• Photo: maratr / Shutterstock

Netanya

The lively resort city of Netanya (literally, "gift of God") has a pretty seaside promenade along the cliffs, endless sandy beaches, a pleasant town square, and plenty of cafés and restaurants. Once a sleepy place surrounded by orange groves, the town—named after Jewish philanthropist Nathan Strauss—has steadily grown from a few settlers in 1929 to some 210,000 residents today. Since the 1930s, it has been a center for the diamond-cutting industry.

Just south of the city are several nature reserves: the Iris Reserve, where purple irises flower in February and March; the Nahal Poleg Reserve, with fauna unique to the area; and the Udim Reserve, which includes a pool with turtles, fish, and birds.

Though citrus farming is still evident on Netanya's outskirts, there are few traces of small-town charm. Tracts of residential development during the past five years or so can be seen all along the southern approach to the city following the shoreline, with high-rise towers dotting the landscape, many of the apartment units bought by vacationers from abroad.

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