Segregated buses and carloads of Orthodox families flock toward Israel’s separate beaches during the summer. Believe it or not, swimming enthusiasts can find a frum beach in every major city along the Holy Land’s long coastline. There are even separate beaches in Eilat and along the Dead Sea.
While not every beach is hermetically protected against occasional breaches in modesty, the situation on the whole is sufficiently mehadrin to attract hundreds of thousands of G-d-fearing Jews to Israel’s beaches every year.
As an avid beachgoer myself, let me explain how it works. Usually half of the day is allotted to women, and the other half to men. The shifts switch on alternating days to afford greater flexibility. But there are also beaches where men and women can conveniently enjoy separate seashores at the same time.
The beaches are run by the municipalities and are remarkably maintained and free of litter. There are ample trash bins for Coke cans and soiled diapers, and city workers clean up at the end of the day. The beaches also have water faucets and beach showers that are almost as fun as the ocean itself. By pulling a chain, an invigorating stream of cold water splashes over your head, causing your muscles to shiver.
Religious families with a pioneering spirit who want to enjoy a family outing together by the sea can find many beautiful strips of isolated beaches along the coastline with no one in sight, but these dreamy stretches don’t have lifeguard stations and can be dangerous due to strong undercurrents. (Every year, there are tragic drownings.) The separate beaches operated by the municipalities have experienced lifeguards and post black flags to warn bathers when turbulent currents and tidewaters make swimming risky.
What about the problem of male lifeguards scanning the waters during the hours designated for women? While halachic authorities agree that a female lifeguard is preferable, most poskim allow women to go to a separate beach if the lifeguards are men, adding that women bathers should dress modestly and wear beach robes when not in the water.
The long wooden mechitzot that separate frum beaches from neighboring mixed beaches come in different lengths. The ones that extend the full width of the beach all the way into the sea provide for a total division. Others leave the beachfront adjoining the water open so that secular joggers or leisurely strollers can transverse the frum beach as well.
While non-religious beachgoers generally respect the privacy of their Orthodox brothers and sisters, I have been at the beach when an immodest women or two have jogged across the seashore, whether purposefully or not, causing a minor commotion. But for a devoutly religious Jew, venturing onto the street or visiting a shopping mall is often no less dangerous.
If you are planning a trip to the Holy Land, here is a brief rundown of some of Israel’s separate beaches in various cities:
Tel Aviv: The Nordau Beach has all the facilities you could ask for except a kosher MacDonald’s. The separation between men and women is up to par, and the beach was awarded international “Blue Flag” recognition for meeting top standards. Parking costs money, but the beach itself is free.
Bat Yam: The mechitza is hermetic, with no way of walking from the separate beach to the mixed beach. You approach the beach via a paved pathway, and the beach’s upkeep is deserving of praise.
Herzliya: The beach is beautiful and clean, attracting many visitors from nearby Bnei Brak. The beach is set off in a secluded cove, but it lacks a mechitza and an occasional female may be seen.
Rishon L’Zion: This separate beach has become very popular, boasting renovated paths with easy accessibility, a playground for children, beach chairs for rent, and a mechitza extending into the sea.
Netanya: The frum beach is just across the street from the Sanz chassidic community. Nonetheless, it is a shlep descending the slope and long stairway to the shore, and while the secular beaches of the city are pristine, this one is unfortunately unkempt. As far as modesty goes, it is glatt kosher.
Haifa: If you have to visit someone in the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, the nearby frum beach has calm, serene waters because of its long breakwater. The beach is isolated from other beaches and from the busy Haifa port.
Tiberias: If you’re visiting the Tomb of Rebbe Meir Baal HaNess, you can take a refreshing dip in the Kinneret just across the street. There is an entrance fee, but the facilities are excellent, with shaded areas and lounge chairs, and a full mechitza. It is ideal for families, since men and women can enjoy the magical waters of the Galilee Sea at the very same time at opposite sides of the cove without having to wait for alternating hours. The beach itself is a little stony, so bring tongs if you have delicate feet.
The Dead Sea: Men and women can enjoy complete separation at the same time on the clean and well-kept beach between the Nirvana and Moriah Hotels. The beach has a full range of facilities, but it is often crowded with busloads of day vacationers.
Eilat: The separate beach is rather rocky, but it has a magnificent view of the Red Sea gulf and surrounding mountains. Enjoy!