socca 224 88.
(photo credit: Hannah Weitzer)
A tall young man leaps up onto a bar and starts pouring vodka down the throats of dozens of ecstatic revelers, their heads stretched back, while hundreds of others gyrate to the sounds of the DJ as the party at a trendy Tel Aviv nightclub rages into the wee hours of morning.
Nothing new here. Sounds like almost any Thursday, Friday or Saturday night in Tel Aviv.
Except that this party is on a Monday, the tall man on the bar is from San Diego and the young people whose faces are splashed with vodka are from London, LA, Sydney and Cape Town - as is almost everybody else in this nightclub.
One could imagine that these people feel entirely at home rather than at an exclusive Israeli nightclub overlooking one of the Mediterranean's most lively beaches. Not known to stand out at Israeli nightclubs, young Anglo immigrants appear to have finally found their groove.
While Jerusalem is undeniably alive with a young, vibrant, sustained (though somewhat tamer) Anglo immigrant scene, a walk through the city's German Colony on any night clearly highlights how the existence of an Anglo nightlife community in Tel Aviv is a more delicate affair.
While the young Anglos in the nation's capital gather in various locations and in all seasons, their counterparts in the coastal "city that never sleeps" find they are somewhat left out of the frantic stream of what Time magazine recently called the "Mediterranean's most unlikely capital of cool."
For new and not-so-new Anglo olim, trying to strike up conversations and make connections in Tel Aviv's mega-clubs, dance bars and rooftop parties requires a level of confidence and Hebrew not all of them have. There are those who use their Anglo identity as a lever to attract others, but for many, the common practice is to try and blend in, to be Israeli.
In addition, many Anglos in Israel are on the on-line social networking site Facebook - so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Anglos in Tel Aviv are connecting offline through Facebook as well.
This past summer, San Diego native Brad Bernstein (the guy standing on the bar) started the Facebook group "Mondays @ Socca," a line of parties at a new club on Tel Aviv's promenade overlooking the Gordon Pool. Sending out messages through the Facebook group, as well as countless SMS messages and phone calls, Bernstein has managed to create what promises to be a sustainable Anglo scene - the only large one outside the regular groups of South Africans, Brits, Australians and New Zealanders who gather at Dizengoff's MASH bar to watch rugby and cricket, and the more staid, tourist-centered scene further down the beach at Mike's Place and the Buzz Stop. At Socca, English is the dominant tongue, and native-born Israelis are the minority.
The Monday night party at Socca began about two months ago, when a mutual friend put Socca's owners in touch with Bernstein, who works promoting parties in Tel Aviv. Socca was looking for publicity to put the new bar on the map of Tel Aviv nightlife, and Bernstein was hoping to create a scene for Anglo immigrants and long-term residents to come together, away from the standard tourist venues.
Over the summer, Mondays at Socca consistently attracted some 200-250 young Tel Aviv Anglos, and the numbers have risen with every event. Bernstein estimates that about 70 percent of attendees are Anglo immigrants, and the rest are native Israelis. However, the percentage of the former seems much higher.
Many Anglo partygoers report that however long they have been in Israel - from six weeks to six or more years - most of their friends are other immigrants. This phenomenon is not unique to the Anglo community in Israel; groups of new residents traditionally find comfort in the familiar, and the larger the immigrant group, the easier it is to remain insular.
Already familiar with Facebook, Bernstein had previously created a group called "Bars in Tel Aviv that are fun in the summer other than Clara," which networked partygoers and helped them explore new hot spots. Clara is still considered the most popular Tel Aviv night spot, with thousands of revelers lining up for hours on end to get inside.
He then opened "Mondays @ Socca," which quickly grew to almost 200 members, many of whom have become regulars. Word spread from there, and some people who met at the parties went on to connect on Facebook. The rest is history.
But does the nascent Anglo scene in Tel Aviv have a future? While Socca patrons cite language barriers and cultural differences as the main deterrents keeping Anglos in Israel from integrating into Israeli social circles, several regulars at Socca's Monday scene describe themselves adamantly as Israeli, even if they struggle with Hebrew and their friends are almost exclusively Anglo.
The Socca scene does not represent all young Anglos in Tel Aviv. There are also smaller circles of Tel Aviv Anglos who are more likely to run into friends at neighborhood dives like the Minzar and Shylock than at Socca.
Bernstein is confident he can keep the scene going.
"The olim Anglo crowd are very social and looking for places to go out and meet interesting people all the time, and in a way that is hip, rather than going to Mike's Place and Buzz Stop, which they perceive as catering more to the tourists. The want to be part of trendy Tel Aviv," he says.
"I get messages on Facebook all the time saying they want to meet new people. I'm trying to get some Israelis to these parties, especially friends of friends, those who are immersed within the Anglo community. Anglos have some mixed feelings about Israelis in general, but obviously everyone is welcome," says Bernstein.
As a next step, Bernstein plans to extend the weekly Anglo party to a new venue, and is expanding the concept beyond the club scene into nature hikes and football teams.