I know I do live in a special bubble in Tel Aviv. This city is not representative for Israel, and the country around is different. At least that’s what I hear, besides the trip to Jerusalem I have not seen anything, so I must rely on what my friends tell me.
With its young, somewhat alternative population, the arts, the LGBT community, its business people and hipsters and the number of secular Israelis, it seems to represent a special place.
Sure, Shabbat is observed by a lot of people, most notable in the closure of many bars, restaurants and, above all, public transport.
But enough places remain open to go out and drink. And the number of parties throughout the week and over the weekend is overwhelming, and indicative of Tel Aviv’s status as a party town.
I have to say when I first arrived in 2012, and had my bag checked for bombs at the Dizengoff shopping center for the first time, it was a blow.
Suddenly I did not feel safe at all, rather very vulnerable. Even though I understood that this measure was taken precisely to protect me, it honestly freaked me out.
In the same spirit I never took public transport, no bus and no sherut taxi, back in 2012. The undefined feeling of insecurity made me take a bike, or simply walk.
This time around, things are different. I do not know whether it has changed, or it is simply because I am already used to it, that I do feel safer. The bag checks at hotels, malls and markets seem normal, and I take the bus frequently.
Ok, I do admit, I am aware of my surroundings. The crowds at the entry to the Pride at Meir park, waiting for the security check made me freak out a bit. It seemed like the perfect place for an attack.
But I have the same feeling in the London tube or Paris metro, where we are constantly reminded to keep our eyes open and ‘report any suspicious item‘.
I guess we all can recite the security warnings by heart now.
Sure, police and the military are present everywhere. It adds to the feeling of security, but is a constant reminder this party city, with all its fun, is basically in the middle of a war zone, too.
Their presence, as for example around the holy sites in Jerusalem, with the display of their guns right in your face, is understandable, but saddening.
The building of the massive wall throughout the country to separate Israeli territory from the Palestinian areas seems to have contributed to the relative quiet and security.
Efficient, but extremely sad. And on top of it, not without establishing a new frontier line that had not much to do with the internationally recognized lines…
Besides providing security for one part, it also destroyed a number of links between the two peoples.
Friends always mentioned the Palestinian gay party to me, that was a highlight in their monthly going-out-cyle. The party is still running, but the Palestinian guys and girls cannot come anymore, sitting behind the wall.
People here live with that, and have arranged themselves with it, it seems. Some of the street art popping up in town is reminiscent of that, displaying somewhat disturbing images of violence.
So, what I am trying to get my head around is that I do feel safe around here. And at the same time knowing this city is somehow a big, fun party bubble, in the middle of one of the oldest conflicts.