News flash: There’s cheap rental housing in Tel Aviv. Dirt cheap. So cheap, in
fact, that illegals from Ghana and Nigeria, Guatemala and Columbia, Thailand and
Outer Mongolia, can afford it. But that’s not where the privileged children of
the well-heeled classes wish to fulfill fantasies of Friends, Sex and the City
or Gossip Girl.
Indeed, the Old Central Bus Station environs, like the
Shapira or Hatikva quarters, aren’t Tel Aviv’s equivalents of
somewhere-fashionable-in-the-heart-of-Manhattan – where latter-day bohemians
reside in style while posing as suffering artistes and empathizing with the
downtrodden masses of the Earth.The equivalents are “Heart-of-Tel-Aviv”
neighborhoods (like the swanky Sheinkin drag), even select elitist edges of
Jaffa and that glorified-gentrified Florentin niche. But topping it all for
prestige and desirability is Tel Aviv’s “Old North,” radiating from the upmarket
Habimah Theater-Mann Auditorium hub.
At that posh pivot, trendsetters and
groupies pitched their tent city to campaign for lower/subsidized
rents. We, wage-earners in the rest of the country, are presumably
required to foot their extravagant bills and make Israel’s Manhattan ambiance
more affordable. Since Manhattan is so overpriced, the affectation becomes more
attainable in the homeland, in conditions of comparable comfort and proximity to
social focal points – where it’s all happening.
That, however, as
elsewhere in the world, is where it’s most expensive to rent the proper setting
for the pretentious pipe dream. It’s location, location, location – the greater
the demand, the higher the price-tag.
I personally know some of the
Rothschild Boulevard protest-instigators. I also know their affluent families
(whose incomes far exceed my own meager salary). They hail from my Sharon-region
hometown and from even better-off nearby communities.
Several of the
tent-happening’s ringleaders are my daughter’s erstwhile schoolmates and friends
to this day. Their exceptional good tastes have always meant shopping for
the most impressive brand-names and running up bills that annoyed even their
prosperous parents. They also gravitate to pricey eateries, drinking
holes and clubs.
One by one, they ditched manicured suburbia for the lure
and lights of ersatz Manhattan, where they can play the role of independent,
struggling young professionals.
Some are chronically “between jobs”
and/or between schools, seeking to find themselves and their true
calling. Some dabble in showbiz. They’re invariably agonized by the lack
of popular recognition for their outstanding talents and hidden depths. Some
smoke funny things, and all, without exception, are trendily left-wing – as
befits rebels against bourgeois mom and dad (who nonetheless help pay the rent
and provide laundry services).
Alas, they can’t quite formulate what they
want or quite how to go about achieving it. It’s all about the perceived
exhilaration, not the practical solution. The buzz is the message.
flaunt political affiliations like Hadash – the largely Arab remnant of the
local Communist Party, which is today headlined by MKs Muhammad Barakei, Haneen
Zoabi and token Jew Dov Henin. No wonder former Tel Aviv mayoral candidate Henin
was welcomed with whoops and cheers in tent city, whereas Mayor Ron Huldai
(Labor), who defeated Henin, was booed and rudely ejected.
Likud MK Miri
Regev, a social activist in her own right, was denounced as fascist and doused
with water. The fact that ritzy demonstrators blame their dire hardship on
settlers should have tipped her off.
Political patrons purchased nifty
tents for the sons and daughters of our well-to-do compatriots. These pampered
radicals, with less-moneyed hangers-on, hanker after thrills. They yearningly
eye Cairo’s Tahrir Square and cultivate visions of generating similar excitement
here. Note the pervasive anti-Bibi/bring-the-government- down slogans chanted by
the mobilized/manipulated thousands who joined their march last
The saddest facet of the farce is the uninhibited eagerness of
politicians to hitch a free ride on the flimsy coattails of Tel Aviv’s chic set.
Take the input of Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, for example. In a Yediot Aharonot
op-ed, he self-importantly reminded us that “the upheaval in Tunisia, which
felled its corrupt regime, began with the slapping of a cop’s face in the
market. I suggest our government regard the Rothschild protest as a slap in its
Doesn’t Yahav just know how to please his audience and deliver the
lines it wants to hear? It’s a knack he has often displayed in the
In 2006 he was asked during an interview with the Israeli
Arabic-language weekly Kul al-Arab
whether he’d accept in principle the return
to Haifa of “tens of thousands of Arab refugees” who left it in
Yahav replied he “wouldn’t mind their return” in the context of a
peace agreement, adding: “In all sincerity, I feel the refugees’ pain... because
my father, too, tasted the bitterness of homelessness and loss after he fled
There’s no ambiguity about Yahav’s motivations. As he stressed
in the interview, Haifa’s then-35,000 Arabs comprised 13 percent of its
population, and Haifa has become a magnet for Arab villagers (a fact Yahav
welcomed). Any politician worth his salt is bound to suck up to potential
Yet the problem wasn’t so much Yahav’s vote-getting scruples as
what his prattle portended. Yahav mindlessly echoed the outermost fringes of
Israel’s loony Left who explicitly advocate what the Arabs sanctify as “the
Right of Return” – i.e., inundating Israel with millions of hostile, irredentist
Arabs, thereby wiping the Jewish state off the map.
That confirmed Yahav
as an expedient follower of any fashion – even that of voguish avant-garde
circles, for whom faddishly thumbing noses at the Jewish collective is de
rigueur and proof positive of enlightenment. Yahav’s chatter is alarming
because he’s no oddball iconoclast but a solid rock of the establishment, a
veteran Laborite before jumping on Kadima’s bandwagon.
overlooked incidental minor details. His father never launched bloody attacks to
throw Germans into the sea and replace Germany with a Jewish Reich. Odds are
Yahav’s father didn’t slaughter a single German. He didn’t stab, shoot, burn,
ambush, bomb or otherwise mass-murder German passers-by
Indeed, his father probably sported a thoroughly
Germanized name and did his darnedest to blend in and convince all and sundry of
his Teutonic traits. The fact that Germans still wanted him dead attests not
only to the futility of obsequious gestures, but to the incontrovertible need
for a strong Jewish state.
Why didn’t Yahav remind his interviewer that
the flight of Haifa Arabs in 1948 alarmed Jewish leaders, who desperately tried
to stop it? Ben-Gurion sent Golda to Haifa Beach to plead with departing Arabs,
but they were terrified of their despots. Yahav could have cited for the benefit
of Kul al-Arab
readers Ben-Gurion’s May 5, 1948, diary entry, in which he
expresses puzzlement at the Arab abandonment of Haifa.
“What could cause
so many thousands to flee thus?” Ben-Gurion asked in his own private journal.
Discussing Haifa’s desertion on May 11, 1948, Golda admitted: “We entered this
war unprepared for victory.”
Was Yahav unaware of this? Maybe not. Just
as maybe, deep inside, he understands that his Tunisia-Tel Aviv analogy is
But is there any opportunity ambitious politicos would pass up?