An Uneasy Night

Police brutality and cancellations have dealt a blow to the feeling of festivity and the consensus that has previously existed around White Night.

White Night is the name of a Tel Aviv initiative that began in 2003, the year in which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization chose Tel Aviv's "white city" as a World Heritage Site for its cultural significance. The White Night festival features a large number of cultural events that take place throughout the night. Most of them are held in clubs, stores, galleries and museums, as well as in the streets; they are accessible to the general public for free or at a reduced price.

This welcome initiative of the Tel Aviv municipality is going to face difficulties tonight. Last weekend's violence, which was the result, among other things, of a total refusal by Mayor Ron Huldai to allow the protest tents to return to Rothschild Boulevard, brought in its wake a wave of cancellations by those due to participate in the events.

Seventeen art galleries have declared that they will not take part in the White Night festival. An event with various bands has been cancelled, as has an important literary event and a number of art and music events. A number of social activists have decided to hold two alternative events instead, for those who do not want to support the municipal activities.

The wave of cancellations is not total and many of the events will indeed take place tonight. However the feeling of festivity and the consensus that has previously existed around White Night have been dealt a blow.

The damage stems directly from the dominance that Huldai has displayed toward the social protesters in recent months. He decided, without discussion or consultation with the protesters, not to allow them to demonstrate in the place that has become the symbol of their struggle, Rothschild Boulevard, and then implemented that decision in a violent manner, with the help of the municipal inspectors and especially, the help of the police. That decision sparked opposition to everything that the municipality and its head represent.

It appears that Huldai, despite the fact that he has served as mayor for 14 years and has worthy achievements, does not understand that White Night is a municipal-cultural expression of the free Tel Aviv spirit, that spirit which was given expression by the thousands of youngsters who chose to voice their cries on Rothschild Boulevard last year.

After Huldai played a central role in repressing the youths' protest last Friday, he expected that those same young men and women would participate in an event which is meant to be a celebration of that spirit of freedom, but which is being held under the patronage of the municipality that choked their cries. His expectations have turned out to be baseless.

Police arrest a demonstrator during a protest for social justice in Tel Aviv
Tomer Appelbaum