Sunday, January 18, 2009

"But You Don't Feel Anything"

"People in Tel-Aviv don't know anything, they live in a bubble."

I've been told, again and again, that people in Tel-Aviv live in their own bubble, that they care about nothing more than sitting at cafes with their puppies, going a couple left-wing rallies a month, and enjoying the nightlife here. A few weeks ago, as the war was raging down in Gaza, I was at a kiddush in Jerusalem with a friend. One of his friends started harping on about how people in Tel-Aviv (she's been living in Jerusalem and is American) don't know anything about anything else in Israel, about how we're all in a *magic bubble.* 

If anything, living in Tel-Aviv has exposed me to far more points of view than I would have seen had I lived in a suburb. Tel-Aviv is filled with people who fit perfectly and easily into Israeli society and are part of it's elite, but also with people who can't seem to fit in or who exist on the edges. Within Tel-Aviv, there have been protests for against and the war, for the IDF and for the people of Gaza. The thought that Tel-Avivis are unaffected is almost tragically inaccurate, I was in a taxi a week and a half ago, and the driver kept swaying back and forth with a book in his hands. I asked him what was wrong, and he turned around and said sharply: "Our country is at WAR! Four my children are back doing their reserve duty in the army-3 of them in Aza. I'm one of 11 children, and we're a very patriotic family, so my nieces and nephews and their husbands and wives are also in Aza." I've watched people on buses, far more than usual, swaying back and forth and mumbling prayers. No, Tel-Aviv hasn't forgotten that it is in the same country as Sderot, a tiny town next to the Negev that has received much of the pounding from Hamas.  

I've realized that there is a sense of jealousy towards Tel-Avivis from much of the rest of the Israeli population, or perhaps it's just tension. You see it in the way that they defensively tell you that "their place" (in the suburbs, usually) is "so much quieter" and "more pleasant." (The most noise that I hear from my apartment is babies crying in the nearby park, and unfortunately crying babies also exist in the suburbs. And possibly the rudest incidents that I've ever witnessed in Israel have happened in the suburbs.) I've been wondering, lately, if there's any way for Tel-Aviv's spirit, for the flow that Tel-Aviv has, to grow outwards-so that the suburbs become more interesting places? Is there any way to spread this climate out to the suburbs, so that instead of everyone flocking to Tel-Aviv more people would flock north, south, and east? I learned in art class that all the "cool rock clubs" in the 1960's (by "cool" my teacher meant "only") were in two of the most "disgusting" cities, Ramla and Lod. I went to Lod recently, by accident, and felt overcome by a wave of grayness. 

Recently, to continue my obsession with this city and its streets, I bought: "Tel-Aviv: A City Guide." A frank, insightful, and posh look at "what's up" in Tel-Aviv. It's also great for tourists and longer-term visitors, because it has so many maps and helps visitors understand the different parts of the city.