Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Quiet 61st Independence Day

If you were anywhere near the beach in Tel Aviv, yesterday's independence day may have seen strange. Compared to last year the beaches were practically deserted. There were some people taking in the early summer sun, but certainly not a busy day by any measure. Apparently everyone was out BBQ-ings... that's the latest Israeli past time during holidays. Well, here are a few photos from the beach:

Taking in the rays... the beaches are still a great place to relax, cool, and work on that famous Israeli summer sun.

A view from the end of Ben Gurion street down to the Tel Aviv marina. From the look of it very few sailors were out on the water.

Vanilla ice cream at one of the beach restaurants. If you were after a burger or a cold drink there were plenty of open tables. Early summer vacationers are starting to show up. You can certainly start to hear the English, French and other languages among the beach goers. Read More...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pictures from April in Tel Aviv

Family before a casual Seder - Passover (Pesach) is the traditional family meal and reading of the hagada (Israelite liberation from slavery in Egypt story / Exodus)

Strawberries in the Carmel shook. When they are in season it's the most delicious snack you can imagine. Season lasts 2 to 4 weeks. A basket of 400 to 600 grams (about a pound) is 10 to 20 shekels (2 to 5 dollars).

Old and new buildings in Tel Aviv. The city moved old Templar buildings to make room for the expansion of Kaplan street. Notice the new and old buildings in harmony or opposition?


Independence day - warm - dry

We have been having a drought for the last five years. This summer Tel Aviv will cut down on watering parks all over the city. There is also a ban on watering private lawns. But somehow it does not seem to worry too many people. After all, the idea of a "green line" is a testament to people turning desert into green. Before the international media and the Palestinians turned the "green line" into a political phrase it was a geographic term. From the air you can see the outline of Israel in green. How about that for green living? Eventually the water had to end - maybe we were just too ambitious.

The nice result of drought is how people compensate. It seems like there are many less water thirsty alternatives in the flower shops. It also seems like people can do with less ambitious gardens. A friend had a huge porch full of green bushes. On highrise residential buildings people with porches or large windows tend to build their own little garden, it's an alternative to having a small garden on the first floor. Well, this friend decided to get rid of all the high water demand plants. So she put in indigenous grasses and plants. There was not much demand for local plants for a while... Is this a trend we should all follow? not just in Tel Aviv, Israel?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

A week between sadness and pride

This week is a secular events week in Tel Aviv. Last week was the holocaust memorial day and this week is Israel independence day and secular remembrance for the Israeli soldiers day. It feels like the secular days of awe, equivalent to the days between Rosh Ha'shana (Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur (day of atonement). Holocaust memorial in Tel Aviv this year felt quiet. As if everyone said "shhh... let me do this alone" inside their head. The slow economy is helping, there are less people in cafes and window shopping. Tel Aviv is celebrating 100 and there is a sense of how this city is uniquely Israeli. The sense of something built in a way that was not built before but without really throwing everything away. It is a strange concepts to think of Tel Aviv as the first completely Israeli city. Until Israel had confidence in it's own culture it was called the first Jewish city in 2,000 years.

Rounding Up Jews

If you ask most Israelis they would tell you how strange and painful holocaust memorial has been. For years the survivors did not want to mention what they went through. Today when they are in their 70's and 80's we actually have more awareness and there is a trend of new stories in the media (a new TV series and many new books). But we also find survivors poor and without the ability to stand for themselves. The state feels guilty about the way people who went through hell are treated (badly). On the opposite end, holocaust memorial ceremonies are being celebrated (ostentatiously? some say). It seems like a sad turn of events to feel this way. There is no way not to be confused about the most violent event in our history. There is no way to care for people who "went to hell and came back to tell about it" and feel in any way satisfied. Many holocaust survivors say that living in Israel and seeing children and grandchildren thrive is the best revenge to Hitler. That may be true for some. If this is the case, Tel Aviv as the first real Israeli city is even a bigger revenge.

But for some reason very few people seem to feel revengeful. Contrary to what you may hear from Arab and European media, Tel Avivians just want to live in peace. They are much more worried about daily issues like real estate prices and job security than revenge against Arabs or Germans. With two generations between World War II and today, this makes sense. On the other hand, the scars from the past do affect our pride and desire to keep our country and city alive. More than that, if revenge means living, we are living like there is no tomorrow. There is passion for life here. Tel Aviv, a thriving city, is a result of this drive to live fully and create something for the next generation. This sense of responsibility for the future is not something people talk about, but the feeling is there.

This mix of a responsibility to the past and responsibility to the future is an interesting situation. I have not seen this in many other new cities. Some places want to be old and stay that way. Jerusalem is a good example. For the most part even building style is still an echo to surviving architecture of 400 years ago. Tel Aviv did not try to mimic Islamic or Turkish or even crusade era architecture. But it also does not try to erase the period architecture from the early days of the city. It is not a modern landscape like you see in Europe and even in the modernized Asian cities. People tend to decide how a place look and Tel Aviv style echoes the feeling of remembering the past and worrying about the future.