Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tel Aviv Vs. Jerusalem

There has been a lot of debate among the young 20-30 somethings about which city is queen. To be fair, the debate reacher far past the highschool halls of sixteen year olds in the scouts and even beyond the cocktail hours of our beloved elders. Statistics even have a say here, making their mark in what appears to be a huge decline in young singles and a massive increase in religious numbers of all walks of life: international othrodox, cnservatives and even reform jews making aliyah as well as the infinite number of children being bornto religious Jewish family units.

But, when it comes down to it...why would a young, free thinking Israeli choose to live in one city or the other?

Here I'll lay out the basic qualities that both draw and detract visitors from both cities.

  • History: this is the first place for Jews and non-Jews to feel holy in face of and despite religious differences. This is the city most religious Jews flock to because of its connection to the Jewish past and the bible. It is also the city that most religious non-Jews flock to for very similar reasons. There is somehing special about the old city and the fact that it you still feel like you're traveling back in time when you walk through the gates and wander around the city and through the marketplaces.

    Old City of Jerusalem
  • Universities: There are at least two really wonderful universities in Jerusalem which draw most of the young secular Israelis to the city: Hebrew University and Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Both are thought to be top rate academic institutions- Bezalel being considered the top art school in all of Israel.

    Hebrew University Campus in Winter
  • Diversity: Because the city draws people from all over the world including journalists and politicians (Jerusalem is also the country's capital) there is a certian kind of diversity. While this usually isn't political diversity (most residents lean to the right, if not very far right) it is racial, ethnic and international diversity. However, sometimes it can be annoying that so many people speak only English. You can pretty much get by in Jerusalem without learning any Hebrew.
  • Less Materialism: While there is a brand new high-end mall that was built right outside of the old city to lure tourists, there is not really a materialistic feel in Jerusalem. There's far less of the "seen and be seen" culture, not as much of a cafe culture, and the pick-up bar scene is pretty moderate. This makes the interaction between people, especially among young, secular Israelis, very warm and friendly. No one is judging, people are very open, and typically they are also quite easygoing.
  • Weather: It's no coincidence that one of the famous lines of "Jerusalem of Gold" translates as "mountain air clear as wine and the smell of oranim flowers". This is the truth. The air is clear, mountain air, low humidity, with very beautiful hills and gorgeous foliage. They also get a fair ammount of rain, the winters are cool and actually feel like winter. However, this means that wintertime can get pretty depressing, cold and grey since Israel's archatecture isn't really built for cold weather.

    Snow in Jerusalem, 2008
  • Danger: Jerusalem is a target and it is right next to Arab villages filled with Arabs who aren't very happy about Israel's existance. This, mixed with the fact that numerous fundamental religious Jews who hate Arabs also live in close proximity, make it a very tense place. It's all about control really- I mean, I'd say that reform and conservative Jews also don't feel 100% comfortable there- being that there is such strong stigma against their customs and ways in this holy city.
Tel Aviv:
  • Beach!!!! This is a beach city. It's filled with leafy avenues, and the summer welcomes packed beaches, bikinis, icecream trucks and the smell of suntan lotion. This is one of the reasons that people here look so fit. They are always in shape becuase bikini season is every season.
  • Tel Aviv Beach
  • Young and Vibrant: Tel Aviv is filled with young people. Young people that are working hard to live there because they think it's fabulous and they want to be part of that fabulousness. People go out to eat and drink a lot. There are great restaurants, concerts, and events. There is a big pick-up-bar scene and lots of gay bars. Fashion and style is way more important and there is definitely a cafe lifestyle here. There's even a dog-culture here of dog walkers and dog sitters - very nyc.
  • Unique Aesthetic: There is something unique about the Tel Aviv aesthetic. It is almost ugly. Most of the buildings aren't upkept, although more and more are being restored- especially the famous bouhaus specimens. This makes Tel Aviv a fascinating place to walk around. Each neighborhood has really defining characteristics. The beach definitely makes it beautiful, as do many of the central squares, but some are still poorly designed and leave much to be desired.

    Tel Aviv Bouhaus
  • Modern and Progressive...BUT: Tel Aviv is friendly to the progressive, liberal capitalist. But, it is still Israeli. It is NY without the suits, Miami without the rich, Buenos Aires without the history, and don't expect anything to be polite there. Getting on a bus is still a bit third world. It involves pushing and shoving and knowing where you are and where you want to get off. There is not really any info on the bus or at the stop. You have to ask people.
  • The Best Parties: If you are young and you like going out- If you want to see the most famous musicians from around the globe perform, if you want to go to cool new bars, if you want to see the best local musicians perform or have a taste of an all night trance party, tel aviv is the palce to be.
  • Jobs:It's not that there aren't jobs in Jerusalem, but there are just more in Tel Aviv. What can I say - it is a more modern, more international and more progressive city.
  • Yafo: It's part of the city, it's mostly Arab and it has the bext hummus places around. The port has been rennovated with new winde bars, restaurants, galleries and more, while the rougher neighborhoods have remained authentically rough.

Old Yafo Port


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