Love Is in the Protest Air

Tel Aviv's tent city sparks salty summer affairs.

In the wake of the congregating of masses of young people in the heat of July, the sitting around on mattresses and the stripping down to minimal clothing, apparently the next protest will be about the price of condoms.

"She was the most beautiful girl on the boulevard. All the boys courted her. They offered her popsicles; they gave her flowers; but she was interested only in me.

Tent protest - Tali Mayer - 020802011
Tali Mayer

"We spoke for hours. Turned out, she had showed up without a tent. It got late. At three o'clock at night, we went into my tent. It was hot. One thing led to another, predictably, and what happened, happened. At that stage, it was even hotter. And fun. And then it was done. It was still crazy hot. There was no air in the tent. I opened the zipper of the tent to breathe a bit of air. To my surprise, there were 40 people standing around the tent and they applauded enthusiastically. They had heard everything."

Thus related a young businessman, who over the past two weeks has abandoned the pubs he used to frequent and has begun living his nightlife at the torrid tent center on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.

The protest arena that has gone up on Rothschild is full of urges. The chemical mix of young men and young women, tents, mattresses, heat, humidity and a feeling of unity and brotherhood is intoxicating, causing sparks to fly in all directions in the form of brief and salty summer love stories.

Meital Azoulay, a 29-year-old dance teacher from Tel Aviv, relates that late one night, she and a friend noticed a silvery tent that was jumping and rocking. "We got close and found that a young couple were making love there with the window open," she says. "I don't know if they realized that anyone walking on the boulevard at that hour could see them. All in all, I think it's legitimate that if people have moved their bedroom to a tent on the street, then they do everything there. Just like at home."

This is the "love revolution," as was written on an impressive sign that appeared one morning at the corner of Rothschild and Sheinkin; and love is present. It is embracing between the blocking of streets and the serious discussions about affordable housing; it is caressing among the dog lawns and the silvery tents.

"There is an atmosphere of Woodstock here," shouted a white rapper into a black megaphone.

That is a bit banal and also a bit right. There is nowhere better these days to seek love in Tel Aviv. "Where do people end the evening nowadays in Tel Aviv? It's no longer by going up to the apartment. They simply go into a tent together," related a handsome fellow of 30, a greengrocer by trade, who easily identified the trend during the first days.

"I went out to have a drink and I met a nice girl," he said. "We stopped at a kiosk and we bought things for a picnic - two kinds of salty snacks, some beer and a three-pack of condoms, and straight into a tent.

"But very quickly we realized it wasn't going to be all that simple," he complained. "The lawn isn't leveled. It's full of stones, irrigation ditches and bits of exposed concrete. It's very hard on the back, but you find the angles."

It got late. Small groups sprawled on mattresses and straw mats between the tents. They were tired from consecutive nights without sleep. Gal Avnet, an acting student of 27, said the situation on Rothschild was in fact interfering with his love life.

"At the moment, there is too much perspiration and too many observers. But love will win out in the end," he declared.