Monday, October 30, 2006

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?

In light of my move this week from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to start work at Reut, a non partisan, non profit political think tank, I thought that this short contrast of the two cities by Amos Oz would be relevant...

Over the hills, far away, the city of Tel Aviv was also an exciting place from which came the newspapers, rumors of theaters, opera, ballet and cabaret, as well as modern art, party politics, echoes of stormy debates and indistinct snatches of gossip. There were great sportsmen in Tel Aviv. And there was the sea, full of bronzed Jews who could swim. Who in Jerusalem could swim? Who had ever heard of swimming Jews? These were different genes, a mutation. Like the wondrous birth of a butterfly out of a worm.

There was a special magic in the very name Tel Aviv. As soon as I heard the word ‘Telaviv’ I conjured up in my minds eye a picture of guy in a dark blue singlet, bronzed and broad shouldered , a poet worker revolutionary. A guy made without fear, the type they called a Herveman, with a cap worn at a careless yet provocative angle on his curly hair, smoking Matusians, someone who was at home in the world, all day long he worked on the land, or with sand and mortar in the evening he played the violin, at night he danced with girls or sang them soulful songs amid the sand dunes by the light of the full moon, and on the early hours he took a handgun and a sten out of its hiding place and stole away into the darkness to guard the houses and fields.

In Jerusalem people always walked rather like mourners at a funeral, or latecomers at a concert. First they put down the tip of their shoe and tested the ground. Then once they had lowered their foot they were in no hurry to move it; we had waited two thousand years to gain a foothold in Jerusalem, and were unwilling to give it up. If we picked up our foot someone else might come along and snatch our little strip of land! On the other hand, once you have lifted your foot, do not be in a hurry to put it down again; who can tell what menacing nest of vipers you might step on. For thousands of years we have paid with our blood for our impetuousness, time and again we have fallen into the hands of our enemies because we put our feet down without looking where we were putting them. That is, more or less, the way people walked in Jerusalem. But Tel Aviv – wow! The whole city was one big grasshopper. The people leaped by, so did the houses, the streets, the squares, the sea breeze, the sand the avenues, and even the clouds in the sky.

Amos Oz - A Tale of Love and Darkness p7

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