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The five story hotel and tower that has been built on Sironit beach in Netanya. The project has been on pause as it has destabilized the cliff and sea water is coming up from the bottom

Editor's Report: A Slice of Beach Life in Israel

by Rhonda Spivak, February 14,2023

On Sironit beach in Netanya, Israel  there have been big developments. A cliff has literally been taken out so that the frame of a five story hotel can be built. On top of the hotel there is a 24 story hotel facing the sea. I’ve known about this massive non-environmental friendly development since 2005, when I heard that environmental groups were taking the contractors to court to stop this huge unseemly development.  A shady lawyer tried to sell me an apartment in the building, but thankfully I didn’t take the bait. There were concerns at the time in 2005  that the hotel and tower complex would destabilize the cliff and ruin the beach. There is no other beach in Israel where such a massive development has been allowed to take place. I never actually thought the hotel and tower would be built, since it was tied up in court for years and those who had bought into it never saw their money.

But alas, I was wrong. The frame of the hotel has been built into the cliff and the frame of the massive tower which overshadows all other buildings nearby has been built. “A lot of people must have been paid off so this development could occur. There is corruption everywhere in this country, but this development is a particularly bad  example of his," a female Netanyati  lawyer tells me, as she feeds the stray cats on the nearby promenade overlooking the sea.
But the story is even more complicated. I learn from another Israeli who lives nearby that for the last two years , the developers have not been able to continue this massive project. “Apparently there is seawater that is seeping up from the bedrock of the hotel, and the cliff has been destabilized by the hotel and tower development. The engineers don’t  know what to do, so everything has been  put on pause”
In the meantime, the municipality is making more breakwaters to extend the sandy beaches to prepare for the influx of tourists who will come when the development project has been completed. I hope it is never completed, and they have to take it down altogether, but I may be naive in this hope.
The beach itself has changed. There used to be several major restaurants on the beach that were always open on Shabbat, but now there are no longer major cafe’s and restaurants open on the beach on Shabbat. There are two very  small  establishments that are open on Shabbat for snacks , one where  I repeatedly smelled marijuana. The beach restaurants, Ruben, Greg’s Cafe, Yamos, and Cafe/Cafe are all closed on Shabbat. A cab  driver tells me, “It’s because the Netanya Mayor  is religious,  so she prefers to  grant  licences to kosher restaurants on the beach, so that virtually everything is closed up on the beach over the sabbath. In the nearby pedestrian square where tourists flock to, there are also fewer restaurants open on Shabbat. "The Scotsman restaurant  is the only one open on shabbat," the cab driver states. He also points out to me where the Municipality  of Netanya is planning to build a marina, like the one they have in Herzlia. I hope that doesn’t happen as there is research which shows marinas result in less sand deposits on the beach
I try the beach restaurants, all of which are new to me. Cafe/Cafe has the best outdoor patio and the food at this dairy restaurant is tasty, featuring pastas and salads, but the service is slow. Still it’s a very nice place to sit and soak up the sun.  It’s much busier than Greg’s a meat restaurant at the other end of the beach. Ruben is a meat restaurant that features  very good corn beef sandwiches, other deli items,  schnitzels and salads, and I recommend it. Yammos has a great Greek salad, but it’s expensive. The prices everywhere have jumped up, and there is a premium you pay for eating at a beach restaurant. For cheaper food, there is a very good felafel joint  right on the square near the Leonardo Plaza Hotel, which I recommend. There are also shawarma joints, one of which I tried that is located near the Netanya train station called Daboush. It’s good, but everything is spicey and its selection of salads could be wider.
The weather the last two weeks in January while I was in Netanya was perfect-sunny and between 20-24degrees celcius. There were surfers on the the beach on the  windier days, there were   Israelis exercising on the free exercise equipment on the beach or playing basketball  and  I even saw the man who feeds large chunks of raw chicken to the stray beach cats. 
It’s hard to leave the Netanya beach scene and come back to Winnipeg winter weather, that’s for sure.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.