Twin Cities I – Tel Aviv

Hey there,

talking about Gaza yesterday and things that make you shake your head about the Middle East I had to think of another article I saved quite a while ago. Well, it is not as ridiculous as the Gazan’s claim of Israeli compensation for fired labourers due to the disengagement, not at all, but still … It still gives you that feeling you often get about the Middle East:

Tel Aviv decides to retain contract with Gaza City as `twin city` 

(Haaretz, Israel, 10 Feb. 2008 )

Tel Aviv’s municipal council on Sunday rejected a motion raised by Deputy Mayor Arnon Giladi (Likud) to rescind its “twin city” status with Gaza City, opting instead for Mayor Ron Huldai’s counter-proposal to freeze the relationship until “the return of better days.” […]

Okay, it’s true: Tel Aviv is special. I mean: It’s a city which is proud of it’s one-third homosexual population (which it owns its nickname “San Francisco of the Middle East” to). Of course that city would never cease partying as long as there is a single pub existing. No matter what is happening all around it. And remember that in Tel Aviv the beach adds to the pubs. Taking this into consideration its kinda … exotic twin city fits into the picture pretty well.

Besides it even fits into the political picture. Tel Aviv is about as far left winged as possible in the Middle East. Not when it comes to classical socialism issues – here Tel Aviv is rather capitalistic – but the more when it comes to questions of security and foreign policy. Mention “the settlements” at a conversation with a bunch of party-people and you’ll end up close to what Khaled Mashaal would say. Or the Kharedim – ultra orthodox Jews also referred to as “Penguins” – and you’ll get something that could get you in trouble with the police in Germany / Austria for antisemitism. The Palestine Authority, however, is often referred to as “the territories” or “the occupied territories” though sometimes I have been asking myself by whom it is occupied. And naturally Yom Yerushalayim is regarded more as a cause for protest then for celebration in Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is an issue of its own anyway. When I was living in Tel Aviv I would use a sentence atypically to Tel Avivim – without knowing it was at that time -:

“There is one thing about Jerusalem that is way more beautiful then everything else: The road back to Tel Aviv.”

True, on a good day you can go from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in about three quarters of an hour – on a bad day at sometime around 1 am it can take you 3 hours of traffic jam – buses and shirut take the majority of young Tel Avivim who have surrendered to the fact that a car won’t help you in the city of infinite traffic jams and rather finite parking places to Jerusalem every fifteen minutes. Even in the middle of the night. There also is a train but I guess that one is for decoration only for it takes about two to three hours and Jerusalem’s train station is somewhere out of town where I couldn’t even see it and was afraid about not finding a taxi (the rail leads through amazing nature though).

Yet when it comes to life Jerusalem and Tel Aviv couldn’t be much farther from each other. I don’t suppose anybody would wonder if somebody claimed they were on different worlds. It is said that people go to Tel Aviv to sin and to Jerusalem to pray (to Eilat to rest and to Haifa to work, but that’s another issue). If only it was as easy as that.

Bringing the difference between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on screen isn’t quite an easy task. A lot of it for sure is due to the time of the Intifada. I met Yerushalayimim who told me that during the Intifada going to Tel Aviv was like holiday. Because for them life just seemed to go on – whilst Tel Avivim told me that it naturally didn’t – there’s that difference between one suicide bomber per day and one every couple of days (or weeks). And of course there is the constant pressure related to all that hatred in Jerusalem. You have no idea what I had to listen to in cabs on my way to some conference in Jerusalem or so. No matter whether it was Jew or Arab, Jerusalem lives the whole cliche of the Middle East.





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