THE SPINE JULY 8, 2007
Tel Aviv has had a facelift. Actually, its facelift was begun about a decade ago. And it has made an enormous difference. The city is not quite a hundred years old. But its integrated design was not finished until 1925 when Sir Patrick Geddes delivered his city plan to the town guardians. Geddes, a botanist and biologist who will be remembered in history as a prophet of the "garden city" movement, heavily influenced Lewis Mumford of whom, alas, not many of you heard. Check him out. (There is a volume called Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes: The Correspondence, available at a heavily reduced price not at Powell's but at Amazon. But that is only a small part of Mumford with whom I studied the American transcendentalists at Brandeis many years ago.) Geddes laid out a city of beautiful boulevards that don't quite rival those of Paris but set a fitting frame for the magnificent Bauhaus and "international style" houses that are part of the restoration. But the first such boulevard had nothing to do with Geddes. Sderot Rothschild or Rothschild Boulevard, established to honor the Baron James who was the first great patron of the yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, was planned and constructed more than a decade before Geddes' design. A grand avenue with a middle concourse bordered by even grander trees, it is the center of the "white city" restoration--honored by UNESCO a few years ago.
But there is another Sderot in Israel, a small city with almost no grand buildings and no grand streets. Rather, a poor town with poor economic prospects and mostly poor people living where Gaza Palestinians find it convenient to shoot their rockets. No boulevards here. Tel Aviv is insulated from the realities of Israeli life on the frontiers where Palestinian terror disrupts civil life whenever it strikes someone that it is somehow useful to do so. Believe me: Israel can absorb just so much life threatening weaponry aimed (vaguely) at where civilians live. And then it will move to clean the terrorists out, as the IDF did in Jenin a few years ago.
In the meantime, however, the people of Sderot are bombarded with weapons. And the people on Sderot Rothschild are drinking cappuccino and eating luscious deserts.
Not quite unaware of what's going on in the other Sderot but not attuned to it either.
A student group has tried to remedy this laconic indifference. It has place all along the boulevard some of the rockets that fell on the other Sderot. The well-off are indifferent only to a point. They will connect soon enough.