Israel's party capital wins praise for its tolerant attitudes and thrivings arts - 'a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East'.
By Irit Rosenblum
The Lonely Planet travel guide series has put Tel Aviv in third place on its list of "top 10 cities for 2011." New York occupies first place, while Tangier, Morocco, is second.
"Tel Aviv is the total flipside of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill," the entry on Tel Aviv states. "Hedonism is the one religion that unites its inhabitants. There are more bars than synagogues, God is a DJ and everyone's body is a temple ....
"By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East. Thanks to its universities and museums, it is also the greenhouse for Israel's growing art, film and music scenes."
The list appears in "Best in Travel," a guide Lonely Planet has put out every year for six years now.
"When we talk about Tel Aviv, we're recommending that people who never thought of traveling to Tel Aviv do so," said Tom Hall, the company's travel editor, in a telephone conversation from London. "The goal is to give people ideas."
He said the company's entry on Tel Aviv also describes its architecture, including the fact that Tel Aviv's White City has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The entry also mentions the city's beaches, the Carmel Market and its hummus - "among the best in the world."
"The book tries to seek out the best destinations for the coming year," Hall said. "We aren't talking about the best destinations in the world, but about the best destinations to visit in 2011, and the selections are supposed to appeal to different tastes. These are our recommendations, which were chosen by a panel of experts."
The panel, he noted, includes Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler.
"We give reasons for our suggestions," Hall said. "For instance, this will be a big year for New York, as it's the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks."
Hall said experience shows that the Lonely Planet rankings attract attention from both the media and tourists, and the resulting buzz helps put the chosen destinations on the map.
"The world already knows about Tel Aviv," he said. "But there's a chance that as a result of this publication, people will decide to spend more days in the city during their visit to Israel."
He added that Lonely Planet is well aware that because its attention benefits the sites it chooses, its decision will please Israel's tourism authorities.
Indeed, the Tourism Ministry voiced satisfaction at Tel Aviv's inclusion on the list. The selection, said Amnon Lieberman, media adviser to Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, marks "a vote of confidence in the city as an international tourism brand and an international city, one that reflects [Israel's] diversity and makes Israel a sought-after tourist destination."
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