Gala Opening Ceremony   

Bialik Street , 4/2/2009

Tel Aviv, Israel's cultural and entertainment hub, kicked off its centennial celebrations on Thursday as only it can - with a festive pageant featuring the brightest names and biggest stars in film, theatre, music, and literature.

Appropriately, the inaugural event was held in the city's original municipality building, located on the street bearing the name of one of the city's literary heroes, Haim Nahman Bialik.

With Bialik Street cordoned off and recreated to simulate the city as it was a century ago, a who's who of political, cultural, and business personalities - dignitaries, actors, ambassadors, comedians, corporate executives, government ministers, former mayors, Knesset members - descended on Bialik Square.

Large projectors beamed grainy footage of pre-state Tel Aviv against the Bauhaus style apartment buildings that have garnered global acclaim. Some of Israel's brightest talents in the arts staged skits and melodious playlets that, for one night, reminded the audience of the humble yet effervescent origins of the first Hebrew city, the crown jewel of the Zionist enterprise.

"If there is something that characterizes this city in its 100 years of existence, it is the practical side of it thanks to which its workers and residents turned grand dreams into reality," said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. "In Tel Aviv, the Jewish people created the model of renewed independence in the Land of Israel."

"Jerusalem is tradition, while Tel Aviv is renewal," President Shimon Peres told the assembled crowd. "It lets us be jovial people and it demands of us an earnest creativity."

"Tel Aviv is a city for everyone," the president said. "It is an invitation for all ages. It was built without pause and is still being built."

The festivities will continue for several weeks, with many streets, plazas and boulevards throughout the city taking part in street theater and concerts. On Saturday night, Rabin Square will be the venue for a musical extravaganza, with appearances by many of Israel's most prominent artistes and a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta.

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