The young beauty is celebrating its 100th birthday
Sticking to proper English grammar rules, one would have to refer to Tel Aviv as “It”. You will excuse me, as for me Tel Aviv has always been a living organism, so I shall refer to Tel Aviv as a “She”, and a glorious She for that matter.
People either hate Tel Aviv or love her. It is simply impossible to be indifferent to her. So many songs have been sung about her, so many poems have been written, glorifying her decadent beauty. The city by the sea, hot and humid in the summer, wallowing in the sands of the Mediterranean, the salt eating the flesh of her buildings, was the home and exile and muse of the first Hebrew poets. Young and angry, hungry for new identities they sat in small cafes, drinking and smoking their lives away, arguing like their lives depended on a word, a phrase or an idiom. They fought for their ideas and ideals to the last drop. Tel Aviv absorbed them and became the cultural capital of Israel.
Now those young enthusiastic youngsters are just street names, other poets live in those streets, enthusiastically reinventing that same old wheel.
What is the secret of her charms?
For her 100th birthday I would like to tell you about her virtue. Have a seat, it might take a while.
This is the first article in a series about Tel Aviv.
Let’s begin at the end
Tel aviv’s official population stands today at 391,300 residents. However, this number does not include the many young people who rent apartments and do not bother to register. Tel Aviv, which is spread over 33 square miles, is considered to be Israel’s cultural capital.
There is a university in Tel Aviv, as well as three large museums:
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art
The Eretz Israel Museum for archeology and history of the land of Israel, and Bet Hatefutsoth Museum for Jewish history (). In addition there are numerous small museums and galleries. There are three big theaters, an opera house and a few busy fringe theaters.
Tel Aviv is known for her vivid night life and numerous cafes.
But that is not what makes her so special.
What’s in a name
Tel Aviv is named after the utopian novel written by Theodor Herzl (the founder of the political Zionism) in 1902 called Altneuland in the German origin, which means the old-new land.
This novel reveals the outline of the vision Herzl had for the Jewish state, not just a refuge for the Jewish people but a cultural and spiritual center.
In those days, mind you, he needed quite an imagination to anticipate such a notion. The novel became one of Zionism’s establishing texts and was translated into Hebrew by Nahum Sokolov, who poetically translated the name to Tel Aviv.
The word ‘Tel’ in Hebrew means Mound – a man-made hill covering the remains of an ancient settlement. The word ‘Aviv’ in Hebrew means spring – which metaphorically is used in all languages to describe revival and renewal. So as you can see a lot lies in the name of this city: it is full of contradictions. Old and new, beautiful and ugly (like any big metropolis it contains both) intellectual and materialistic etc.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
A kind of naïve romantic story lies behind the establishment of Tel Aviv, and the unbelievable rapid growth she went through reflects the story of the Jewish state. The story of its unique architecture mirrors the “split personality” that all Israelis have to some extent. In its folds we will find the incredible story of the revival of Hebrew language. We will discuss all that in the next coming weeks. Meanwhile here is a little teaser: