Viva Tel Aviv!!

Conde Nast Traveler – June 2009
by Adam LeBor

In its centenary year, Adam LeBor traces how a city founded on a beach has become a 24/7 phenomenon of hyperactive Mediterranean style

Here’s the answer to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Not two but three states: Israel, Palestine, and Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is already a world of its own. Nowhere else in Israel—in the entire Middle East—has such a hedonistic lifestyle, tolerant mentality, and spirited gay and lesbian community. No wonder its nickname, half self-ironic jest, half jealous sneer, is Ha-Buah, The Bubble. I have been visiting Tel Aviv for thirty years, since I was a teenager, and something always draws me back. Part of it is the sheer sense of wonder that this city founded on the sands in 1909, by meshuga (crazy) Zionist pioneers, not only still exists a hundred years later but crackles with energy twenty-four hours a day. In a century it’s grown from nothing to a sophisticated metropolis, home to about 390,000 people. It has an internationally renowned university, a stock exchange, a vibrant media and music scene, numerous museums and art galleries, electric nightlife, and world-class restaurants. Its inhabitants are engagingly friendly and often extremely beautiful, and love to party. Phones don’t start ringing for the night’s action until ten at the earliest, and it lasts until dawn.

That said, Israelis appreciate straight talk. The Hebrew conditional must be the world’s most underused tense. So they won’t be offended when I say that despite Tel Aviv’s many virtues, on first impression the city is hard to fall in love with. Israel’s cultural and business capital is the epicenter of an urban sprawl stretching up the coast, much of which is not beautiful. The tower-block hotels strung out along Tel Aviv’s seafront look like downtown Frankfurt. Drab parking lots punctuate the spaces between the buildings. A four-lane road, choked with traffic, runs parallel to the Tayelet, the seafront promenade. Even the city’s name is a misnomer. Tel Aviv means “Hill of Spring,” yet the city is almost completely flat, and there is no spring. Cold, wet winters jump directly to hot, humid summers.

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