There are some things in Israel that you just won’t find anywhere else in the world… One of them is what I’ve started calling a “beach bunker.” This unique Israeli innovation is used to allow Orthodox Jews (like myself) the fun and sun of going to the beach while still maintaining a level of modesty (tznius) not usually possible in such an environment.
How do we manage such a thing? When walking up to the Ashdod “separate beach” on Tuesday, I thought we were walking up to an oceanfront military base. Metal walls, concrete gate houses, and a lookout tower in the middle of the “base” all contribute to this odd scenery. But when you are finally able to decipher the complicated timetable posted on the outside walls of when girls are allowed in and when guys are allowed in, you walk inside to find that there are no armed soldiers or personnel vehicles… There’s just sand.
As someone born and raised on the beach (South Florida style), having to restrain myself from going so often because of modesty was hard. But really when you think about it, most of the time when you go to the beach, there is someone of the opposite gender staring awkwardly at you and making you feel uncomfortable, so it’s not even just an Orthodox Jewish thing. Separate beaches are a way to eliminate that awkwardness and not worry about, “I wish I didn’t have such a big breakfast this morning” because who are you trying to impress anyway?
Of course, it isn’t idiot-proof. (I’m using that terminology on purpose.) There are always local Israelis that like to play the game of “How long can I sneak into a separate beach for before I get kicked out?” It’s very disheartening when you are in the ocean in something you would never let a guy see you in, and all of the sudden, three Israeli guys walk up and park themselves on the beach right between you and your towel. The result is that you are trapped in the ocean with the jellyfish and those guys are playing handball on the beach. You may ask why the lifeguards don’t make them leave… interestingly enough, it’s a catch 22. The lifeguards are men, so for modesty reasons, they stay in their tower on the other side of the separate beach from the swim area unless in the case of an emergency. So they’re stuck there, you’re stuck in the water, and the Israelis are still playing handball. Jerks.
Of course eventually the lifeguards say “forget it” and walk over, and the second they start heading our way, the Israelis pack up and leave. We were trying to give them the benefit of the doubt that they really just didn’t know, but clearly that knew exactly what they were doing.
Funny guys, realllll funny.