hitching a ride pass Beersheba, since so few cars were heading this direction. Once we had arrived, we found an empty beach with several small hotels, the Red Sea framed by mountain ranges of the Negev on the Israeli side, and the mountains whose name I didn’t know, across the water in Jordan. The shades of the mountains were warm reddish-brown and the shape was sculptural. The sea was pristine, perfectly clear, and greenish- blue.

The mountains, and the water are still the same, but the quiet small town is no more. Our hotel, Rimonim, is in the area of town that is a downright ugly amassment of gaudy hotels, outdoor stands selling cheap ware, and unattractive and unsophisticated-looking masses. Riffraff and honky tonk prevail. Once glorious views from the beach are now obscured by numerous buildings all around. It is totally overbuilt and my ears were assaulted by loud music blasting from the speakers in front of the booths selling chatchkas. On a plaza, we witnessed an Arab family watching their son walk toward the edge of a wide staircase and send a fountain of fresh pee over the stairs and into the sand.

His last drop became my last straw, and I returned to my room.

In the evening I ventured out over the bridge toward the newer and more luxurious hotels, which turned out to be much nicer. Though the French Riviera it was not, the stroll was quite pleasant. Hotels here, although luxurious, were gaudy Vegas-style, but the promenade along the sea was lovely and lively, the crowds were more sophisticated, the restaurants inviting, and the beaches pleasant. We had coffee at Aroma where people were mostly cool, pastries were baked before our very eyes, and fresh cream was whipped right there and then. But the bottom-line is that this is an easygoing seaside resort in a Jewish country where Israeli Jews mix freely with Arabs and Russian Orthodox tourists, and everyone can forget about their rivalries and disagreements, and simply eat, drink, stroll, be merry, and soak up the sun.

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