Tel Aviv is a modern city with wide tree-lined walkways in the middle of roads. Founded in 1909 and planned by a Scotsman in 1925, it was the first modern city built in Israel. It began as a new suburb for the four centuries old port of Jaffa. The city lies on old sand dunes in a strip of 14 kilometres along the beautiful Mediterranean Sea coast.
I did not know how accessible Israel would be. I wanted to see what the country looked like and after a cooking program with Yotam Ottolenghi, I wanted to experience some of the food in Tel Aviv. It was supposed to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. There had been news of bomb threats at the time, but I still wanted to go.
Vibrant and easy Tel Aviv
When I arrived at a Tel Aviv beach people were having fun, swimming, surfing and board riding. The long beachfront had accessible paths and whilst there was little general parking, there were many accessible parking areas. Access to the beach was available with sloping cement paths to sand and water. I also found a bathing box with a beach wheelchair available for use. The bathing box was next to a fenced off beach that had single sex bathing on alternate days if people wanted that.
We tried a few restaurants in Tel Aviv and when we found one called Shila, it was so fabulous that we kept going back. The food was fresh, healthy and served in unique ways. It was just around the corner from our hotel and my scooter delivered me to my table, and then fitted neatly at the door. I could not have wished for more.
Old and new Jerusalem
Jerusalem has its old and new cities. The new city has a modern light rail running through the centre with elevated accessible stops and space for wheelchairs. Although the old city has inaccessible side alleys, the main thoroughfare through it was accessible all the way from the Western Wall to the exit at Damascus Gate. I was pleasantly surprised.
In Jerusalem, people wore religious attire of the many subsets of Christian, Jewish and Islamic religions. The most moving experience was the visit to the new Holocaust History Museum, Yad Vashem. The architecture was striking and the exhibition galleries told the story so well. I wrote in the visitor’s book
Everyone must never forget.
There were dividing barriers between Israel and the Palestinian Territories along some of the roads and highways. The barriers looked similar to the noise barrier walls on our freeways, except they had a run of barbed wire along the top. There were also security checkpoint gates into those areas. Despite seeing that, I felt safe while I was there.
We went on many short trips into the countryside. I learned that national disability insurance has been in Israel for many years. I also heard of friendships between Jewish and Arabic people living happily together in Israel. I am so pleased that I have experienced Israel and saw more than in the news.