Tel Aviv - City of Freedoms


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Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural and economic capital, is a vibrant Mediterranean city and embodies much of Israel’s new,
pioneering spirit, while holding onto its antique heritage.
In July 2003, UNESCO declared Tel Aviv “The White City” for its “unique, historical architecture.” There are over 1,500
buildings marked for historic conservation.
Lonely Planet recently named it one of the world’s “top ten cities in 2011,” highlighting its progressive mindset

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Tel Aviv - City of Freedoms

  2. 2. 2 ABOUT TIP The Israel Project (TIP) is a non-profit educational organization that gets facts about Israel and the Middle East to press, public officials and the public. The Israel Project is not affiliated with any government or government entity. Our team of trusted Middle East multi-lingual experts and former reporters provides journalists and leaders with fact sheets, backgrounders and sources. TIP regularly hosts press briefings featuring leading Israeli spokespeople and analysts that give journalists and members of the diplomatic community an opportunity to get information and answers to their questions face-to-face. By providing journalists with the facts, context and visuals they need, TIP enables hundreds of millions of people around the world to see a more positive public face of Israel. This helps protect Israel, reduce anti- Semitism and increase pride in Israel. This helps protect Israel. The Jerusalem Office The Israel Project's (TIP) Jerusalem Office is a non-governmental resource working with foreign journalists and leaders based in Israel. It provides reporters and members of the diplomatic community with needed facts and information before they file their stories and reports. TIP's Jerusalem team features several Middle East experts and former journalists. TIP's Israel team, led by Marcus Sheff, includes experts who are fluent in numerous languages. Contacts Marcus Sheff Executive Director Tel: 972 2-623-6427 Cell: 972 54-807-9177 E-mail: David Harris Director of Research and Content Tel: 972 2-623-6427 Cell: 972 54-807-9498 E-mail: Eli Ovits Director of Communications Tel: 972 2 623-6427 Cell: 972 54-807-9093 E-mail: Shimrit Meir-Gilboa Director of Arabic Media Program Tel: 972 2-623-6427 Cell: 972 54-801-5982 E-mail: TABLE OF CONTENTS About TIP 2 Tel Aviv: Tolerance and Progress 3 Background and History 3 Coexistence in Tel Aviv 4 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Tel Aviv and Israel 6 Last updated: March 11, 2013
  3. 3. 3 The Clock Tower in the center of Jaffa Tel Aviv: Tolerance and Progress Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural and economic capital, is a vibrant Mediterranean city. Tel Aviv embodies much of Israel’s new, pioneering spirit, while holding onto its antique heritage. In July 2003, UNESCO declared Tel Aviv “The White City” for its “unique, historical architecture.” There are over 1,500 buildings marked for historic conservation. Lonely Planet recently named it one of the world’s “top ten cities in 2011,” highlighting its progressive mindset: “Tel Aviv is the total flipside of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill. Hedonism is the one religion that unites its inhabitants. There are more bars than synagogues, God is a DJ and everyone’s body is a temple. Yet, scratch underneath the surface and Tel Aviv, or TLV, reveals itself as a truly diverse 21st-century Mediterranean hub. “By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East. Thanks to its university and museums, it is also the greenhouse for Israel’s growing art, film and music scenes.” Background and History Jaffa is the ancient port city that was once controlled by the Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Arabs, Ottomans and British. Also known as the Gate to Zion and the access point to Jerusalem, Jaffa is Tel Aviv’s seasoned predecessor. Today, the city is a mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood. The idea of Tel Aviv came from a man named Ariel Akiva Weiss. In the early 1900s, he met with the Jews of Jaffa and wanted to build a garden neighborhood outside the old city walls, escaping the cramped and difficult living conditions of Jaffa. Neve Tzedek was one of the first areas inhabited outside of Jaffa and was home to Nobel Prize winning author and poet, Shmuel Agnon. In 1906, during the second aliyah (mass migration of Jews to Israel), a group that called itself Ahuzat Bayit bought land from local Arabs and began creating the city on the sea. One of the city’s first boulevards, Rothschild, would later become the place where David Ben Gurion would declare the independence of the State of Israel. This second group of immigrants, unlike the first, was comprised of predominantly secular, educated and nationalist Jews. Today, their values remain an integral part of Tel Aviv as the city continues to maintain is secular, progressive identity. David Ben Gurion, Yaakov Latlik, Meir Dizengoff, Max Nordau, Haim Arlozorov were but a few of the key figures who shared the vision of Tel Aviv as a haven for exiles and refugees.
  4. 4. 4 “Tel-o-Fun” bike sharing initiative In 1920, there were only 2,000 people living in Tel Aviv. By 1925, due in part to America’s closed door policy and persecution of the Jews in Poland, Tel Aviv’s population grew almost 18 times reach 35,000. One of the city’s first kiosks was built at the crossing of Rothschild and Herzl streets which extended Tel Aviv’s nightlife hours, making it the “city that never sleeps.” Even before the founding of the state, Tel Aviv had major streets running from north to south while planned spaces were being developed all over the city. Tel Aviv became a hub of European architecture. The city adopted the German Bauhaus style for its utility, and the French Le Corbusier in its use of public space and rooftop gardens. These buildings and styles can still be found throughout the city. Coexistence in Tel Aviv Tel Aviv is home to some 370,000 Jews and 33,000 Arabs and is well known for its tolerant lifestyle- a ‘melting pot’ of race, creed, religion, gender and sexual orientation. “A city for all its residents: The city will be attractive for living for all age groups; featuring a varied supply of homes that meets a wide range of different needs; boasting an education system of quality; promoting equal opportunities; enhancing pluralism and strengthening community cohesion,” says the Tel Aviv website. Thriving culture and urban planning, citizen participation, environmentally friendly programs such as the city’s bike-sharing initiative and various energy saving measures are all part of what allows Tel Aviv to continue to flourish. Tel Aviv is home to thousands of migrant workers and refugees from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. According to UNHCR statistics, there are some 21,800 refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, mostly from Eritrea and other African nations. There are a number of other organizations which advocate for the human and civil rights of all people within Israel. Organizations such as Association for Civil Rights in Israel, based in Tel Aviv, and Koach l’Ovdim, a union that provides a collective voice for migrant workers, work to ensure that citizens’ freedoms are ensured under the law. In Tel Aviv and Jaffa, there are a number of centers that foster an understanding amongst the Arab and Jewish populations of this vibrant city, some of which focus on the rising number of migrant workers and refugees. For example, Tel Aviv University’s Walter-Lebach Institute for Jewish-Arab Coexistence Through Education holds public symposiums and multi-ethnic discussions to draw attention to the relationships between Jews and Arabs – on a historical and personal level. Over the past 20 years, the Re’ut-Sadaka (Friendship) youth group has been bringing together young Jews and Arabs in Tel Aviv. Many organizations turn to Re’ut-Sadaka, known for their Jewish-Arab workshops, to organize events for their youth. These projects provide Jewish and Arab youths with an opportunity to meet each other, learn about their respective cultures, and break down stereotypes and social barriers. David Ben Gurion’s house, situated on Rothschild Boulevard, amongst more modern sky scrapers which shape the skyline of Tel Aviv
  5. 5. 5 The Arab Jewish Community Center in Jaffa is a dynamic cultural hub that integrates Muslims, Jews and Christians in Israel. “The Arab-Jewish Community Center was established in 1993, with the goal of bringing together Jews and Arabs in Israel and teaching acceptance and partnership between the nations. The Center works through the values of humanism and equality among all people and is the source of new models for the promotion of educational and social goals,” according to its mission. Mifalot, founded by the Hapoel Tel Aviv football club, is a sport program encouraging education, development and peace. Since its inception in 1997, Mifalot has aimed to provide much needed assistance to children living in at-risk, disadvantaged or isolated environments, as well as promoting integration for Jewish-Israelis, Arab- Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze, Christians, refugees, Ethiopian immigrants and Kibbutz children. Over 20,000 children and youth in Israel, Palestine and Jordan participate in Mifalot’s projects each year. Thinking outside the box, Jaffa’s The Group, is an independent dance school that focuses on interaction and movement as a way to counter social alienation and misunderstanding between Jews and Arabs, increasing Israel’s multicultural aspects. The Bialik-Rogozin school exemplifies the diverse fabric of Tel Aviv’s society. The school was made famous with the Oscar-winning documentary “Strangers No More” that followed a few children from Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia in their remarkable transition to a new, safe life in this special school. In 2007 the first-ever Secular Yeshiva (Talmudical college) was opened in Tel Aviv, and was run by a female lawyer. Its mission is to offer a spiritual and cultural center of Jewish learning to compete with the traditional Orthodox yeshivas. Young adults study Jewish texts and culture, with sources ranging from the Bible and Gemara to classic Israeli literature and Zionist history. Members of Tel Aviv’s Tikkun Olam (“Repairing the World”) volunteer program helped open the yeshiva. Tikkun Olam works within troubled neighbourhoods to affect positive change for those living there. In its first year, the school won the MASA Award for Program Excellence. In 2010, 21 Arab women graduated from the Al-Amal Women’s Economic Empowerment Program, which taught women high-tech skills designed to bolster their entrance into the Israeli job market. Israel’s only Scottish school is also located in Jaffa. It educates children of over 30 nationalities and various religions. The school was established with the purpose of providing education for people of all faiths, where children learn to respect each other and each other’s cultures. Born in Bombay, India, Zubin Mehta is the Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He has spent over 40 years in connection to the Philharmonic Orchestra, and has even been named an honorary citizen of Tel Aviv. He is quoted as saying that he “belongs first to India, then to Israel.” Recently, Mehta has become involved in establishing programs teaching coexistence through the study of music. He established the Mifneh project (Hebrew for “change”) which teaches young Arab Israelis in Nazareth and Shfaram. The project is closely linked to the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv, and the Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as Yad Beyad (Hand in Hand), the Center for Jewish-Arab education.
  6. 6. 6 Gay Pride Parade, Tel Aviv, June 2010 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Tel Aviv and Israel Israel is one of the world’s most progressive and tolerant of countries when it comes to rights for sexual minorities. In the Declaration of Establishment of the State of Israel, it says: “Israel will be a state based on the principles of liberty, justice and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel; it will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, irrespective of religion, race or sex.” In Israel, gay rights are protected by law. The gay community has gained wide acceptance throughout Israeli society, including in the political, legal, military and cultural realms. Gay marriages – performed outside Israel – are recognized by the state, and same-sex couples are permitted to adopt. In fact, in 2008, Israel recognized the first overseas adoption by a gay couple of an 8-year-old Cambodian boy. Gays can serve openly in the military; Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was never a policy in the Israeli army. Gender reassignment surgery is legal and openly performed. Gays in Israel experience a whole host of freedoms and are greeted my tolerance and acceptance. However, the gay community in the surrounding Muslim countries have quite a different experience, encountering severe abuse by their families, communities, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has become a haven for these gay Palestinians fleeing persecution in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Tel Aviv - The Gay Center of Israel Tel Aviv has one of the most flourishing gay communities in the world. Out magazine called Tel Aviv “the gay capital of the Middle East”, but officials in Israel’s Ministry of Tourism have greater plans for the city’s gay community. Tel Aviv hopes to become the “gay capital of the world”, making it the hottest tourist destination for the international gay and lesbian community. • Since the 1990s, Tel Aviv has hosted Israel’s largest gay pride parade, regularly drawing tens of thousands each year • Tel Aviv is home to Beit Dror, an emergency shelter for LGBT teens who have been rejected by their families because of their sexual orientation. • The gay nightlife in Tel Aviv rivals that of New York and London, with gay and lesbian bars and clubs open all hours of the night Significant Legislation and Developments in the Gay Community In the last two decades, gay rights have advanced significantly, both legally and politically in Israel. Not only does Israel recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the country, but they also allow for gay and lesbian couples to legally adopt children. Israel has countless examples of noteworthy legislation advancing gay rights. For example: • March 10, 2009: Tel Aviv family court rules that former Knesset member Uzi Even, the first openly homosexual MK, and his partner may legally adopt their foster son. This set the precedent of same-sex couples being given the legal right of adoption.
  7. 7. 7 • April 25, 2008: For the first time, Israel recognizes an overseas adoption by a gay couple. The adopted child, an 8-year-old Cambodian boy, was granted Israeli citizenship. • February 12, 2008: The Israeli government grants gay and lesbian couples the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples. Previously, gays and lesbian couples could only adopt children that were their own biological offspring • March 2007: The Education Ministry recognizes the Israeli Gay Youth Organization (IGY), enabling the group to receive government funding. IGY, founded in 2002 by the Association of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender (The Aguda) is a volunteer-based support organization for gay youth between the ages of 15 - 23. • January 2007: The city of Jerusalem registers its first married gay couple, Avi and Binyamin Rose. • November 2006: The High Court of Justice (Israel’s Supreme Court) sets a precedent by ruling that the civil marriages of five gay couples wed in Canada may be registered as married couples in Israel. (The Roses, above, married in June 2006, were not one of these five couples.) • July 2003: The Tel Aviv municipality grants homosexuals the same spousal discounts provided to heterosexual married couples at cultural, sport and other facilities. • 1998: The Civil Service Commission grants pension rights to same-sex partners. • 1997: The High Court of Justice overturns a decision by then-education minister Zevulun Hammer, a member of the National Religious Party (‘Mafdal’), to ban a television program about homosexual teenagers. • November 1994: The High Court of Justice grants full spousal benefits to the partner of an El Al airlines employee, paving the way for other same-sex couples to receive equal benefits. • 1993: Former Knesset member Yael Dayan establishes a Knesset subcommittee on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. In the same year, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) implement an anti-discrimination policy after Dr. Uzi Even, who had been an officer in the army, testifies to the Knesset that he was discharged from the military and stripped of his security clearance after the IDF discovered that he was gay. Even went on to become the first openly gay Knesset member. • 1992: The Knesset outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. • March 22, 1988: The Knesset decriminalizes homosexuality. • 1975: The first Israeli organization for gays, the Society for the Protection of Personal Rights (SPPR), is founded. Today, the organization is known as the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association (The Aguda)