Tel Aviv outlines birthday plans amid protests

Demonstrators call the planned festivities a waste of public money; Huldai says the budget for the elebrations has been cut by over NIS 43 million.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai formally presented the city's plans for its 100th birthday celebrations this week, but the festive announcement was tainted by demonstrators protesting against what they called a waste of public money, reports The protests came despite Huldai's statement that the budget for the celebrations had been cut from the originally planned NIS 100 million to NIS 43 million. According to the report, Huldai held a press conference to detail the birthday plans formally after the government announced that this year's national Independence Day celebrations - to be held at the end of April - will also mark 100 years since the founding of Tel Aviv. Huldai told the press conference that the government was not expected to support the city's birthday celebrations financially with anything more than "symbolic" funding. He said the city had originally planned to spend NIS 100 million on the celebrations, but this figure had been whittled down to NIS 70 million, then NIS 50 million and finally NIS 43 million because of the world financial crisis, with NIS 25 million of this sum already spent in 2008 and the remainder to be spent this year. Celebrations manager Hila Oren told the conference the birthday party's official opening event would be held at Kikar Rabin on April 4, exactly 100 years since the historic lottery was held for the first houses on the beach of what would become Tel Aviv. She said the opening event, which would cost NIS 4 million, would feature Israeli singers and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra performing classic Tel Aviv songs, as well as a multimedia and laser light show and fireworks. The report said that each month the celebrations would focus on a different area, with April devoted to the opening events and the city's heritage and nostalgia. June will focus on the sea and will feature a cultural festival at the Jaffa Port. July will see the Milanese Opera performing "La Scala" at Ganei Yehoshua, and August will feature events for youth. In September, Kikar Rabin will be decorated with 800,000 flowers from Belgium at a cost of NIS 700,000. October has been designated "green" and will feature a giant ecological festival. November and December will be devoted to the closing events. The report said that NIS 10 million had been designated for events alone, compared with just NIS 4.7 million - cut from NIS 7.5 million - for educational projects during the year.