Tel Aviv’s illustrious past
In response to “If I forget thee, O Tel Aviv” (March 25)
As I began to read Judy Maltz’s article I realized that the history of this country is not really important when you want to bombard the readership with a particular perspective.
When the British Mandate began there were some, not a lot, of Americans who made aliyah. Practically all lived in Tel Aviv. Most of the American members of the Jewish Legion lived in Tel Aviv or in kibbutzim or moshavim. The best-known Jerusalem resident was Gershon Agron, the founder of the Palestine Post (which became The Jerusalem Post). In Tel Aviv there was an American merchants association, an American-Anglo organization and an American basketball league. An English weekly was published in Tel Aviv.
Why was Tel Aviv so attractive in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, right up until the 1967 Six-Day War? It was a modern city − there were flappers, there were bootleggers, there was the Oneg Shabbat society, there were painters and there was a great school.
There was a very literary Palestine Review published monthly in Tel Aviv. I knew one of the writers, Shulamit Nardi, through family connections; she and her husband lived in Tel Aviv. From 1948 until 1967 Tel Aviv continued to be a most exciting city, and Jerusalem counted only because of the government offices.
The manager of the Central Hotel in Jerusalem told me in an interview: “After the Six-Day War there were no major hotels in Jerusalem except for the King David. Visitors to Jerusalem had no place to stay so they were here for a day at most. When (ultra-Orthodox) MK Menachem Porush heard about the opportunity to build a new hotel, he did not hesitate. The Central Hotel was the first new place of lodging after the Six-Day War.”
In the aftermath of the 1967 war Jerusalem took off. Now perhaps there is a change. I’m glad that Tel Aviv is attracting Anglo olim. Even though Jerusalem has much more to offer now than in the past Tel Aviv remains a vibrant metropolitan center. Let’s remember its past and hope that its future may perhaps include a subway.
Dr. David Geffen
My language or yours?
With regard to “The land speaks English,” March 24
It has been the misfortune of the Arabs of Palestine on both sides of the Green Line to have suffered a certain loss of autonomy as a result of the establishment of a Jewish state. What made this pill even more difficult to swallow was the 2,000- year-long suffering of the Jews in various regimes extremely hostile to a Jewish presence and culture, which created in those Jews a desperate need for autonomy. This included a determination to prefer their own language and culture above all others.
The resultant strife has deprived us all of the opportunity to enjoy the rich and varied cultural and linguistic experience that is here for the taking.
The English I speak and write (to the annoyance of a lot of Hebrew purists) contains so many words and concepts from non-Anglo-Saxon cultures − Arabic, Yiddish, Hebrew, Amerindian, Spanish and any number of others.
Instead of profiting from the archaeological evidence of multiple cultures in the history of this area, we have engaged in ignoring facts and attempting to superimpose present realities on past history. I cannot understand how educated people can try to fool their compatriots by changing place names, thus negating or at least trying to negate the presence of other peoples in this land. If we succeed in this endeavor, we will have lost out. We will have lost not only the past, but our status in the study of linguistics, history, geography, archaeology and any other study of reality.
Oudeh Basharat may deride me for writing this letter in English, but it truly is a demonstration of my reality. I came here as a Zionist, but my thoughts and feelings are still best expressed in English.
Nevertheless, I have given my children the opportunity to be educated in Hebrew, thus providing cross-pollination in our family.
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