Ice-skating is not exactly the sport that comes to mind when you think of Israel. Somehow, activities that thrive on sub-zero temperatures don’t usually take well to the balmy Mediterranean climate.
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That might explain why so few locals – at least, according to our random sampling – were even aware of the existence of an ice-skating rink smack in the heart of Tel Aviv. And it’s a facility that’s been up and operating for more than five years now.
To be fair, Iskate, located on the outskirts of the Luna Park amusement park, is not the only ice-skating rink in the country. But geographically speaking, it’s by far the most convenient, what with Israel’s oldest and best-known rink way up on the northern border in Metula and its newest facility way down at its southernmost tip in Eilat.
If nothing else then, the Tel Aviv rink would definitely seem to have an advantage location-wise. But before you start dusting off your skates and getting ready to show off some fancy moves, bear in mind that this is not your standard-sized rink. In fact, it’s relatively puny, at least compared with the competition.
Not that that seemed to bother most of the skaters – by and large teenagers, joined later on by some younger children attending a birthday party – who happened to be there the day we checked it out. As best as we could judge, many of them were trying out this classic winter sport for the first time and consequently didn’t know much better.
How could we tell they were newbies? Suffice it to say that their expressions when they first touched down on the ice and the few short seconds that passed before they were flat on their butts were pretty much the giveaway.
So if skating around the pros tends to make you feel self-conscious or clumsy, rest assured that’s not likely to be an issue here – at least based on our limited experience. Aside from the staffers dispatched around the rink to help fallen skaters get back on their feet, only one elderly gentleman (we figured he must have come from Russia or another cold-climate country) seemed to know what he was doing.
Iskate seems to cater, in fact, to the inexperienced. Skaters are required to wear so much protective gear – knee guards, hand guards and elbow guards – that they look like they’re entering a combat zone rather than a skating rink. Protective helmets are also obligatory for all children under 12. As another precautionary measure, signs posted on the walls urge those who’ve never skated before to circle the rink holding onto the rails “at least 10 times” before letting go. And for the convenience of unsteady skaters, stationed in the middle of the tiny rink are a few small stands that give them something to grab onto just in case they lose their balance.
Whoever designed the rink also seemed to put a lot of thought into giving the place a wintery feel. Miniature Christmas-like pine trees and plastic snowmen hang from the ceilings, as do artificial icicles. The cold temperatures inside are also pretty unusual for Tel Aviv and quite a shock to the system when you first set foot inside. So if you’re not planning to move around a lot on the ice, it’s a good idea to bring along some warm clothing so you’re not uncomfortably cold while hanging out.
Of the three teens in our group, two had never ice-skated before, while one had quite a few years of figure skating under her belt. Despite their different skill levels, they all had a blast, the two novices holding onto the pro for dear life as they made their way around the circle over and over, one of them inevitably falling along the way, dragging the rest of them down with her. Our experienced skater’s biggest gripe about the place was that the skates they rent out lacked toe picks, making it difficult to perform fancy figure skating moves.
At NIS 76 an hour (including the price of renting skates and protective gear), it’s not cheap, especially if you’re used to paying a bare fraction of that in colder parts of the world. As they sat in the car on the way back home comparing black-and-blue marks, the girls decided that while they probably couldn’t afford to hang out at the rink every weekend, as they might have liked, it was certainly a great place to celebrate special events like birthdays.
Hours: 3 P.M. – 10 P.M. from Monday through Thursday; 4 P.M. – 10 P.M. on Friday; and 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. on Saturdays.
Entrance fee: NIS 76 for first hour and NIS 35 for every additional hour or part thereof.
Getting there: A number of bus lines stop at the Luna Park. By car, it’s about a 10-minute ride from central Tel Aviv.
Drinks and refreshments are sold at a stand on the premises.