Where Tel Aviv's English-speakers Go to Hang Out

The White City offers a plethora of activities for English speakers, from high-brow culture to dirty outdoor fun.

By night, Tel Aviv’s dark industrial belly is home to auto repair shops, dodgy discotheques and shwarma stands long shuttered for the evening. But it’s here, in The Dancing Camel on HaTaasiya Street, that Brooklyn expat Dave Cohen has made a name for himself brewing hops and elevating the art of beer.

Microbreweries were unknown to Israel until Cohen set up shop in 2005, a few years before the Anglo renaissance really took hold in Tel Aviv. These days, as part of a wider trend of events tailor-made for the city’s English-speaking denizens, his beer joint is packed with Anglos and natives alike, eager to taste what he has on tap and take part in open mic nights and English-speaking gatherings.

The newest of these gatherings is StorySlam Tel Aviv, which moved to the Camel after outgrowing its previous lodgings at another beloved Anglo hangout – Cafe Xoho, the psychedelic-colored vegetarian cafe on Mapu Street in central Tel Aviv.

Modeled after New York City’s wildly popular The Moth events, StorySlam Tel Aviv presents monthly storytelling evenings in which 10 brave souls each have seven minutes to stand up and tell a true story, live and without notes, to a crowd of eager listeners.

"People want to hear good true stories,” says founder Alon Gelnik. “You can learn so much from every single story on stage. You can live through them.”

The tales – some funnier than others, some slickly delivered and others incredibly raw – provide a cross-section of immigrant life in Israel: from dating the locals to suffering through ulpan to negotiating a new relationship with Judaism in the Jewish state. And Gelnik, who crassly refers to himself as a “storytelling activist,” says he is passionate about making it happen.

“The English-speaking community needs to be catered to and we love it,” he says. “We love this whole international community, and having people from all over the world gathering in one room.”

For culture-cravers looking for something a little more high-brow, there is a wealth of options. One is Young Friends of the Arts, a nonprofit committed to packing the seats of Tel Aviv’s best cultural institutions with eager, English-speaking young professionals. Events, which are held about 10 times a year, can range from Shakespeare at Habima Theater (performed in Hebrew with English subtitles); The Israel Ballet at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center; and a showing of Euripedes’ “Trojan Woman,” performed at the Cameri Theater in conjunction with the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater.

Each event costs an average NIS 120 and includes a talk with the director or choreographer and a backstage tour, and after the curtain comes down, a catered cocktail hour with the cast.

Founder Jacob Bryce made aliyah from Australia in 2010. He soon realized that Israel’s major arts institutions, from the museums to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, are patronized mostly by old folk. The young and the educated, he realized, had no forum to network and no real drive to get out and experience culture.

So he created YFA, recruiting representatives from major cultural institutions and tapping into the Israeli alumni networks of major universities abroad. To keep ticket prices low, he negotiates special rates with the venues and plans a jam-packed evening to ensure patrons get not just a show but a complete experience, with plenty of time for mingling.

“We bring mid-career professionals together,” he says simply. “You’re no longer in an environment of old people. We negotiate in terms of the expensive parts for a significant discount, and we provide a huge amount of background to give people a personal connection to the arts and each art form."

For more cerebral fare, Jay Shultz has launched the Tel Aviv International Salon, where young professionals gather to hear top politicos and journalists dissect, in English, the issues of the day. Shultz is also the man behind White City Shabbat, which organizes Friday night meals for Tel Aviv Anglos, and The Tel Aviv Arts Council, which arranges special screenings and exhibits of Tel Aviv culture, from the traditional to the avant-garde.

But as much as Tel Aviv’s Anglos love a good debate or show, they also like to let off some steam. Ex-pats looking for good, dirty outdoor fun with a side of fitness flock to the Yarkon Park on Saturdays to play Ultimate Frisbee and to Gordon Beach on Wednesday nights for volleyball on the sand. For more serious muscle gain, they sign up for classes, taught all in English, with Israel Outdoor Fitness (at Bograshov Beach, Charles Clore Park and Yarkon Park), Rella Itin’s many levels of classes at Boot Camp Israel (at Yarkon Park, the promenade at Gordon Beach and Ra'anana Park) and CrossFit Tel Aviv (at Kikar Atarim). For those looking to stretch and de-stress, there’s The Yoga Space, a series of roving yoga courses taught by Canadian Rachel Adler.

And if all that exercise works up an appetite, Tel Aviv’s Anglos have their tried-and-true grub spots. Long-time sports bar standby Mike’s Place has a newer, fresher outpost on North Dizengoff. And some nights at Dizzy Frishdon (121, Dizengoff St.) and Port Said (2, Har Sinai St., behind the Great Synagogue), you’ll hear more English than Hebrew among the crowd.

Eating can quickly to turn to drinking, and if the evening is epic enough, it just might be fuel for a story at the next StorySlam. 

Zoe Komarin
Danielle Shitrit
David Bachar
Tali Meir