Let's start with the good news: The world loves us. The foreign press (that we acknowledge) flatters us to the point of blushing. We are considered one of the most wonderful places on earth, tourists keep asking their travel agents whether there’s room left on August flights, and in PR terms out situation has never been better.
And now, the news that will put this into perspective: I’m talking about Tel Aviv,
yes? The most successful and profitable subsidiary of the mother brand that keeps burying itself while still alive, that is, the State of Israel.
And so, while Israel at this time is a sort of Arabic curse word for most of the world, with our prime minister orbiting around the global media like an old satellite seeking a place to crash, Tel Aviv elicits enthusiastic media coverage with no effort.
Just look at the yield of the past two month: CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired yet another story in the “Tel Aviv bubble” genre (“Tel Avivians have learned how not to worry about tomorrow… a dynamic city that is becoming renowned worldwide for its booming high-tech industry and lots of great night life.”) Meanwhile, Newsweek elicited an enthused article about the city from writer Etgar Keret (“But if Tel Aviv is a bubble, he thought, then he hoped it would keep growing and suck this whole damn country into it, along with the entire Middle East.”)
Online technology magazine TechCrunch chose Tel Aviv as one of the world’s top five startup sites, immediately after Silicon Valley, New York, London and Toronto; The Wall Street Journal declared that Tel Aviv is Europe’s main technology hub, overshadowing rivals such as Berlin and London; and Travel and Leisure magazine crowned the Tel Aviv Museum as the best museum of 2011(“architectural origami.”)
To this add the regular yield of foreign excitement over Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade
and Tel Aviv being voted the world’s best gay city in 2011 by GayCities,
and you will realize that at this time Tel Aviv is much more than the fig leaf of a whole country; it is being perceived – and for the first time, not only by itself – as a type of separate state that enjoys a social, media and government climate of its own. It’s everything Israel refuses to be.
The global media is in love with Tel Aviv while completely turning its back on the host country. The separation fence between the two may not be a physical entity, but it is higher than ever. This goes well with Benny Begin’s belief that Tel Aviv is not a Jewish city; indeed, the more the official Israel claims exclusivity over this issue, Tel Aviv, at least so it seems, takes a step back.
It is common to refer to the city, especially by rightist talkbackers, as “the State of Tel Aviv,” but even though a declaration of independence is a tempting idea, let’s be realistic: Tel Aviv will remain forever trapped by its stepmother, Israel.
However, the time may have come for Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai – despite the reservations about some of his actions – to finally advance to the national level of the political game. After all, this man is our first practical and PR chance since Bar Refaeli.