Sunday was our second full day in Tel Aviv. It was a day of contrasts, both visual and psychological. Compared to my last visit in 1976, Tel Aviv has grown from a seacoast town with one tall building to a metropolis with many modern office and residential towers springing up, from its 1909 beginnings on sand dunes, in spread-out locations interspersed with many historical original buildings that the developers are required to maintain as a condition of constructing the adjacent highrises. This phenomenon was best viewed as a panoramic scene from our hotel’s rooftop swimming pool.
The morning started with a walking tour of a quiet residential neighborhood with more human-scaled 1930s Bauhaus homes with their simple lines and utilitarian form; Tel Aviv has the highest concentration of this architectual style of any city in the world.
Next to the home of poet Chaim Nachman Bialik our Jerusalemite tour guide, Zvi Levran, read Bialik’s poem “In the City of Slaughter”, which disparages Jewish victimhood, implicitly urging that Jews be the subject of history rather than its objects. In this modern Western city we observe and are a part of the success of normalcy. At the same time, is the new normalcy a failure of uniqueness? There is no sense of a siege mentality in this bustling city.
Beyond the sights and poetry is the immediate happy feeling of being immersed in a culture that assumes its Jewish identity. Lilith (9) told us that she likes being in a place where there are so many Jewish people and that she wants to move to Tel Aviv. This may stem from swimming in the Mediterranean on two successive days.
Ido, the youth educator, is doing a remarkable job of keeping the eight youngsters engaged–on and off the bus–at their individual age levels. In that regard, the Palmach Museum, which portrays the stories of the fledgling state’s elite strike force with expeiential immediacy, is somewhat problematic for younger partipants–Lilith told Ido that it was “scary and sad.” (She’ll be going to the zoo when we attend the Holocaust museum.)
After “participating” in the meeting where Ben Gurion declared an independent Jewish state, one is left with the notion that Herzl’s statement “If you will it, it is no dream” entails a constancy of will.