Tel Aviv comes to London

The Fellowship and FIDF have been distributing the gift cards twice a year before Rosh Hashana and Passover since 2009.

UK AND Israeli flags together at a march in London. (photo credit: REUTERS)
UK AND Israeli flags together at a march in London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Soon after his election, London Mayor Sadiq Khan made it known that he might be leading a trade delegation to Israel, but first he wanted to improve relations between Jews and Muslims in his city.
Last week he met with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who was in London for the TLV in LDN Festival, which despite efforts by BDS, attracted a large following and turned out to be a great fun event. Interviewed by The Jewish Chronicle, Huldai noted that “London and Tel Aviv are both open, democratic, tolerant, pluralistic cities, at the center of art, culture, science and research.”
Huldai, who has been at the helm of Tel Aviv for 19 years, told his interviewer that Tel Aviv is “maybe the biggest achievement of the Zionist movement.” He also spoke glowingly of the close ties between Tel Aviv and London. “You have to realize that we are not representing Tel Aviv by mistake,” he aserted.
Huldai said he understands that Israel’s image abroad – and certainly in the UK – is “mostly considered in terms of the crisis and security issues between us and the Palestinians.” Hoping to dispel that perception, Huldai said of his city that “Tel Aviv is a democratic and prosperous city, part of a democratic country. The people themselves are very pluralistic. We are ordinary people, with the same joy, happiness and vibrancy as other world cities.”
Huldai and Khan discussed many issues that their cities have in common, including security, hi-tech, and the burgeoning start-up industries.
“Where do you find creativity and innovation? You find it only in free societies, in societies with freedom of speech, where people can express their ideas, where they can challenge, and where they are not afraid to fail – then you have creativity. It’s like that both in London and Tel Aviv,” Huldai said.
The two mayors spent much of their discussion talking about the terrorism that affects both cities, and the two mulled over the possibility of installing surveillance cameras with facial identification technology as an effective security measure from which both cities could benefit. “The technology exists,” said Huldai. “The question is price.”
On a lighter note, Huldai also said that in recent years, Tel Aviv has become the No.1 destination for British immigrants to Israel. “The type of aliya has changed completely,” he said. “In the past, many of the people making aliya came from poor communities or communities in danger. Today they are coming from Paris, London, New York – these people are used to living in cities and they are coming to Tel Aviv.”
Relating to the TLV in LDN Festival, he said this is also intended to show the British people that Tel Aviv is “a fun city where you can enjoy yourself.”
When he came to office, he said, most of the tourists who came to Tel Aviv were business people, and the time they spent on average was 1.5 nights. All that has changed, with tourists coming from all over the world for leisure, to bask on the beach, to visit Tel Aviv’s many art galleries and to sample the city’s excellent and varied cuisine.
Led by its founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), in collaboration with the Association for the Welfare of Israel’s Soldiers and the LIBI Fund, this year provided some $1.5 million in Rosh Hashana gift cards to more than 12,000 lone soldiers and soldiers in economic need so they could better celebrate the New Year.
More than 10,000 eligible soldiers received a gift card in the amount of NIS 500, and some 2,200 soldiers were eligible for a gift card of NIS 350. The gift cards enable the soldiers to celebrate the New Year without the burden of financial stress, and are valid at nearly 100 retail chain stores across the country.
Among the soldiers receiving the cards were 7,133 lone soldiers, of whom 53% came from 80 countries after making the courageous decision to leave their home countries and families to enlist. More than half of all lone soldiers serve in combat or combat-support roles.
A total of 844 came from the United States, 611 from Ukraine, 539 from Russia, and 582 from France. The Fellowship and FIDF have been distributing the gift cards twice a year before Rosh Hashana and Passover since 2009.