8/31/2016 Summer comes to an end
The Tel Aviv summer is coming to an end. Tomorrow the children of the city return to school. The days are already getting just a little bit cooler. This has been a remarkably quiet summer in Israel. It’s hard to believe that only two years ago we spent most of the summer running to bomb shelters, while missiles fired by Hamas exploded over us, as the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted those rockets.
When this summer began many were worried about another wave of terror attacks. The last attack occurred in June at the Sarona Market, one of the hearts of Tel Aviv’s entertainment centers. That attack, one of four fatal assaults that occurred over the last year seemed to indicate a more deadly barrage of attacks to come. That fear turned out to be unwarranted, as Tel Aviv not only savored a summer free from missiles, but also enjoyed a reprieve from acts of terror.
As the summer wound to a close, Tel Aviv celebrated in ways befitting the non-stop city. The Tel Aviv municipality sponsored a dog festival at one of the over 60 dog parks built by the city in the past few years for its nearly 20,000 canine residents – 5,000 of whom attended the festival with their owners. At the festival canines got to sample sushi made specially for the doggie pallet. Man’s best friend also got the chance to receive a dog massage. The following day, a crowd gathered on the beach to watch the national Volleyball finals. Last night, the municipality turned the facade of city hall into one giant Tetris game board. Over the next few weeks residents will have the opportunity to play epic rounds of Pong and Snake in the middle of Rabin Square, across the entire side of the city hall building.
During these last few summer days Tel Avivans are all making their last frantic attempt to burrow ever deeper into the wonderful bubble that is Tel Aviv. When I interviewed Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai last month, he claimed Tel Aviv was really not a bubble; that this city suffers from all of the same problems and challenges as the rest of Israel – and clearly to some extent he is right. Tel Aviv has had more than its share of terror attacks this past year.
However, the Mayor proved how much Tel Aviv is in fact a bubble, when he went on national TV this week and announced that the city would implement two major educational initiatives in Tel Aviv schools over the course of this school year – 1) a free extended school day for all the children in Tel Aviv’s poorer southern district, and 2) a major curriculum initiative focused on what democracy means. Only in “a bubble,” with a powerful mayor, could such initiatives be announced and implemented.
Though Tel Aviv lies a mere 30 miles from the West Bank, and 42 miles from Israel’s Gaza border, it could be in another world. It is a meager 100 miles to the Syrian border, and Tel Avivans – like the rest of Israelis (and for that matter the rest of the world) – have been doing their best not to pay too close attention to events there. Despite living in a bubble, the world simmers beneath the surface for most Tel Avivans, as it does for most Israelis.
Educating about the Holocaust is central to Israeli education, and when confronted with the pictures of the masses of dead in Syria, Israelis react in very distinct ways. On one hand, for some, there is a sense of collective failure – meaning, despite all the multi-generational cries of “Never Again,” a “holocaust” is taking place just miles from our border. On the other hand, to many, the endless killing in Syria underscores the hopelessness of trying to make peace. Many contend that “if they can do this to each other, how can we ever find a way of living in peace.” A third voice often heard, questions why the world is so concerned about what goes on in the West Bank or Gaza, and seems to care so little about what happens to the people in Syria?
Yes, the lazy, peaceful summer is coming to an end. It was unquestionably a summer for Israelis of all stripes to escape, either psychologically, or physically (a higher percentage of Israelis travel abroad than the citizens of any other major country). With the end of the summer at hand, Israelis will once again be forced to confront all of the same troubles that come from living in a dangerous neighborhood. With the end of the summer upon us, Israelis will once again be forced to deal with the internal divisions that seem to have become worse in the last few years, along with the economic challenges that the Israeli middle-class share with many throughout the world. Those lucky enough to live in Tel Aviv will still do their best to enjoy the bubble – even though most of them know that the bubble is not real, and there is a real world that threatens to intrude at any time.
Pet Festival Photo Moshik Lindenbaum