Saturday, September 10, 2011

A piece of the true Tel Aviv, Part 1


Tel Aviv can be easily divided: Inhabitants of the northern part have money, inhabitants of the southern part don't have too much money. Everyone else finds himself somewhere in the middle part. 

Making the same determination for Jerusalem turns out to be a little harder. Of course there are wealthy people, living in neighbourhoods like Rehavia or the German Colony but you alos find ordinary people in those areas of town. In Tel Aviv, on the other hand, the wealthy areas are pretty obvious. Just look around Arlozorov Street let alone Ramat Aviv. You only need a short glimpse through the windows in order to discover expensive and fance televion screens. 

I have never been interested in any posh living standards but live in the center of Tel Aviv. Actually I had been thinking of moving back to Jerusalem but seem to have forgotten that I like living in a big city. A city where everyone has his freedom and is not being judged by a religious or secular appearance.

Wherever I move, I prefer living with the working class and artists. In a way, Tel Aviv has a bit of a Berlin character. However, within the past years, the city has undergone severe changes. Skyscrapers (Israelis prefer to call them "Towers") have been built. Luxury apartments and offices. Thousands of Israelis from all over the country keep on moving into the city at the coast, as the job market is much better than almost anywhere else. 

Thus, Tel Aviv has changed a lot and some really old and original neighbourhoods have either lost their character and totally disappeared. One example for the lost character is the Yemenite Quarter next to the Carmel Market. Once a poor neighbourhood for new immigrants from Yemen and a red light district, has turnt into a posh area. There aren't too many of the earlier Yemenites left. First the students discovered the neighbourhood and then the wealthy moved in. The same, by the way, has been taking place in Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighbourhood near the Machane Yehudah Market.

Someone had told me that there is still a true original part of Tel Aviv where you can find those inhabitants sitting with their open shirts outside their stores and playing Sheshbesh (Backgammon). Levinsky Street with its Central Bus Station as well as the surrounding streets such as Shomron Street, Finn (Pinn) Street or Bnei Brak Street are the trash cans of the city. Prostitution, illegale Africans and Philippinas working in Israel. A crime ghetto where you shouldn't walk around alone after midnight. 

Nevertheless, the Levinsky also has a very different face and you can find it when you walk down to HaAliyah Street, cross the traffic light and continue straight into the second part of Levinsky. A widely unknown part right at the border to the popular student and artist neighbourhood Florentin. This second part of the Levinsky offers you Shwarma for 15 Shekels (approx. 4 Dollar) only. Almost everywhere else in town you pay at least 25 - 27 Shekels (approx. 7 - 8 Dollar). 

As soon as I enter the second part of the Levinsky and its surrounding streets, I feel at home. I simply fell in love with that part where cafes are still affordable and the cost of living is much lower than in other neighbourhoods. Also the people are unique have still show signs of a real neighbourhood. Mainly Sephardic Jews with the simple behaviour and living standards in contrast to any posh or artificial hood behaviour. The entire area is located in a very central position: Almost at Allenby Street with the border to Florentin and the nearby Neve Zedek. Downtown Tel Aviv – South. Dirt, original neighbourhood with a homelike atmosphere. 

 Photos: Miriam Woelke

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