Come for a visit! (yells a Jrusalem friend over the phone) You have to go to Israel on your next trip (says a company director from Scandinevia). You must get your kids into a Birthright trip (says a friend at the JCC). Seems like everyone wants to help people "who don't "get" Israel" is pushing for a show-and-tell trip. Why go to Israel to "get it"? The people made the first trip here think it's not a big deal. But they still have that look or that expression: oh you have not been? To some it's an adventure or a call from above (some call them "the believers"). Whatever the reason, seems like most people understand the country only after a visit. Nobody here can explain the gap between perception and reality. Israel seems to attract myths and misconceptions and only seeing, smelling, hearing and tasting for yourself gets you into the state of understanding.
Too Difficult to Explain: The Myth
Israelis believe honest news reporting, positive media publishing and endless detail internet info can explain what is going on here. This notion of "to understand me is to love me" goes back decades. Israelis have tried to advertise the natural beauty and pleasent people of the country (much like Turkey, Greece and even Puerto Rico). Then explain national policy and security decisions. Promote Israel's culture, industry and innovation in countries open to better relations. But the myths continue to haunt Israel. Most are negative and use to frustrate Israelis to no end. Is it so hard to change people's perceptions?
The simple answer is probably YES. The deeper answer is probably IT DEPENDS. Israelis are not trying to overcome mythical perceptions. We simply ran out of steam there. Instead Israelis and supporters around the world came up with promotion through personal visits. Most first time visitors see, hear, feel, smell and taste their negative perceptions out of their system in a few days. If they still hold on to their negative Israeli beliefs, we give up. That's all there is to this craze Israeli "come to visit and become a believer" carze. ##EDIT##
Coming to Tel Aviv for a three month work assignment? Or is the beach calling you in February? Is there a building on Ben Yehuda you want to buy? Want to see how Israelis built a new city in mere 100 years? Want to see the bridge between Europe and Asia, in real time? Need a break from hectic buzz but don't want to leave western comforts? People come to live in Tel Aviv for their own reasons. Many come after visiting or working here. Most are curious why the city is such a haven from the nonstop buzzing metropolitan buzz without becoming suburbian or provincial. A big-small city, with modern life, but without overbuilt density and pollution. To some a bit expensive, yet offering a few million people a comfortable affordable home.
Coming to Tel Aviv Today
Today's immigrants to Tel Aviv don't see Israel as a refuge. The era of refugees from Europe and the middle east is a distant memory. Tel Avivians are children and grandchildren of Polish and Moroccan refugees. Two generations and seventy years have changed people's perspective. Yet there are new immigrants to Israel. Many come for economic reasons: better jobs, higher standard of living and comfortable social service benefits. A few come to gain personal insight into the culture and success of Israel. This group is interested in Israel's success despite of it's negative mainstream media image. The latest group are Asians (Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean) who come to learn how Israel became the "Startup Nation". Asian countries are now facing the same moral and development decisions Israel faced in the 1940s. On the practical side, many come to live in Tel Aviv to understand what they can do back home. Tel Aviv has grown steadily for the past century. It has also become a business and cultural center to Israel.
City Beyond Comparison: Read the Small Print
Tel Avivians compare the city to New York, Paris and even Tokyo. Tourist blogs rate the city in recommended lists. But visitors and locals seem to pay not attention. Tel Aviv is not easily compared. Just the popularity and the passion of the is the first hint. But the quiet confident attitude is a genuine tell. If you need an introduction, go to other sources. My angle on Tel Aviv is through stories (see the coming to Tel Aviv blog). Everyone has it's own story, I see it from street view and have a "view from the sidelines" sort of way. Watching and talking with Tel Avivians is one way. Simply living and doing things in the city is another way to get a feel of the city. There are many new writers and reporters, now the trend is Facebook and Twitter. Israel is saturated with information both traditional (newspapers, TV, books) and new alternative formats (blogging, video, social media).
If you are here to live, even just for three months, you may want to sample different parts of Tel Aviv and the surrounding towns. Before you sign a one year lease or buy something, take time to feel out different places. South Tel Aviv is hopping at night, but you may want to live in a quieter more modern neighborhood. Take the services and proximity to transportation routs into account. If you like street food, don't live in Ramat Aviv or one of the quiet residential parts of Holon. You will be hard pressed to find a Pizza shop open after 9:00 PM. Israelis complain constantly about bad (slow) public transportation. From clogged highways in rush hours, to late trains, to buses passing stations without stopping, Israel's growth is pushing transport to the limit. If you pick a place to live before knowing how you get to work in the morning, you may be surprised. Then again, Tel Aviv will throw you some curve balls.
Street Life & Small Malls
Tel Aviv blends American home and shopping lifestyle with Asian street food culture. Americans may have culture shock eating at an outdoor joint in the Carmel market. But anyone from Chile (true story) to India or Philippines will feel right at home. In contrast, Thai foreign workers delight in in shopping at glitzy malls. Just when street life looks like it's being gentrified, a new trend hits with more energy than the last one. Yet some Israelis are vigorously pushing middle class living standards to new higher levels. This blend of east and west seems to fit perfectly to the Israeli urban lifestyle. There is also a movement to simpler "back to nature" movement. Urban dwellers looking for diets, communities, work and family structures based on their parents' values.
Opposites blend here and different separate lives sit side by side just a block away. Yet central Israel is and island on to itself. I did not understand the French when they call the Paris region "Île-de-France". An island in the middle of land? After eight years in Tel Aviv, I wish we called the central region "Island of Tel Aviv". Here we use "the bubble". But the French numenclature seems more romantic, picturesque even accurate. Imagine a place not as you see on TV news and more than the an article in a magazine or a business portal. Hopefully this introduction is enough to get you to read more...
Our group of Tel Avivians is ready to help with advice and information. Contact us and we will get back to you.