I always tell people that they don't need to leave Israel to experience new and foreign worlds. Israel has so many different types of people, neighborhoods and sites that culture shock is often just a bus ride away. That's why my wife and I are so excited about leaving Jerusalem's Rechavia neighborhood to live in Tel Aviv's Florentine district for ten days to experience and and compare Israel's two largest cities and their distinctly different ways of life.
Well, its not the only reason. My father, our landlord, comes to Israel every summer for a six-week visit, and while I love him, everyone needs a bit of space. Last summer, my wife Sara and I sublet a Tel Aviv loft for five weeks and had a great time. This year, the scheduling worked out a bit differently, but we were still glad to be able to pay another short visit to the "White City."
There is one more reason. As the founder and head of Janglo.net, Israel's largest online community for English speakers, I'm expected to be on top of the buzz in Israel's largest Anglo communities. While I have a good familiarity with Jerusalem's social, economic, and cultural environments, Tel Aviv has always been a bit more of a mystery to me. Spending this time getting to know the city is an invaluable opportunity to gain business insights and contacts.
Our 2011 journey is just starting today, but I'm still excited about what we found in Tel Aviv last year: a small, young, tight-knit, and very dynamic Tel Aviv community that very much reminded me of Jerusalem's bustling Katamon scene a decade ago. When I made aliya in 2000 to the singles' "swamp", Katamon's English speakers were much fewer in number, but with a lot of new olim who recognized a need for community building. The clubs, events, synagogues, and web sites they created or took over laid the social infrastructure that helped build our neighborhood into one of Israel's most important Anglo hubs.
Tel Aviv looks the same way to me right now. The young people I've met there all know each other, and they each seem to be working on a different social venture to make their city a better place. Underlying that is an excitement that is palpable anytime I ask the question "so how do you like Tel Aviv?" From what I have seen, if aliya continues to increase in the next few years as it has been, Anglo life in Israel's first all-Hebrew city is going to blossom in very exciting ways.
Of course, Tel Aviv's Anglo olim tend to be very different than their Jerusalem counterparts, and the needs are much different. The community is mostly secular and relatively young, and many of the social initiatives I've seen the use of nightclubs and rooftop parties to draw people together. That's an easy fit, since Tel Aviv is gaining recognition as one of the top party cities in the world, with non-stop music in every corner. That culture also means religious organizations have to be much more creative to attract people to their functions- and the rabbis and lay-leaders are rising to the challenge.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts during our short visit to this great city. Tel Aviv feels much farther from Jerusalem than just an hour by bus, but somehow, it also feels like home.
The author runs www.janglo.net, Israel's largest online community for English speakers. firstname.lastname@example.org