Shalom, you’re in Norfolk

By Simon Round, September 3, 2012
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By the time you read this, I shall be reclining on the beach watching the water lapping on to golden sands. Although, this being Norfolk, the likelihood is that the tide will be so far out that the sea will barely be discernible against the horizon - unlike the rain, which will be lashing in from the North Sea.

Of course, I realise that booking a holiday for the week of the bank holiday weekend was asking for trouble but I decided to go ahead anyway. And, yes, I did consider Israel. There are pros and cons to both places and I have been through them all.

The first is the distance involved. Norfolk means a couple of hours along some of our nation's flattest roads. If you leave London in the morning, you will be there by lunch-time and there are no Israeli security checks to go through. Once you have passed through passport control at Thetford you have only slow-moving tractors to worry about. Israel means El Al or, even worse, easyJet. Enough said.

People are a crucial factor. Some might be put off by the fact that a sizeable minority of the population is suspicious and even overtly hostile - but then, Israel has its problems, too.

The sea is a no-brainer - or is it? While the Mediterranean off Tel Aviv is admittedly as pleasant as a fairly warm bath, the Med has a pollution problem that might discourage you from swimming in it. The North Sea is no cleaner but this is less of a factor, as it is so cold in August that you are unlikely to survive long enough in the water for the pollution to get you.

Israel wins the food battle hands down. Both destinations have a huge over-reliance on turkey for protein, but at least in Israel there are no whelk stalls, and kosher food is widely available. On the downside, you can't get salt and vinegar on your chips.

The weather is surprisingly similar. As England's driest county Norfolk's rainfall is similar in quantity to that of the eastern Mediterranean. But what rain there is does tend to fall as drizzle over the August bank holiday. The advantage is that you will not be overloading the car with factor-50 sunblock on the way to Norfolk, or reporting to Norwich General with sun-stroke - as this week's weather made clear.

You are also much less likely to have those awkward encounters on the North Norfolk beaches with people you have been attempting to avoid at shul, and the roads in East Anglia are less populated by nutters. But then I have yet to come across a Jew who, on arrival in Burnham Market, burst into tears because it felt like he was coming home (oh, except for a bloke called Elliot who actually did come from Burnham Market).

To sum up, it is very handy to be in a place where everyone speaks easily understandable English. But that's no reason to rule out Norfolk, which has old-world charm, beautiful villages and, crucially, some wonderful cream teas.

But, then again having said that, if Israel happened to be at the end of the A11, I imagine I'd be there every year.

Last updated: 10:45am, September 3 2012