Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NYC Gets a Bad Case of Tel Aviv Beach Envy

Flier from the Tel Aviv 100th Birthday Party in NYC

Tel Aviv's beginnings; from
the most reliable source on the Interwebs:
"In April 1909, sixty-six Jewish families gathered on a desolate sand dune on what is now Rothschild Boulevard to parcel out the land by lottery using seashells. The lottery was organized by Akiva Arye Weiss, the president of the association. Weiss had an original idea, the names of the families were inscribed on white shells and the plot number on gray shells. Within a year, Herzl, Ahad Ha'am, Yehuda Halevi, Lilienblum, and Rothschild streets were built; a water system was installed; and 66 houses (including some on six subdivided plots) were completed. At the end of Herzl Street, a plot was allocated for a new building for the Herzliya Hebrew High School, founded in Jaffa in 1906. On May 21, 1910, the name Tel Aviv was adopted."
100 years later, Tel Aviv is slightly larger than 66 houses and one high school. The city itself is home to nearly 400,000 Israelis, serves as Israel's economic hub, and is widely considered Israel's most cosmopolitan city; with bars, cafes, museums, clubs and boutiques lining the streets. Tel Aviv is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its modern architecture.

In Israel, they have been celebrating Tel Aviv's Centennial since April of this year, and
will continue to do so for the remainder of 2009 with bike rides, concerts, and other events.

But why should Israel get to have all the fun? On Sunday, June 21, New York City's Central Park was transformed into a veritable Tel Aviv beach scene, complete with 30 tons of sand, Israeli musical acts (such as Hatikva 6) and matkot; Hebrew for paddleball.

Additional cities will be able to partake in Tel Aviv's 100th birthday as well. There will be two more Tel Aviv beach days later this summer; one in Vienna (Austria, not Virginia) and the other in Copenhagen. LA, Paris and Brussels will also host events, sans the imported sand. David Saranga, the consul for media and public affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in New York says it's all part of an outreach program to restore Tel Aviv's, and by extension Israel's, image in the eyes of the world after Operation Cast Lead earlier this year.

However, Israel's outreach to NYC and the global community at large fell on some deaf ears, I'm afraid. Lunatics from the Westboro Baptist Church and Code Pink crashed the beach party. I don't know what the Church's message was at the beach, but I do know that they helped an NYC synagogue raise $10,000 while they picketed it; which surely wasn't the Church's intent. The ladies of Code Pink came in their Sunday best bikinis, and that's where the pleasantries halted. They brought the usual anti-Israel jibber jabber about the IDF committing war crimes, and even campaigned to boycott Ahava products. The only crimes that Ahava has committed is that their stuff smells way too good and costs way too much money. If these chicks actually went to Israel and bought some duty-free mud and moisturizer, I have no doubt they'd acquit Ahava of the latter offense.

All in all, a good time was had by most (excluding the protesters). No one got stung by jellyfish or swam too quickly after a falafel, and the leftover sand was donated to local NYC playgrounds. A pretty good day for a 100th birthday celebration if you ask me.

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