The paradoxes of Tel Aviv and Israel

Cultural Insights, Travel Destinations — By on July 24, 2008 at 7:32 am

There was an interesting recent article about Tel Aviv in the New York Times travel section. It’s interesting because it not only gives the typical tourist overview of a destination, but it gets into the culture and the psyche of Tel Aviv and Israel. An excerpt:

Tel Aviv is “half Iran, half California; it’s a synagogue meets a sushi bar,” says the writer and lifelong Tel Aviv resident Etgar Keret… “This is a country that on the one hand is so conservative that we don’t have public transportation on Saturdays, but on the other hand is so open that we sent a transsexual to the Eurovision Song Contest,” says Mr. Keret. “Israel is full of contradiction. In Jerusalem, this contradiction means separation. But it doesn’t in Tel Aviv.”

For Israelis, the 45 minutes that separate Jerusalem from Tel Aviv are a fitting metaphor for the cultural gulf they see between, on the one hand, the hidebound, pious cradle of world religion and, on the other, the libertine, nightclub-filled Mediterranean idyll. But for us visitors, the proximity of the two cities is a huge boon — it’s rare that you can pair a beach vacation with 5,000 years of history…

Tel Avivans are quick to point out that their city is less suffused with history than Jerusalem, and that that is what makes their city so hospitable to newcomers and to people who don’t fit in elsewhere. Perhaps, like others in the Middle East, Tel Avivans must perforce set their gaze on the present.

Along with the story there is a slide show about Tel Aviv, titled “The Capital of Mediterranean Cool.” 

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