I fell hard for Tel Aviv and was dragged almost kicking and screaming away after a way-too-short introduction.
This city is full of life and energy, with restaurants and bars packed with young people spilling out into the streets until the middle of the night, every night. It's quite the opposite of all my mom's fears about the dreaded Middle East.
We stopped to look up directions one day only to have 3 different people and a police officer offer to show us the way. Theirs is an innocent friendliness, too, not the kind that comes with a price or a stalker like in some foreign cities. The Israelis seem genuinely incapable of seeing you unhappy.
We had planned to have dinner one night with my dad's former colleagues who now live in Tel Aviv. In typical Israeli fashion of going above and beyond, they picked us up from the airport, gave us a guided tour of our neighborhood, introduced us to three different flavors of halva, and ordered five desserts off the menu so we wouldn't have to choose. They even tried using their local charm (and hebrew) to talk our hotel receptionist into giving us a room with a seaside view.
And we confirmed it wasn't just the people we knew who were like this-- bartenders talked to us through dinner and delivered complimentary shots, a local man in the ocean talked to us for an hour sharing facts about his country and asking about the U.S., breakfast waiters served up mimosas and delicious homemade bread with smiles-- everyone seemed like they were constantly paying it forward without expecting anything in return. Their enthusiasm was practically bubbling over-- about Israel, Tel Aviv, and life in general-- and it was contagious.
So all I can say is, if you can, get here as soon as possible! And for goodness' sake give yourself more than two days! Plus a gigantic thank you to the Steins for showing us such wonderful hospitality and introducing us to so much of Tel Aviv!