Find out the different characteristics of Israel’s many beaches and choose the best filming location for your production in Israel.
Israel has two coastlines; the west has the Mediterranean and the south has the Red Sea. Israel also has shorelines around two lakes that, confusingly, are named as seas; the Sea of Galilee and The Dead Sea:
When looking to film beaches in Israel, there is an incredible amount of choice. This article will look at the characteristics of the beaches along each of these stretches of water;
Your production in Israel will have its own individual focus; historical, travelogue, feature film, short segment, music clip, etc. Incorporating beach scenes into your film will certainly add color and atmosphere to your production. Choosing the right beach, however, is vital and each location has its own special feel and geographical features.
Here at Biblical Productions, we share with you some of our local know-how, helping you to get a feel for the type of beach locations you may wish to include in your film.
Filming in Israel
Feature films, music clips and travelogues often try to capture shots of golden, sun-drenched beaches and the glistening, azure sea. All four ‘seas’ are great for shooting beach life in Israel; showing both the tourist/locals ’hot’ spots and leisure pursuits of locals. Each beach has its own particular ambiance and this summary should help you to determine the best settings to suit your production in Israel.
Tel Aviv: Gordon and Frishman Beaches plus others. These beaches have a lively atmosphere and are frequented by a mix of tourists and Israelis. They are surrounded by luxury hotels and snack bars and are filled with tourists, soaking up the sun and frolicking in the sea. Israeli visitors to the beach tend to summon up the energy to play paddleball.
One other beach to point out is the ‘Separated Beach’ in Tel Aviv. As orthodox religious Jews are required to dress modestly in the company of the opposite sex, beach pursuits are somewhat hampered. This beach has allocated days for men and women so that they can unwind in the company of friends and family and finally get some sun on their skin.
Over the summer you are likely to catch a beach party in Tel Aviv; when holidaymakers and locals mingle together, enjoying the cool evening air and the even cooler beer. With the latest summer sounds blasting over the PR system and the beach alive with laughter and chatter, Tel Aviv’s beach parties make memorable, colorful shots. The atmosphere is very different at night and the footage would illustrate the young, funky side of Tel Aviv, buzzing with vitality.
If a beach party is not quite the scene you are looking for, how about Drums Beach? Every Friday there are drumming sessions at sunset – a wonderful sound to match a stunning view.
Another great and particularly local activity is the Israeli circle dancing which takes place on Saturday night, close to the beach
Netanya has a very similar feel to Tel Aviv. The beach in Netanya is at the bottom of a hill that has been cultivated into attractive gardens, with a winding path that leads down to the beach level. Generally, Netanya is less crowded than Tel Aviv but offers similar shots. It also has Israeli circle dancing in its main square, at the top end of the gardens.
Sea of Galilee
Ein Gev, Resort Village Beach. The Sea of Galilee (also known as The Kineret) is a freshwater lake that is warm, yet invigorating. Only guests of the resort are allowed access to this particular beach but it is considered to be the nicest on the Sea of Galilee green lawns and date palm groves that lead onto the sand. This is a peaceful setting that lacks the hyperactivity of Tel Aviv. Further down the coast are public beaches that also provide wonderful views and offer the shade of long rows of eucalyptus trees.
Dead Sea – Ein Gede and Ein Bokek Beaches. The Dead Sea is a unique, natural phenomenon that cannot be seen or experienced anywhere else in the world.
The Dead Sea is 400 meters below sea level and is famed for being the lowest point on earth. The Thermo, mineral-rich springs are renowned for their warmth (an inviting 38°C) and their healing properties. The dense salt content of the sea (ten times that of other waters), creates the added novelty of giving bathers a sense of weightlessness and causing them to float. The combination of the weightless sensation and the warmth of the water results in a truly remarkable and relaxing sensation.
As well as the healing spas, the Dead Sea is famed for its purifying black mud that is made up of deposits originating from the hot sulfur springs. Sold worldwide as an effective skin treatment, it is packed full of vitamins and when massaged into the skin it absorbs toxins and invigorates circulation. It is also a wonderful conditioner for hair. There are many spas on the shores of the Dead Sea that have masseurs on hand to provide bathers with a mineral-enriched mud massage.
The Dead Sea is a truly stunning sight; with the warm, gentle waters providing a stark contrast to the surrounding rugged scenery. The resort is a spectacular filming location, situated at the foot of the Judean desert cliffs, with the Mountains of Moab to the east.
As well as the lakeside activities, there are more varied pursuits close by:
- Desert jeep tours and camel rides,
- Mountain biking, rappelling and hiking,
- Desert barbecues and Bedouin feasts
The incredible and unusual scenery of this location, coupled with the unique qualities of the spa and the associated activities that take place, make a wonderful filming opportunity that would be of interest to a broad audience, but in particular travelers and the health conscious.
Coral Beach Nature Reserve. Eilat is famous for its coral reefs which offer awe-inspiring snorkeling experiences, where coral formations, colorful fish and sea urchins can all be viewed beneath the clear blue waters. Other water sports, such as scuba diving, windsurfing, kayaking, yachting and waterskiing are also available.
The other main attraction in Eilat is Dolphin Beach where bathers get the chance to swim alongside these friendly creatures or watch as they leap in and out of the warm Red Sea waters.
Haifa – Carmel Beach. The northern coast also has some lovely beaches. In Haifa, there are golden sands and a variety of sea sports and boat trips. The scuba diving at this location is unlikely to capture exotic sea life or corals but you may just travel back in time if you stumble upon the underwater archaeological excavations that are located beneath the Haifa waters.
The Western Galilee – The Achziv Coast spans from Nehariya up to Rosh Hanikra. The beaches have inlets and sandstone ridges. The wildlife is exotic, with starfish, octopi and even dolphins. Rosh Hanikra has a cable car traveling right to the top of the cliff, which affords stunning views of the surrounding area.
So there you have it – after reading these descriptions you can see that filming beaches in Israel can cover a wide range of activities, take in an eclectic variety of distinctive scenery and provide input into a film covering water sports, health spas, sunbathing sunsets, and more. We hope that our advice on choosing the right beach for your travelogue or documentary will help you select the best location to suit your production in Israel.
Israel’s beaches can be used for a variety of productions. There is a lot to interest those making archaeological or historical documentaries and we will highlight some of the beaches in Israel that would work well in such productions.
Caesarea – Aqueduct Beach. The aqueduct was used to transport water to the growing population of Caesarea. It was started at the time of King Herod (37 – 4 BC) but was added to by subsequent rulers. It brought water 10 km from the Shummi River at Mount Carmel. A second, lower, aqueduct was built by Emperor Hadrian (2nd Century CE) and drew water from the Tanninim River. This second aqueduct includes a tunnel of around 6km long and en route to Casearia, it joins the older Herodian aqueduct. There are therefore two separate aqueducts originating from different river sources that pool their waters together along the journey to Caesaria. Aqueduct Beach has a section of the aqueduct on it and would make a great location for a documentary looking at Roman construction and their general inventiveness.
Akko – Sea Walls. Akko has historically been used as a seaport throughout the ages and held strategic importance for the defense of the country.
In 1750 the ruler of Akko, Daher El-Omar, reinforced remnants of the original Crusader walls to create sturdy defense fortifications. These walls were around 1 meter wide and 10-13 meters high. El-Omar’s walls were themselves added to in 1800 – 1814 by Jezzar Pasha (known as Al Jezzar).
The Acko Sea Wall is the original El-Omar/Al-Jezzar wall and not only survived Napoleon’s siege but is mostly intact today.
Dead Sea – Ein Gedi Beach. The Dead Sea area may be a modern tourist spot but it was also renowned in ancient and biblical times. It was frequented by key figures such as King David, King Herod, Jesus and John the Baptist. For centuries it has been used as a place to recuperate; its health benefits and clean air are famed around the region and attract visitors for its serene beauty and relaxing spas.
In biblical times Mount Sodom, which is south of Ein Bokek, was used as a salt mine. The Old Testament recounts the story of Lot in Genesis 19. It describes G-d’s plans of destruction for the local settlements in the southeast plains. Lot and his wife are warned by the angels of the catastrophe about to take place. When Lot hesitates the angels take him and his wife and daughters by the hand and force them out of their house, saying, “Save yourselves with all haste. Look not behind you…” Because Lot’s wife looks back towards Sodom, she is famously turned into a pillar of salt. This Biblical story is renowned and to the South of the Dead Sea there is a pillar of salt which, local legend has it, is Lot’s wife.
During the Egyptian era, the Dead Sea and surrounding area were used to mine cosmetics and pharmaceuticals on behalf of Queen Cleopatra. The Nabateans also made use of the mineral-enriched Dead Sea, extracting bitumen for the embalming of mummies.
The Dead Sea has been populated throughout history by ancient civilizations, attracted by the surreal beauty of the area and the natural minerals. Salt, in particular, was in demand, as it was used for preserving food. There are the archaeological remains of Roman fortresses and ancient perfume and medicine factories, as well as a range of remnants from different periods of history.
The Sea of Galilee is steeped in Biblical history. Jesus preached among the fishing community of Capernaum and many of his miracles were performed on the lake or close by. These include
- Walking on water (Matthew 14:22, Mark 6:45-51)
- Calming the sea (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41)
- The miracle of the loaves [at the Tabgha shoreline] (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44…)
In 1986, with the Kineret’s water reduced to an unprecedented level, the remnants of a boat dating back to the first century were uncovered. This boat was exactly the type that would have taken Jesus and his disciples across the Sea of Galilee and boats, such as the one discovered, were cited 50 times in the Gospels. Boats played a large role in Jesus’ life and ministry — they are mentioned 50 times in the Gospels! The boat is displayed in the Yigal Allon Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar. In addition, a mockup model of what the boat would have looked like is also on display.
Atlit Beach. The beach at Atlit is always associated with a sad period of Israel’s history. It was the scene of many frantic, nighttime disembarkations by Jews fleeing Europe during the Second World War. The British, who controlled Palestine at the time, issued a White Paper limiting the number of Jews permitted to settle in Israel. As a consequence, the desperate European Jewish communities, fleeing for their lives, attempted to enter Israel in overcrowded boats, many of which landed in and around the port of Haifa.
The British opened a detention center to house the thousands of Jewish immigrants who were discovered entering the country illegally between1939-1948.
Many schools in Israel teach children about this episode by taking them to the beach at Atlit at night; directing them to re-enact the desperate plight of the Jews, scrambling around on the beach for their freedom, pitted against the British army, tasked with rounding them up. This would make a dramatic film plot and re-enactment.
One other fascinating aspect of the story is that, in October 1945, a group of militants, including a young Yitzhak Rabin (later to become the Prime Minister of Israel) broke into the camp and freed 208 of the detainees.
The detention center has been restored into a museum and an old ship, akin to those used by the illegal immigrants, is also on display. A memorial is also on-site, commemorating those who perished at sea.
There is a wealth of ancient and modern-day history connected to Israel’s beaches and many of these stories would make excellent topics for documentaries. The beaches make fantastic film locations that can be used for re-enactments or as interview locations with presenters or experts.