Jerusalem is the subject of many prayers and psalms (and the quirky spoof: "Rak yerushalayim efes shtayim," an ode to its 02 area code). But over the past 100 years, a large number of songs of praise have also been written about Tel Aviv. Everybody has their favorite: I don't much like the Big Orange but, as the song goes, "Yesh li simpatia le'omanut konseptualit betel aviv" - I feel something for conceptual art in Tel Aviv. Life there seems to be an art form in itself:
Yesh li sympatia le'omanut konseptualit betel aviv, ir bli konseptzia, ti'ah nofel, tris mityape'ah, otobus met...
"I feel for conceptual art in Tel Aviv, a city without conception, plaster falls, a shutter sobs, a bus is dead..."
There are, of course, far more romantic versions of what's called the White City (Ha'ir belavan). Good ol' Naomi Shemer came up with: "Meketzef gal ve'anana, baniti ir li levana..." - "From the froth of a wave and a cloud, I built myself a white city..."
A rather simpler view is taken in the song known as "Aris San's Tel Aviv" (after the Israeli-Greek composer) in which lyricist Yehuda Ofen came up with: "Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Tel A-v-i-v - yam kachol, ir bahol..." scanning "the blue sea" in Hebrew with the "city in the sand."
Superstars Ethnix linked Tel Aviv with Paris in "Tel Aviv kmo Pariz."
They were not the only ones to be inspired by the French influence. Haim Hefer's Baholot (In the sands), is sung by Yossi Banai to the French tune of "Parlez vous," and is a regular boy meets girl (in the sands), boy kisses girl (in the sands), boy and girl build their home (in the sands), boy and girl have a boy (and you can pretty much guess the rest).
Some Tel Aviv songs will forever in my mind be tied in with the 1991 Gulf War when the song: "Al gagot Tel Aviv mashehu koreh halayla" - "On Tel Aviv's rooftops something is happening tonight" - took on a different meaning. Ditto Shlomo Artzi's "Lo ozev et ha'ir hazot avur af ehad..." : "I'm not leaving this city for anyone..." Or Danny Robas's Lo nirdemet Tel Aviv also surrounding the City that Never Sleeps.
Of the (modern) classics, probably one of the best known is Yitzhak Yitzhaki's The Sycamore Garden (Gan Hashikmim):
"Hayo hayu kan pa'am shikmim,
holot misaviv vegam nof.
Ha'ir Tel Aviv shel otam hayamim
hayta bayit boded al hahof.
Veyesh lif'amim ne'erchu yeshivot
mitahat shikmim az batzel,
uleyad ha'etzim tzahaku habanot
ve'anu bezimra: "Hey yalel"
"Once upon a time there were
sand dunes all around and even a view.
The city of Tel Aviv of those days
was a lonely house on the shore.
And sometimes that meetings were held
under sycamores in the shade,
and next to the trees laughed the girls
and answered in song: 'Hey - yalel'"
It's hard not to be nostalgic about the days gone by when you hear Arik Einstein singing about Lippa Ha'aglon - "Lippa the Carter who says: Shektzat pahot zeh ktzat yotair - a little less is a little bit more: you have to pull in the reins and take a little bit back."
The city, of course, is not just North Tel Aviv: There is also Jaffa, as in, Yossi Gamzo's and Moshe Wilensky's Zohi Yafo (This is Jaffa): "Me'al hamisgadim oleh yare'ah, Me'al beytech olim orot neon, Veshuv sichey yasmin notnim po re'ah, Veshuv anahnu kan mul hasha'on...."
"The moon rises above the mosques, The neon lights rise above your house, And again the jasmine bush gives its scent, And again we are here, in front of the clock..."
Jaffa's clock is a landmark, no less than the Azrieli buildings symbolize modern Tel Aviv, although I have yet to come across a song about them.
Natan Alterman's Bakerem Hateimanim about life as it used to be in the Yemenite quarter is timeless. And I could quote Alterman's entire "Bechol zot yesh ba mashehu" ("Nonetheless, there is something about her") to sum up the city, but I'll opt for the verse of the poem which sums up how Jerusalemites still feel about the coastal city.
"Omrim anshei yerushalayim, ken Tel Aviv zeh stam galgal, ein professorim ba kezayit, venevi'im ba ein bichlal, historia ein la kezeret, ein retzinut ba, ein mishkal, nachon meod adon, giveret, ein la klum, lo klum avalâ€¦"
"Tel Aviv has no prophets, not even a little finger's worth of history, nothing serious and no weight, it's very true, sir, madam, she has nothing at all but... Nonetheless there is something about her..."