Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Bridge of Strings

A trip to Jerusalem last week provided an opportunity to cast my eyes on the newly completed 118 meter high bridge at the entrance to the city.

Designed by world-famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava,
reports suggest the jury is still out on the 2,600-ton contraption, dubbed the Bridge of Strings. One onlooker said he thought it was beautiful, but that it didn’t fit with its surroundings. Others variously described it as bearing a resemblance to David's harp, a spider's web and a crooked nail.

Despite costing 250m NIS, the bridge will remain unused for two years due to repeated delays in constructing Jerusalem's light railway. The opening ceremony meanwhile was hit by
controversy when the Ultra Orthodox complained about the clothing of the dance troupe of 13 year old girls due to perform.

Due to their pressure, the dancers were forced to change.

I'm surprised no one thought to mention it, but the bridge provides an apt metaphor for the Israeli experience; inefficient bureaucratic planning, unwise budgetary priorities and the spineless caving to the Charedim.

And perhaps more ironically no one can quite decide whether they love it or hate it.

But the Bridge of Strings also represents something deeper about our experience here.

I think Israel is amazing and I am thankful to be living my life on the front line of where Jewish history is being played out, where in the space of such a short time we have achieved so much. Yet despite the pride and happiness surrounding the country's continued success, there is also something hovering below the surface, something deep in the Israeli psyche; the fear that maybe this could all end one day, that our future here is not guaranteed.

If Diaspora Jews fret over whether their
grandchildren will be Jewish, here they fret over whether their grandchildren will be at all…

It’s a society which, as writer
Amnon Rubenstein states, has deep existential anxiety, that is hanging by a thread. A country that, according to David Grossman, has the "most powerful army in the region, a nuclear capability, yet has an inner feeling of absolute fragility, like we are at the edge of an abyss…"

We are a people whose fear that Israel will not exist anymore hovers above us constantly, even when we try and supress it.

I don’t know whether this anxiety causes us to be more aggressive on the roads, more belligerent to our enemies, or more ambivalent to the suffering of our neighbors.

But I do know that in many ways we are society trying to create normalcy while hanging by a thread, by walking across a bridge of strings.

And even if such bridges are generally stable, who knows if one day we may fall between the cracks into the abyss below.


Zak S said...

I like it actually, but the sharp angle on the corner of the main beam should have been smoother...

either way the brodge is a lot better than the Holy Land towers that would not have recieved planning permission in any normal country....

daniel said...


A very good one!

Still, I thought you would also write on how peoples in the Middle Eastpercieve Israel (like gesher meytarim: strong and big, yet vulnerable, or, nice and admiring but allien and not in the right neighbourhood), and not only how Israeli society perceives itself.

Again, enjoyed it much….


Anonymous said...

I think this is spot on Calev:

"I'm surprised no one thought to mention it, but the bridge provides an apt metaphor for the Israeli experience; inefficient bureaucratic planning, unwise budgetary priorities and the spineless caving to the Charedim."

But you could also add "but is really, actually, pretty good".

I think the bridge is really quite beautiful, but cannot be appreciated because of the way it is crowded by ugly buildings all around. However, it is still a horrendous and hubristic waste of money that Jerusalem, the poorest city in Israel, can ill afford.

$10 million a year up keep apparently!

Yellow Boy

Anonymous said...

Interesting analogy - and good blog.

To quote Rav Nachman (with a bit of poetic licence) I suppose you could just reflect on
The whole of Israel
is a very narrow bridge,
but the most important thing
is not to be afraid