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5 Places to Visit in Israel (When It's Safe to Go Back): Part Two

5. Eilat

We were in Eilat the morning the election results came in, which made this sign at each end of the boardwalk bridge even funnier.

I was grateful to be far away from my desk, and surrounded by plenty of diversions that day.

One of our group marveled that when he'd last visited forty years earlier, only two hotels operated in Eilat. Today, this southernmost resort spot on the Red Sea boasts great beaches along the warm Red Sea, a range of places to stay, a lively boardwalk, snorkeling along the 1,200 meter coral reef, swimming with dolphins, excursions to Petra in Jordan -- and even world-renowned birdwatching.

Decades ago, during the "Glaznost Aliyah," thousands of Russians escaped to Israel from the Soviet Union with the clothes on their backs -- and from the looks of it, they haven't changed them since. Eilat was full of Russian-descent tourists during our visit, and they are, alas, easy to spot, especially on the beach, where they shed their mismatched polyester casual wear and plod around in very tiny bathing suits. I was delighted to find myself the thinnest middle aged woman on the shore.

Eilat is a VAT-free (duty free) town. The good news: there are lots of fashion outlet stores. The bad news: many of the mid-market designer labels, like Golf and Fox, will be unknown to non-Israelis. (Don't be alarmed by all the guys sporting t-shirts reading "CASTRO"; that's just one of the country's top casual clothing labels.)

You'll find those outlet stores on the tonier end of the boardwalk, along with lots of beachfront restaurants. The Eilat boardwalk also features a low-end section across the bridge (but for how long?) boasting tacky casual wear, souvenirs, ice cream and juice vendors -- you'll fall in love with the fresh pomegranate juice and limonana

This was my first visit to Eilat and I can't wait to go back.


Kathy Shaidle's journey continues in the third installment of her Israel travelogue:

5 Hidden Gems to Visit in Israel