Beaches around the country will officially open on Thursday, welcoming visitors back into the Mediterranean waters.

As the swimming season kicks off, lifeguards will return to their stands, as families bring their picnics and matkot paddles to the nation’s shores.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality alone is preparing to welcome a projected 9 million visitors on the city’s 13.5 kilometers of beaches over the season.

Meanwhile, 21 beaches and two marinas recently received international Blue Flag recognition from the Copenhagen- based Foundation for Environmental Education.

For this year’s swimming season, which lasts from May 1 through October 23, Tel Aviv will have nine rescue stations, at Givat Aliya, Charles Clore, Jerusalem, Bograshov, Gordon, Separate, Metzizim, Tel Baruch and Tzuk North beaches. In May, the stations will be active from 7:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., in June from 7:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., in July and August from 7:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. and in September and October from 7:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Along the Tel Aviv-Jaffa coastal strip, bathers will be able to take advantage of a renovated promenade between Frishman and Gordon beaches, the city said. A trust-based chess and checkers set distribution system will operate on many beaches, as will four beach library stalls.

Lockers for paid usage will be available on the beaches, the city added.

To accommodate the many tourists visiting the city’s beaches, lifeguards have been learning basic communication skills in a number of foreign languages, such as English, French, Russian and Sign Language, the municipality said. The city’s coastal division is employing five jet skis for emergency rescues.

Although many are kicking off the beach season with celebration, a number of environmental activists will take to the sands to protest coastal construction.

Already on Thursday, members of the nationwide student environmental movement Green Course will arrive at Betzet Beach near Rosh Hanikra and Achziv Beach near Nahariya, to oppose construction plans in these areas.

Ayelet Ler, an architect from Ness Ziona, plans to walk 234 kilometers, from Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border to Zikim in near the Gaza Strip, to protest against 50 construction projects along the way, according to Green Course.

The movement will also hold events at Michmoret Beach near Beit Yannai (north of Netanya) on May 10, at Palmahim Beach (south of Rishon Lezion) on May 14 and in Ashdod on May 16.

The Michmoret and Achziv events will involve activities for children, while the Ashdod event will include a beach party, Green Course said.

Regarding Achziv, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) reported a victory on Tuesday, following a recent decision of the Haifa District Court to require the Northern District Committee for Planning and Building to reconsider construction plans there. The plans, approved in 1994, call for the construction of residential areas and hotels within 100 meters of the coast, bordering on a national park, the organization said.

This ruling came a few weeks before the government will vote on a relevant amendment to the 2004 Law for Preservation of Coasts, supported by some 70 Knesset members.

The amendment would require seaside building plans that are eight or more years old to undergo additional review by the Committee for the Preservation of Coasts (the ValHof), Adam Teva V’Din explained.

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