Tel Aviv, the rent is too damn high
You'd have to be crazy to stay in Tel Aviv and pay the rent here. The best solution is to convince 100,000 fellow city-dwellers to pack up and move somewhere else close by.
I love Tel Aviv. I was born here and I have breathed its soot and dust for 37 years. I love strolling its streets, watching its people, coasting down its roadways on my bicycle while I weave between minibuses and rumbling buses.
For the past 14 years, I have rented the same two-room apartment. I harbor no fantasies of a sweeping penthouse or a house with a lawn and a swimming pool for guests. I play ping pong in Gan Meir park in the center of the city. I take regular runs on the sprawling beachfront promenade. I live in Tel Aviv. And one day, when I die, I want to die in Tel Aviv.
But in the past few years, my love has felt unrequited. I have been transformed, like so many of my friends, into a chump. I have been willing to pay rent that is so high I will only be able to continue paying it if the State of Israel legalizes polygamy and I squeeze several extra people into my bed.
My mayor, Ron Huldai, pimps out every open space left in the city to real estate developers who build high-rise luxury towers and ghost neighborhoods. The only people who can afford to live in a place like this already own a home somewhere else. Those who can't afford them walk beneath them every evening, gaze up at the darkened windows and curse.
Why do we still, in spite of everything, want to live in Tel Aviv?
I live in Tel Aviv because my life, my family, my friends and my best and worst memories all live here.
I live in Tel Aviv because every night there are a myriad of performances, plays, exhibits and grand openings held with cold beer, cheap wine and finger food. It is a city of museums, cultural centers, coffee houses and beautiful boulevards.
I live in Tel Aviv because this city lives 24/7. You don't need to drive half an hour here to purchase a pack of Winstons. Here we have the best hummus and the wettest beaches. Here is the bar where I've been a regular for the past 10 years, a club that wouldn't look out of place in Berlin, and the blue collar food joints that only I know about. This is the furiously beating heart, alive and kicking about the city. Every moment here another idea is born and every second that passes is a new experience created.
Everything is both true and full of lies, the sh*t that Tel Avivians say. Like any other city, Tel Aviv is a pile of concrete and bricks given a life and a pulse by its denizens.
If tomorrow we all decided to pick up and go we would take along everything with us, except maybe the sand and the sea. Just imagine it – 100,000 Tel Avivians in an exodus to somewhere new, another district, another city, a new world just around the corner that knows how to appreciate them.
All it would take is 100,000 Tel Avivians packing up their friends, their culture, their performance, their art, their bars and restaurants and signing an agreement with the mayor of another city that was close enough, urban enough, perhaps with a beach for those who like sand – and simply moving there. Leave Ron Huldai with his rich friends, his tall towers and those sparkling new jeeps to wither alone in the dying heart of a Tel Aviv suddenly shrouded in eerie, empty silence.
For aren't we the only reason that landlords dare to ask for NIS 6,000 a month for a 60-square meter apartment? Aren't we why investors are prepared to pay tens of millions of shekels for still un-finished apartments in one of the exclusive luxury towers, which they will come visit only once every three months? It's because of us – because we are here.
And in manner that couldn't be more ironic, we are also the ones who are asked to pay the price.
The market wasn't created on its own. It has no mother and it certainly didn't learn to walk without guidance. The market is the result of a gathering of individuals that have been successfully separated from each other. This is the great accomplishment of Western capitalism. Aware that it must constantly expand, it has succeeded in making us compete with one another.
And yet, we are the market. All the entrepreneurs and tycoons quiver at the thought that we will one day grasp this simple truth. In the past year, more than few have figured it out. Some of the largest companies in the economy, those that trampled upon us by paying starvation wages to the working masses, have collapsed before our eyes.
Make no mistake: These are beautiful, heady days. When the market value of cell phone company Partner Communications took a nosedive, our weekly cell phone bills were slashed. When the supermarket chain Shufersal reported a sharp drop in profitability, it didn't mean that people stopped eating. They simply went back to shopping at the corner grocery or at cheaper, competing supermarkets.
Even if it may mean our pensions lose a couple of percentage points in value, our community is growing ten-fold. The speed in which people joined cooperatives in the past year will attest to this. The cell phone companies, the supermarket chains, even the banks – they are all internalizing this social change in one way or another.
Only one thing remains to be addressed, and that is residential real estate.
After a year of hope that the real estate bubble was deflating, journalists are reporting the return of young couples and property investors to the real estate market with a renewed vigor bordering on insanity. And I don't say they are crazy for nothing. People who are willing to mortgage away with their lives and their future for the next 30 years are either capable of reading their cards very well or they must be crazy.
So we have just one lesson left to teach the establishment, the landlords, the building contractors behind the new high-rise towers and the mayor. It is the simplest thing that we can do. We can coalesce as a group, pick up and go.
On the day that 100,000 young Tel Avivians decide, at least on paper and to bargain with nearby local authorities, to emigrate from a city that doesn't know how to love them as it should, real change will occur. Afterward, there will no longer be anything we cannot achieve.
To remain in Tel Aviv today is no longer an expression of love. It is a sign of obsession. And the best way to treat an obsession is to sever all contact. Maybe, one day in the future, we can go back to being just friends.
Amit Neufeld is PhD student in Tel Aviv University's Department of Philosophy and is the editor and manager of the website for the Slow movement in Israel.