It was the camera: We happened to have it on us for 36 hours while hanging out in the city. Going over the images we discovered a rather rich day and a half. Suddenly we were proud.
Tel-Aviv, we learned anew, is lively, diverse and edgy. Is it the best city ever? I'm offering a challenge. Here are thirteen shots and a few words that describe 36 hours around this town. Give your city a similar showcase, either on a blog or a photo site, and post the link as a comment to this blog (anyone can).
The contestant who's city is chosen as coolest-looking, will receive a weekend for two of hospitality in Tel-Aviv, including a comfy place to stay, finest food, and the insider's tour. All non-winners will nevertheless become V.I.P.s with their local tourist boards.
Here are our 36 hours:
Thursday at 1:30 P.M. we met Nimrod for a shave at Rafi the barber's.
Rafi learned his art over in distant Uzbekistan. He delivers an old fashioned treat complete with a massage of the temples and a sudden release of the neck.
There was a festival of street art, mostly conceptual contemporary stuff, going on in one of the most derelict streets of the Southend. Mesilat Yesharim street, cuttting though the Shapira Burrough, received pleny of new wall painting (some of which betraying Tel-Aviv's left-leaning, pacifist and pro-compromise spirit).
There was a speaker's corner complete with a cardboard podium and a place where artworks can be exchanged for one another, There were video art works pojected in the local beauty parlors and bakeries, lots of pieces that communicated beautifully with the neighborhood's history and values, and the always intriguing performance work of Maya Pasternak.
All that and innovative cyclists too.
We went on from there to the launch of a new book by Yoav Ezra, a banker, a poet, and a Dustin Hoffman lookalike. Most members of the poetry crowd, ("The Little Prince scene") were present.
That night ended at home. We had a couch-surfer visit us and preferred cooked artichokes and vodka in the kitchen over the city's other offerings. The following day, however, going out was a must. Friends of Itka organized a massive street party in an area inhabited mostly by work immigrants and African refugees. They got 150 people to bring food to their potluck, so there was free food from the Philippines, Nepal, and Israel. There was a tango performance, some Eritrean hip-hop, and plenty of good atmosphere.
The tango was well received, have you noticed the copycats in the front row?
But if you want atmosphere in this city, you have to wait for night. This Friday night was a rooftop party at Zach's with plenty of the cheapest alcohol money can buy. This ending may not be classy, it's at least it's fittingly rock n'roll. If there's anything this city can be proud of it's its authentically grungy spirit. The way we make sense of the peeling concrete environment in which we live is to flow with it, and allow our hearts to peel as well. Somehow we ended up in the heart of the difficult Middle East. We see only one way to deal with that, and that is to say: anything goes. What do your cities have to show for themselves? Pray tell and bring the competition on.