Tel Aviv and the failure of the Zionist dream

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Flags on the beach in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Flickr/schnapper_j)

Editor’s Note: Very exciting news. Mondoweiss Assistant Editor Allison Deger just arrived in Israel/Palestine and will be based in the West Bank for the next three months. She sent this update below on arriving in Tel Aviv:

Since arriving everyone has been eerily nice to me. Starting in Tel Aviv people were very friendly and at 6am after my plane landed when I couldn’t sleep I took a walk along the Mediterranean and then jumped into the sea. The water was warm and I could taste the salt. The morning beach-goers who looked like they had been transported from Coney Island greeted me and cracked deprecating jokes. They were welcoming, and it felt really good to be there. The occupation was no where in sight.

Tel Aviv is in every sense a “bubble.” Even its political problems are bubble-problems. And I should know, I live in Berkeley. In my bubble the city picks up residential compost, the Peace and Justice Party wins local elections, and there is a Scientology Church. On the streets, you can overhear young people talking about “decolonizing” their minds, food, health or even sexuality. But Tel Aviv is very different from Berkeley. Foremost, there is a small and active group of native Americans who organize and demonstrate against the overtaking of their lands, and new developments, like shopping malls, on their sacred burial sites. Residents of Berkeley see them. And everyone knows the name of the tribe whose land it once was: Ohlone. But in Tel Aviv, there are no Palestinians or even signs of their not so historic thriving presence–other than maybe Arak on cafe menus.

Tel Aviv is a failure of the Zionist dream. Parts of the city are like a ghetto, amounting to the exact opposite of what Herzl envisioned for the future of the Zionist project in Altneuland, the city’s namesake.Where Herzl imagined theatres in every major European language, the real “old new land” is part dump and part shopping malls and hotels. It’s commerce, capitalism, recession and a few J 14 occupiers wearing trendy clothing hanging out on Rothschild Blvd. There is major dilapidation in what seemed like nearly half of the town. Alley ways smelled of sun-dried urine and many buildings have tin roofs and shoddy construction. All of these social welfare problems block out Tel Aviv’s original sin, forcing Palestinians to leave.

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