This week on Café Oleh, we ask our panel to comment on the nature of life in Israel''s urban center: Tel Aviv. aliya and Judaism bloggers about the difficulties and the joys of moving to Israel.Each week you''ll hear from our resident
1. What''s your favorite part of living in Tel Aviv?
Where do I begin! I think the openness is something that I really appreciate. There are young people everywhere who are always up for having a good time as well as being culturally engaged.
The progressive attitude and lively culture.
2. Tel Aviv is an internationally lauded city with a famous character. We''ve all heard about its gay pride parades, its energy, its youth and its open, accepting attitude. What can you tell us about Tel Aviv that we might not know? A secret underbelly? A hidden softness? A hidden hardness? A sense of community? Give us an insiders view of what''s great or not so great about this city.
All those things are true but maybe not a lot of people know about the olim community. Most of my friends are anglos and we all know how to have a good time, but when it comes to Friday night dinner we usually get together and sit around in someones flat to chill out and take some time out from the craziness of the city. Anglos in the city look out for each other and are always setting up various events and gatherings to help each other.
Tel Avivians love American peace and love music from the 60s and 70s and alternative rock from the 90s. You hear this in bars all around the city. When I was first here, I asked why Tel Avivians were obsessed with these eras of American music? My friend, who was a radio DJ at the time, replied that it was because this music symbolizes the peace people hope they''ll have some day (I wrote about this in my very first blog post, titled, "The Hair Test.") As for the early 90s music, this music was the soundtrack to the Oslo days, back when Israelis really thought there would be peace. The fact that people still listen to this music in Tel Aviv is sad and moving on a bunch of levels. It is in large part why I moved here.
3. Talk to us about the cost of living in Tel Aviv. Is it as bad as (or worse than) we hear? How has this affected your lifestyle?
Life is expensive in Tel Aviv. Period. But it depends what you like doing and how much you let it affect you. I personally pay a lot to live in a great central area but even in this respect, I think this costs even out. I am right in the middle of the action, so I don''t have to pay so much for transport and there are usually loads of events going on around me that are free. The Tel Aviv Municipality is always putting on special events at museums, galleries etc. Also, there are so many activities in Tel Aviv that just don''t cost any money at all. For example, walking along the beach, taking a stroll down Rothschild or hanging out in the Port or the park. You can actually spend your whole day doing things which don''t cost a shekel.
Yes, life is definitely financially challenging in Israel. I have a full time gig in Israel (at the Jerusalem Post, in fact), but my way of getting around suffering financially has been to do freelance telecommuting work to the US on the side. To be honest, because of this additional income, my standard of living is actually quite good for the time being; it''s comparable to what my standard of living would be in the US, and in fact, right now it''s somewhat higher. However, as you can see, this means that I work more here than I did in the US. So that''s the trade-off.
4. Did you take part in the Tent-Protests of last summer? What caused the protests? What were the outcomes of these protests? Do you foresee anything changing in terms of the cost of living here in Israel?
Yes, and I am proud of it. I think it was amazing to see so many people come out for a cause that is so important. I think people were just fed up of being ripped off and paying over the odds. I think things have changed as a result. I know I am in the minority, but as a result of the protests, my landlord actually didn''t raise our rent after our lease was up. She said she felt it was important to keep things are reasonable as possible.
I did, and wrote several pieces related to the protests: "The tents'' sweet beginning," which encapsulated folks'' feelings when the protests began; and "Tent Protests, Terror Attacks, and How I Met Your Mother," which reflected on whether the protests would gain steam after a terror attack in the South last August. (LINK) Thankfully, the protests did in fact gain momentum; we saw the largest protest take place several weeks after that post. I will say that around 5 months before the protests began, I did write an article about the housing crisis, and was really surprised that it wasn''t getting covered more in the Israeli media. But I had no idea the protests would occur: I don''t think anyone could see that coming.
I think social change takes time, so right now, not a lot has happened in the policy sphere. However, before policies change, usually the public attitude needs to change. And that is happening. This article, written by Jeremy Ruden from the Jerusalem Post, explains the cultural shift that has happened since the protests very well. It''s definitely worth a read for those interested in understanding what has changed here since the protests.
5. Any recommendations/ one piece of advice for a new oleh who is thinking about living in Tel Aviv?
Lower your expectations regarding standards of living, especially if you''re coming here on a budget. However, you''ll be compensated for all Tel Aviv has to offer!
Choose good roommates. Make sure you are in a neighborhood that suits your needs. Rest up before you move because once you are here you just won''t stop!