Tag Archives: tel aviv

Musings on Tel Aviv

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I don’t think I knew what to make of Tel Aviv when I arrived here on Monday.  I had driven through the city (at least on the freeway) and then into Jaffa last year, when Roger and I went to the Peres Center.  But I really didn’t see Tel Aviv. Oh, I saw lots of buildings and skyscrapers.   This week I am staying in a hostel, a block from the beach.  Its not as nice as the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, but its pretty cool opening the windows and smelling the salty air of the ocean.     The area is filled with hotels, and a mix of shops and restaurants, but in the immediate vicinity it isn’t the nicest place.  Oh, its not dangerous (or doesn’t feel dangerous), but there are more upscale areas.

I have done a lot of walking, along Allenby Street, King George Street, Rothschild Blvd, Frischman Street, and Denzaghoff Street.   Each night exploring many of these areas, often just looking for the cafe or restaurant that I wanted to visit.  It is a city of young people.  A city of attractive young people.  A city where people ride bikes on the sidewalks.  A city where there are pets everywhere.  People walking dogs, usually on leashes, sometimes not.  A city where cats roam, but only some are feral.   There is something wild about seeing a little dog just walking the block, and then heading into the store where his owner is.

It is a city with shops everywhere.  Israelis really really like to buy boots apparently.  Between Jerusalem and here, I have seen more shoe stores than anywhere.  They also like cell phone accessories. These stores are everywhere.  Candy shops.  Ice cream and froyo shops.  And fruit stands.  There are large urban malls. The Derzgoff Center has a multiple, four or five story mall, with food carts spread out within it.   Tel Aviv is a city of book stores.  Lots of book stores, most appear to be independent private shops.  It is a city with lots of bike shops, and lots of music stores.

Tel Aviv is famous for its night-life.  I’ll admit I haven’t explored that aspect.  Hell, when the bars open (around 10) I am getting ready for bed.  I know, I know… old man.  It is also a city with a seedy side.  There is only one other city (Las Vegas) I have ever been to where the streets (all the streets) are littered with what in Vegas we jokingly called “porn cards” for female “escorts.”  This is not something you find in Jerusalem.  Definitely not.   There are strip clubs as well (including one on Allenby Street).

Tel Aviv is very very different from Jerusalem.  For one, it is the rare person you see wearing a kippa.  It is certainly secular Israel.  I have seen just one synagogue (“the great synagogue”).  In Jerusalem, you are surrounded by religious jews; in particular by Orthodox and utra-orthodox.  It is sometimes called “The state of Tel Aviv” and it is very different.  Its a fun city.  It lacks the history (other than Jaffa/Yafo) that Jerusalem has.  It is young, and it attracts the young, and business people.  In many ways, the neighborhoods remind me of Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan in Washington DC.   I like Tel Aviv, more so than I did when I arrived.  But it doesn’t have the magnetic appeal of Jerusalem.   It is also very different from Haifa, which while a big city, has a more sleepy feel.  But sleepy in a good way.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Haifa.   Both cities are definitely worth visiting.   Together Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv provide three really different aspects of Israel.

Co-existence and Tolerance in Yafo

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Today I had two very interesting meetings, one with the former deputy director of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, Dr. Dan Shanit, and the other visiting with a staff member of the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa.  In fact, both meetings were in Jaffa (or what is known in Hebrew as Yafo), the oldest part of Tel Aviv, and a port that goes back more than 7000 years.    The morning meeting was very interesting, not only getting a clear picture of the co-existence project the Rotary clubs in Jerusalem are working on starting, as well as learning about another project in Jerusalem (Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow) that uses technology as the tool that brings Jews and Arabs together, with dialogue a side effect.  I’ll be writing about it, and comparing the model to the dialogue first programs.   We also talked about some of the criticisms of the life-raft style programs.  It was a very interesting hour.

This afternoon I traveled back to Yafo, after having started on a bus, but not only the bus was delayed, but then it broke down and I had to walks a bit and then hail a cab.  I was a couple minutes late, but made it to the Arab-Jewish Community Center, a beautiful modern facility overlooking the Med.  This was a co-existence project unlike any I have encountered.  The municipality of Yafo covers about 55,000 people, with about 35,000 Jews, and 20,000 Arabs.  The community center is just that – a place for the community to gather: after school programs, dance programs, martial arts, a library, a gymnasium, and workout gym for women, and a focus on tolerance programs.   The Center works with the Citizens Accord Forum for Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem (I met them last week), and sponsors a youth parliament for high school students (a similar program has existed in Haifa, under the same umbrella).   There is also a classroom exchange program in 3-4th grade, between Jewish and Arab public schools, where the kids do joint programs twice a month at the Community Center (and visit each other’s school at the end of the year).   There is a youth camp organized by the teenagers as well.  There are also programs aimed for women in the community, and a lot more, which I will explore in greater depth.   I was really impressed by the look and feel of the place.  Some of the programs – focused on dance – reminded me of the Netflix documentary “Dancing in Jaffa,” which I need to re-watch.

The day also included time for a run along the beach.  Oh that was fun.  A walk to Rabin Square (not worth it), and exploring some more Tel Aviv neighborhoods.  Tomorrow I have two meetings in the most commercial areas of the city —  Breaking the Impasse, and Eco Peace (Friends of the Earth Middle East).  That will wrap up my formal meetings for the trip.  I had to cancel the Abraham Fund meetings due to a conflict on their side, but Eco Peace was added.  I will also have a skype interview in a week or so with The Shades Negotiation Project.     And next week the hard work of digesting all of the materials and trying to make sense of what I experienced will begin.

I’m going to miss this incredible weather too.  Oh, it topped out at 84 today.  Totally atypical for February, but no one is complaining!

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