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Living in Tel Aviv Has Never Been Worse

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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Overflowing garbage bin in Tel Aviv's Florentin neighborhood
Overflowing garbage bin in Tel Aviv's Florentin neighborhoodCredit: Moti Milrod
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Life in Tel Aviv is now worse than it’s ever been in my lifetime, and I’ve been living in it for 35 years. I wonder what songwriter/columnist Eli Mohar, who so loved the city in his songs and columns, would write about it now. The most expensive city in the world is spitting out its veteran residents like shells. It’s for rich people only. Rental prices are spiking to levels of cruelty, along with the avaricious cynicism of landlords. Only people in high-tech or career military officers pay such rent gladly.

There are hundreds of people competing for every apartment. Neglected spaces with a shocking level of upkeep are being offered to people desperate to make it in Tel Aviv, for exorbitant prices. Tenants are expelled from the city by price increases of tens of percentage points, in the knowledge that richer people will easily be found to replace them, paying 15,000 shekels ($4,670) a month for a 4-room apartment.

The rich are not Tel Avivians in their souls. The classic Tel Aviv culture is not a culture of money, but of humility and creativity. The soul of Tel Aviv is being trampled, pushed southwards, digging in to the Florentin neighborhood. It won’t survive for long there either, due to developers and contractors capitalizing their profits shamelessly. Foul and swinish ethics have become the emblem of contemporary Tel Aviv.

The price of a plain sandwich has also become simply offensive. A tuna sandwich in the heart of the city now costs around 50 shekels ($15.50). It’s disgusting. The cost of basic goods at supermarkets is incompatible with the wages of veteran residents, who are screwed from every direction. These costs are a sign of the ever-entrenching culture of robbery.

Work on the light rail system seems never-ending. It’s onerous now, with no easing in sight. The delays in opening the first line keep repeating themselves. No one is waiting for this train anymore. The work has become a fact of life, one more burden or constraint, a punishment of the city’s residents, a pointless form of abuse. The map of blocked streets only keeps growing. Chaos and impermanence are all-pervasive. The abundance of faded multicolored lines on asphalt – in yellow, white or orange – makes driving impossible. One can only crawl along in a traffic jam.

Tel Aviv. Only Israelis in high-tech or career military officers can afford living here.Credit: Avshalom Halutz

Parking a car is also impossible. In my neighborhood, half of the parking spots were taken away over the last year for the benefit of concrete-mixing trucks and cranes performing urban renewal (Tama 38) projects. One gets up in the morning to encounter demolished houses, deep pits and scaffolding. There is no graduation of the doses dished out, no consideration. All the work is done at the same time, with new signs declaring the next Tama 38 project appearing constantly.

Our lot is to be engulfed in a constant cloud of dust. The fabric of life is collapsing, the noise grates on one’s nerves, deafening and closing in on all sides. Drilling, hammering, concrete mixer motors, leaf blowers and the noise of city cleaning trucks, with workers walking alongside them spraying passersby with water like one sprays cockroaches. Not only homeless people are invisible here. At any given moment, a small street may be blocked off without prior warning, for the benefit of construction, which always enjoys priority over the needs of residents.

The corner gym emits awful music at monstrous volumes during evening hours, while you walk hundreds of meters in search of a bin for disposing your dog’s droppings. On the way you’ll have to step over rats, rusty tins, bags and, above all, the droppings left behind by dog owners who gave up looking for a bin.

What does it express, all that crap in the street? When the light rail finally starts to operate, you’ll be able to use it to throw away your dog’s droppings in Petah Tikva or Bat Yam. Until then, it’s recommended you rent an apartment for storing your dog’s excrement. Something cheap. A room fit for a Raskolnikov, with a cracked toilet, for 7,000 shekels a month.

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