We’re moving apartments in a week or so, from tranquil suburbia to Tel Aviv. I’m
quite excited about the move, to be honest; I’ve always been a city boy at
heart. Suburban life is pleasant, but it’s just not for me. I’ve missed the
hustle and bustle of metropolitan life, the variety and diversity of the big
Tel Aviv has everything I need: coffee shops, liberal bohemian
culture, beautiful people, the beach... yup, it feels like I’m going
Of course, I’m talking about north Tel Aviv.
councillor Binyamin Babayoff’s recent outburst – followed closely by the
issued by 25 south Tel Aviv rabbis – to the effect that the Talmud
letting apartments to gentiles, I could pretend that the south of the
wasn’t an option for reasons beyond my control.
I mean, I’m not
religious, but I’m not one to get between a man and his God.
would be untrue. The neighborhoods of Hatikva and Neveh Sha’anan were
the cards when we were flat-hunting, because they’re not terribly nice
live. They weren’t an option because we’re lucky enough to have a
On one point, we can all agree: Whenever the upmarket
international magazines and style supplements commission fawning pieces
how gorgeous Tel Aviv is, their wide-eyed writers won’t be sampling
Har Zion streets; what’s the point when one can find the “authentic” Tel
just up the road in Neve Tzedek? The southern neighborhoods don’t do
for the nice PR picture of Tel Aviv as the cosmopolitan center of the
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
But let’s be frank: Not very many of us know very much about the
south of Tel Aviv, either. A glimpse from a car or a train; the
misfortune of having to change buses in that labyrinthine hell, the
By and large, the impoverished neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv
don’t feature very prominently in our bourgeois imagination. Which is
becomes so easy to be shocked and surprised when people start spouting
about “filthy infiltrators,” and the like.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not
sanctioning what Babayoff and the rabbis have to say about the shifting
demographic landscape of south Tel Aviv. My point is that it is a
narrative; when one scratches beneath the surface of their petty
something else emerges.
The surprising thing about south Tel Aviv is how
little it has actually changed over the years. True, there are more
Asiatic faces now than before, but the general decay and neglect of the
neighborhoods is much the same now as it was a decade ago. Trash remains
uncollected, public spaces are untended.
This part of town really is the
land that time forgot.
If I lived in south Tel Aviv, I’d be pretty miffed
that social amenities and services do not even begin to match those a
miles further north. I’d be angry about the fact that schools are
and that teachers are obliged to achieve much more with our children
less; I’d be annoyed that beautification projects and schemes bypass the
of the city that I call home.
The temptation to blame the urban blight on
the new populations – and it is telling that loaded words like “influx”
“infiltrators” are so often tossed about like confetti – is strong. But
to avoid engaging with complex facts.
LET’S IMAGINE that someone gave
Babayoff or the rabbis a magic wand with which to make the horrid
workers and goyim disappear. He no doubt imagines that crime would
overnight, that the streets would bloom with flowers, that children
hand in hand along pristine streets, and so on.
Beyond this, there is the fairytale that suggests the new
populations are universally freeloaders, fake asylum-seekers abusing the
generosity of the Israeli state for their own gain.
Um... well, one can
believe this if one wishes. But it isn’t true. Most immigrants – legal
illegal, migrants or refugees – work. They work pretty hard.
pretty hard because they have to, and for relatively low wages.
a separate argument, perhaps for another day, waiting to be had about
of bringing in foreigners to work in low-paid jobs. But my point is that
majority of the people Babayoff loathes so much are here because the
needs them as much as they need the country.
Perhaps it’s easier to brush
him and the rabbis off as part of an illiberal religious minority. But
would be just as dishonest.
Tel Aviv as a whole has a responsibility for
the condition of south Tel Aviv. To pretend that it doesn’t exist, that
merely a manifestation of religious demagoguery, would be hypocritical.
would be to disclaim responsibility for the situation and to avoid the
do anything about it.
Admittedly, there is always something a bit
seductive about anti-clerical rhetoric – especially if one is as godless
am. But then, I remember a story my mother tells about life in England
London was a far different place then from what it is today: It
was commonplace to see adverts for lodgings come with the caveat, “No
Dogs, No Irish.”
Racial prejudice was institutionalized; this wasn’t too
long after the infamous Smethwick election campaign and the abhorrent –
admittedly catchy – electioneering slogan “If you want a nigger for a
Nice times, huh? My parents, with a small child – my older
sister – needed a bigger place to live, and struggled for a while to
accommodating landlord. But they persevered, and succeeded in the end.
landlord, by all accounts, was a fair and kindly man, although he used
the wits out of my sister when he came to collect the rent.
probably the hat and beard that did it for her; he was a hassidic Jew,
Mum still hasn’t forgotten, 40 years on; I do hope that 40 years
from now, there’ll be second- or third-generation immigrants with
stories to tell about south Tel Aviv.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>