Sunday, August 31, 2008

Berlin Magendavidplatz

There's one place in Tel-Aviv where you can buy a frilly red dress at one in the morning, and that's Berlin.

Is it a boutique, with the cheapest bar in the city thrown in for good measure? Is it a speakeasy, camouflaged by racks full of cloths? I think it's a city. Berlin is a common Israeli last name, but no one named that is involved with "Salon Berlin". Rather, there's something about the place that reminds me of Prenzlauerberg in the late 90s. It's too cool for school, with its nerd-punk vibe, its weird little sculpture shows, its free for all D.J. position, its trash movie nights (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, scariest film ever!) and left-leaning political soirées. Salon Berlin recreates something that is beyond Berlin, it's the myth of Berlin.

That myth fits Tel-Aviv wonderfully. There's a cafe in Jerusalem situated between Gaza Street and Berlin Street, it is named: "Twixt Gaza and Berlin". These are precisely the coordinates of the Israeli existence, and even more precisely, the Tel-Avivian one. This city resembles Gaza in its topography and layout (though considering Gaza's current situation, any comparison between the two cities seems vulgar), at the same time it aspires to be a Berlin: youthful, ever reinventing itself, exploding with artistic action.

This is no new thing. Tel-Aviv first became a decent city when German Jews, dubbed "Yekkes", escaped Hitler and came to Palestine. They were for the most part not idealistic Zionists who chose to come here and create a romantic, agricultural Jewish utopia. Rather, they preferred an urban environment, a cafe, a kiosk, a museum, a petit bourgeoisie existence, a Berlin.

Late at night, the tiny cafe at the back of Salon Berlin is both a showcase of how successful their endeavor was, and of the strange path their dream has taken. Their grandchildren are here, drinking both beer (first brewed in the Middle East by Yekkes in 1935) and Arak. At one point some of us get drunk and go try on clothes. I look bad in all of them. never mind, going to Germany in three days, I'll do my nighttime shopping there


nadavappel said...

How long are you gonna be in Germany? I'm there in October...

(And Salon Berlin is indeed marvelous!)

Yuval said...

Only staying for one to two weeks this month (depending on how many German stories I manage to pitch to the Hebrew press). No time to hang out together around here before I leave, we should do that before you do. I certainly miss you and those long nights at Hashem's

EllaDan said...

when do you leave? how do you know about alexanderplatz? i watched that in a german cinema course at school.

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