Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
■ EARLY THIS month Tel Aviv hosted the first of seven thematic meetings leading up to the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (UN Habitat III). Held every 20 years, this is the third conference of its kind, aimed at reinvigorating global commitment to sustainable urbanization. Awarded the title “World’s Smartest City” at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona in 2014, Tel Aviv was selected as the host for a thematic meeting on smart civic engagement as a beacon of civic participation and technological innovation.
Dr. Joan Clos, executive director of UN-Habitat and secretary-general of the Habitat III conference, hosted and participated in several panels, and held meetings with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, along with deputy mayors and civic officials from around the world, brought together at Tel Aviv’s Cities Summit conference. Some of the key questions she asked focused on the role of national governments, municipal departments and technology in promoting civic engagement.
“Civic engagement must be a key topic of the new urban agenda, in order to achieve equality and accountability in cities. We need civic engagement to become real,” said Clos when thanking the city of Tel Aviv for hosting the first thematic meeting towards Habitat III and for inspiring the global discussion through its innovative urban solutions.
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality has spearheaded several initiatives around the principle of engaging with its residents and leveraging their input to improve life in the city. Various projects have been implemented, such as shared workspaces in the Library and Atidim 7, where entrepreneurs can work in an interactive environment. Other initiatives include providing free Wi-Fi across the city, and the App2u competition, which opens city databases to the public for crowd-sourced solutions to problems. These initiatives have fostered a climate where partnerships between citizens, businesses, third-sector organizations and the municipality grow and evolve at an impressive rate.
“The newest and most expensive technology is not necessarily at the heart of our understanding of the concept of ‘smart cities,’ but rather stripping away the barriers between the municipality and the residents to create an era where information is free-flowing, and the city is responsive to the needs of its residents,” says Hila Oren, founder and CEO of Tel Aviv Global.
Run by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, Cities Summit Tel Aviv is a conference that aims to address crucial factors facing urban administrators in today’s complex digital world. With the goal of contributing to the city and optimizing its potential to the fullest extent, the municipality invites entrepreneurs, politicians, city councillors and other senior urban administrators to join forces to share their experiences on how to promote innovation in their cities, while engaging a broader audience in both the public and private sectors.
The Habitat III advisory board will discuss the input and recommendations gathered during the event in Tel Aviv, and issue a final declaration. This will constitute an official document to be used to fuel discussions and member state negotiations leading to the formulation of, and agreement on, the new global urban agenda.
■ ON THE Friday prior to Rosh Hashana, Tzavta, the theater, cultural and political center headquartered in the basement of the London Ministore on Tel Aviv’s Ibn Gvirol Street, celebrated its 60th anniversary. The occasion was graced by President Reuven Rivlin, a former Likud MK, and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, also a Likud MK. Regev, who often attended concerts at Tzavta when she was in the army and living in Tel Aviv, said that it had never occurred to her not to attend the 60th anniversary festivities.
In past years the Tzavta stage and seats in the auditorium were graced by such household names as Naomi Shemer, Arik Lavie, Arik Einstein, Chava Alberstein, Liora Rivlin, Shlomo Artzi, Sasha Argov, Moshe Wilenski, Shulamit Aloni, Natan Yonatan and many more. Among the performers at the 60th anniversary celebrations were Israel Gurion and Assaf Amdurski. Gurion sang for many years with Amdurski’s late father Benny Amdurski, and together with Assaf Amdurski has revived many of their favorite songs. The two appeared in several performances before mounting the stage at Tzavta.