The beauty of Tel Aviv

By Haaretz Editorial , 5/1/2009

The Festival of Spring, Passover, will find Tel Aviv celebrating its 100th birthday. Although the events will take place in the city's avenues and street, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that marking the establishment of the first Hebrew city is a national holiday of sorts.

Ever since its beginnings as Ahuzat Bayit on the coastal sands, the city has been a symbol of modernity, openness and freedom. That is how it's seen by tourists and locals alike.

There's a good reason it's called "the nonstop city." Tel Aviv breathes, shakes and buzzes 24 hours of every day of the year. Even its name has become synonymous with an informal, easygoing atmosphere.

Over the years, Tel Aviv has been lucky enough to have some gifted planners and successful mayors who shaped some impressive features into the city. It is considered the capital of the Bauhaus style and the traces of the quaint beauty of the "garden city" concept are still visible in how it integrates community parks with low buildings. And Tel Aviv's beach boasts a pleasant and broad boardwalk.

Preservation efforts have restored prestige and glamour to once-beautiful buildings and whole streets have been renovated to become more beautiful than ever. The neglected boulevards of yesteryear have been renovated as well, and are now inviting and brimming with life.

Museums, galleries, concert halls and theaters, a university campus and private and public colleges, a large central park and sports centers - all provide culture, entertainment and education to the city's residents, attracting people from across the land.

But Israel's main city - a radical antithesis to Jerusalem and its increasingly ultra-Orthodox trends and penury - which has developed into a metropolis resembling its Western counterparts, has two notable strikes against it: an inadequate public transport system and filth.

Public transport is Tel Aviv's weak point. Since the 1970s, governments have deliberated on and passed resolutions to create an advanced public transport system such as a subway or light rail, with ample capacity and a ready bus network. Anything to free up the ever-inflating congestion that clogs the city's exit and entrance points and paralyzes the traffic inside.

All the plans have been delayed, owing to various excuses and through a tiresome chain of events, as pollution, overcrowding and financial burdens have gradually intensified.

Tel Aviv's blossoming as Israel's business and employment center is especially striking against the backdrop of Israel's other cities and their gradual decline. Effective transport to create a rapid link between the north and south of the country will also ease this socioeconomic hardship.

Filth on the street also plagues the city like a grim shadow. No mayor has been able to eradicate it. But despite all this, and even though many of its neighborhoods are still spectacularly ugly, it seems the words of one Tel Aviv poet fit the city very well. "There are prettier ones," Nathan Alterman wrote, "but none share its beauty."

Even the derogatory nickname which has been applied to Tel Aviv, "the bubble," need not offend the city. Bubbles too are sometimes necessary for countries in search of a normal life.
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