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Tel Aviv, Israel

Harboring over 1/3rd of the Israeli population, the Tel Aviv Metropolitan area (170 square km) is the industrial, cultural and economic heart of the country.

More than half of Israel's industrial plants are found in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. The main industries are textile and clothing, food and tobacco, metal and engineering, vehicles and transport equipment, diamond polishing, furniture and wood products, printing and publishing, and electric and electronic instruments and equipment.

Israel's only stock exchange is located in Tel Aviv, and virtually all the banks, insurance companies, and other enterprises operating in Israel locate their main offices in the city. Most of Israel's newspapers, periodicals, and books are published in Tel Aviv. The city is also the main center of Israel's important tourist industry and has many hotels.

History

Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 as a suburb of Jaffo, one of the oldest urban settlements in the world. By 1926 Tel Aviv's population had reached 38,000, and the town had become a thriving business center. Its growth gathered momentum in the early 1930s, after the Nazis rose to power in Germany, and a substantial part of the flood of immigrants that sought refuge in British Palestine settled in and around the town. By 1936 its population had risen to 130,000, making Tel Aviv the largest and most important city in Palestine.

These new, urban arrivals--unlike the pioneers from earlier immigrant waves--brought with them an appreciation for the arts and a passion for the sidewalk cafes that began to sprout like mushrooms in this city. It was they who initially made the strongest social and cultural impact on Tel Aviv. In 1950, the city was merged with Jaffo, the new municipality absorbing the older town.

Modern Tel Aviv-Jaffo is a long, narrow city fronting the Mediterranean for about 6 miles (10 km) along the south-central part of the Israeli coastline. The city is built over three low ridges of sandstone hills that run roughly parallel to the coast.

These ridges have decisively influenced the city's layout, with long main streets running north-south in the shallow troughs between ridges and short east-west streets crossing gaps in the ridges. The central business district, which is the economic heart of Israel, occupies the older part of Tel Aviv, while to the south and east lies the main manufacturing district. Most government offices lie northeast of the business center.

Farther to the north, east and south, Tel Aviv blends into a continuous built-up area that includes the substantial suburbs of Ramat Gan, Giv'atayim, Bat Yam, and Holon.

The Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area is bordered by Netania in the north, Ashdod in the South and Modiin to the west. Tel Aviv has come a long way in its short life: look around and try to imagine the scene just 90 years ago, when this teeming metropolis was nothing but sand.

Climate and Geography

Israel is situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea on the "land bridge" between Europe, Asia and Africa. Its topography is a microcosm of the world's topographies, including beaches, mountain ranges, plains, savannahs and deserts. The Tel Aviv coastal plain runs parallel to the Mediterranean sea and is composed of a sandy shoreline, bordered by stretches of fertile farm land extending up to 40 km inland.

Tel Aviv boasts over 300 sunny days a year. Summers are sunny and hot with high levels of humidity and temperatures ranging from 21-33 C. In winter, rainy spells alternate with many fine, sunny days, and temperatures range from 9-19 C. Mean annual rainfall is 539 mm. The transitional periods of autumn and spring are short, and with climate change seem to be shrinking. The best time of year is April when the sun is bright, temperatures are moderate, humidity is down, and the flowers are in bloom.

Transport

Road transport is dominant in Israel, and Tel Aviv is the main national route focus and the headquarters of all major bus and truck companies. The two main bus companies, Egged and Dan, both run inter and intra city routes. Definitely the most comfortable way to travel is by train - fast, quiet, and air-conditioned, with comfortable, assigned seating and soft drinks or snacks available on board.

Unfortunately, the destinations are extremely limited. There are two small railway stations, in northern Tel Aviv for Haifa-bound trains and one in the southeast for those headed to Ashdod and Beersheba.

Lod airport, 14 km to the southeast, serves the city's international air traffic. Most trip are done in private cars causing heavy traffic jams, high use of fuel, air and noise pollution, and accidents. Private car use is, in part, dictated by the 15,464 km of roads as opposed to 609 km of railroad tracks, and relatively high public transport prices.

Future possibilities for improved transport include a subway system in the Tel Aviv area and the reinstating of train transport between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, via the airport and Modiin.

Culture and Entertainment

With over 1.5 million residents, Tel Aviv itself is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city. Both European and Middle Eastern in character, Tel Aviv is rich in social, cultural, recreational and educational opportunities.

An immigrant society, its creative expression has absorbed many different cultural and social influences, as the traditions of each group contend with those of other groups, confront the country's recent history and life in the Middle Eastern context, and blend together to create a new culture unique to Israel in general and Tel Aviv in particular.

Tel Aviv is the home of the world famous Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, the home of the New Israeli Opera Company, The Habima Theater, noted for its Hebrew and English language productions and several dance troupes. Tel Aviv Museum of Art displays Israeli and international art, as well as presenting concerts, films and lectures. The Tel Aviv University campus offers a wide variety of social, cultural and athletic facilities. The Diaspora Museum is a tribute to the history and customs of Jewish communities throughout the world. The Rubin Academy of Music presents classical concerts on a regular basis. Nature lovers may enjoy zoological and botanical gardens. The Schreiber Art Gallery displays notable works of Israeli and international artists. There are also many opportunities to watch professional sports, such as basketball and soccer.

Night life is plentiful and caters to all tastes and ages. The older generations can relax drinking coffee or wine at one of the many outdoor cafes, take in a concert, or stroll along the beach, while the younger generations can be found gyrating to techno, rock or latin music at the various warehouses in the old port which over the weekend turn into all night discos and clubs.

Cuisine

The past five years have seen a quiet revolution in the kitchens and dining rooms of Tel Aviv's restaurants. Gourmets who once lamented the limited range of cuisines on offer now thrill to a thriving and boisterous restaurant community that embraces every style of cooking. Regional specialities abound: Morocco, Greece, Turkey, and Spain have brought Israel the best of the Mediterranean. Bistros featuring excellent regional French and Italian cooking can easily be found and Russian and Eastern European restaurants serving time-honoured classics have become all the rage. From casual Thai noodle bars and top-notch sushi to sizzling Schezuan, the Far East is amply represented, as well as Indian, Ethiopian and even Mongolian kitchens.

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