I WISH I’d had my hands on this guide before my trip to Israel.
Many of my memories of Tel Aviv are blurred around the edges. I was vaguely aware of the city’s reputation for debauchery before arriving, and naively thought the raucous Danes had taught me how to party properly. On my first night at the hostel, I told an Israeli guy I was thinking about hitting up the Diaspora Museum the following morning and he laughed in my face.
“That’s an awful idea,” he said. “Jerusalem is for business like that. Tel Aviv is for pleasure. You won’t be able to do much more than lie on the beach tomorrow morning, I promise you that.”
He was right. Three days of sun, music, booze, and too-suave-for-anyone’s-own-good Israeli men, and I quite literally headed for the hills, where I spent a few days hiking the Upper Galilee and sweating Tel Aviv out of my system. I couldn’t have stayed a moment longer. But five days later, mysteriously…I was there again. Pushing repeat. The city’s carefree, I-don’t-give-a-fuck-what-you-think atmosphere is like a magnet for young people in a country that’s otherwise palpably tense.
Now Shimrit Elisar’s DIY Tel Aviv guide is on the scene, preparing tourists and expats for the constantly shifting, underground nightlife scene and sharing the nooks and crannies that Lonely Planet consistently misses.
Shrimrit started DIY Tel Aviv as a small underground events blog, but its popularity inspired her to publish a similarly irreverent, no-bullshit guide to the city. It’s geared toward 20-somethings; over 200 pages devoted solely to the cheapest deals, the hottest bars and clubs (this month), and free daily activities that few tourists ever hear about.
In Tel Aviv, business owners are allowed to run their latest nightlife ventures for a year before applying for a business license. When inspectors finally come in to check out details like fire code adherence and noise insulation, most are closed immediately, scooped up by the next entrepreneurial spirit, and start dancing to a different tune before you even realize the old one is gone.
Shimrit is acutely conscious of the fact that this makes many guidebooks almost instantly obsolete, and is constantly updating the downloadable PDF version of the guide to reflect these changes.
What impressed me most was her coverage of Florentin, the up-and-coming neighborhood in the far south of the city, where I ended up by chance because its hostels were the dirt-cheapest. There was literally a single paragraph devoted to the neighborhood in my Lonely Planet, but if you’re a broke 20-something looking for trouble, make no mistake — this is where you should be.
Florentin is where industrial warehouses are being converted into artist studios and apartments, where infamous hummus joints are recommended in hushed, reverent voices, and where you can find any, any kind of party on every night of the week.
But the guide isn’t limited to the party scene. Shimrit relays the practicalities you’d find in any standard guidebook in her irreverent voice. She tells you things you really need to know, like how to plan your journey around the limited public transportation system on Shabbat, how to navigate the cave / maze of the Central Bus Station, and the ins and outs of Israeli culture, holidays, and eating habits. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, and that’s what draws me to her guide.
Not constrained by a publisher (she’s self-publishing with LuLu), she gives tongue-in-cheek advice ranging from the precautions you’ll need to take when biking in the city unless you’re really a “shit hot biker,” to the precautions you’ll need to take if you decide to go home with that charming Israeli you meet at the bar. And if you’re politically left-leaning like the author, you’ll find a variety of constructive and educational volunteer opportunities and political tours offering insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For Israel’s growing population of expats and olim (international Jewish immigrants), she offers some invaluable advice geared towards long-term visitors. You’ll find great tips about where to buy a bike that probably isn’t stolen, everything you’ll need to set up a refillable “Rav Kav” transportation card that’ll save you some serious cash on your commute, and where you can buy a cheap Purim costume to celebrate the holiday with your Israeli friends. She even provides a frequently updated list of her friends and acquaintances who offer short-term rentals to cover you while you’re apartment hunting.
You can download a copy of DIY Tel Aviv for $8 via PayPal. The print version is set to hit Amazon in May, and includes free access to the frequently updated PDF version as well.