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 Straus, co-owner of Macy's—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. More recently Netanya has become known for its large immigrant population, most notably from France and the former Soviet Union.
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 since 2010 can be seen all along the southern approach to the city following the shoreline, with high-rise towers dotting the landscape. Vacationers from abroad have purchased many of the apartment units.