Yes there is Shabbat in Tel Aviv you do have to look for it…and yes most people simply hit the beach.
As shabbat approaches one definitely feels the pace of the city slow down, traffic thins,most stores and many cafes restaurants slow down…and the hours when one would assume people are having Friday gnight dinner the streets are quite empty, Things pick up later particularly long after I am asleep as clubs get going around midnight.
As for synagogues in my experience they are divided into two types:
The older synagogues which are pretty much inactive, they get more people on Friday night maybe 50 and far fewer shabbat morning. I have attended some of these, like the synagogue established in the 1930s on rechov borgashov on a couple Friday nights. If you are looking for a daily minyan you will find it in these places/
The other type are a small number of younger minyanim at a few spots in the city. I have attended a few and they are a bit similar. They certainly are orthodox and share much in common. Tel Aviv orthodox are looser than those in most other places. The minyanim have a mix of Israelis, British, French and American often fewer Americans than the other non Israeli nationalities. Many times I have attendedwomen have given the dvar torah and the general approach in my view is more open than most places. The attendees are definitely Tel Avivi and in most cases could not imagine living elsehwere. They are single or with young children, Several are working to establish the first joing dati/cheloni religious secular school in Tel Aviv…more on that in another post.
Heres a rundown
On Frishman just off Dzengoff is a synagogue with an young American rabbi who attracts an eclectc crowd including, tourists, non native Israelis,and Israelis orthodox and otherwise.
Ichud Olan all the way downstairs at 86 Ben Yehuda (the rest of the synagogue) is a typical Tel Aviv synagogue, mostly singles and couples with younf children. This is my main Tel Aviv synagogue with a nice Kiddush as welll (!). People are friendly and by all means as is always the case in my opinion if they announce hospitality take them up on the offer…you will meet some interesting people..I have.
Further up Ben Yehuda at 128 is a very lively minyan that gets quite a crowd. Attention single women interested in meeting some nice Israeli guys..this is probably the spot. It’s almost entirely singles with a great male femaile ratio for the females . Unlike Ichud Olam they do meet Friday nights.
Yakar…this is a very active synagogue with lots of young singles and others, classes during the week and a pretty interesting Rabbi.. I’ve only been once on A Friday night because it is a bit far from where I usually stay.6 Yericho Street. Friday night and shabbat morning
Zeitlin Minyan in the Zeitlin school 5 Leonardo Da Vinci, there is a good deal of overlap with the Ichud Olam crowd. I have yet to make it. Since I am writing in the LA Jewish Journal I guess I should mention Joseph Cedar, director of the Oscar nominated Footnotes film attends here. I have yet to make it here. I believe it meets Friday nights.
I dont have much experience with any Reform or Conservative congregations in Tel Aviv. I have attended the summer tefillot at the “non orthodox, non conservative, non reform” beit tefilla which holds very well attended (with Israelis) kabbalat shabbat with music at the Nemal along the beach in Tel Aviv. More on Beit Tefilla in a later post.
Whether you spend shabbat on the beach or in tefillot or both yaish shabbat b tel aviv.