Petah Tikva Imports Famed U.K. Red Phone Boxes for City Center

Red boxes imported as part of an upgrade that included mosaic benches and two fountains.

Any person who has visited London, or even seen postcards of the British capital, recognizes the ubiquitous red phone boxes that define the urban landscape there. As cell phones push aside the public phone, Britons are gripping on to this symbol of their culture - which is even being imported to Petah Tikva.

Given the worrisome disappearance of the symbolic phone boxes, some eastern England residents decided "to adopt" their red phone boxes in an attempt to keep them standing, even without phones inside. This is part of a new initiative enabling residents to preserve elements of the urban landscape deemed part of the local cultural heritage. As part of the program, the local authorities can purchase the boxes for a pound each.

Under another initiative, local councils can pay 500 pounds (around NIS 2,500) a year to maintain the phone boxes (phones and all) and prevent them from being removed due to lack of use. Hevingham, north of Norwich, is one city planning to preserve the familiar icons. City council member Paul Carrick told the London Times that the council believes it is worth the cost of the occasional paint jobs, minimal electricity and maintenance.

The "adopt a phone box" project was launched after British Telecom announced that 300 phone boxes in Norfolk would be removed due to lack of use, but noted that these boxes had become a British symbol.

Meanwhile, this British symbol is being imported to Petah Tikva. About a year ago, ten red phone boxes were installed along Haim Ozer Street, one of the main thoroughfares in the former farming colony, as part of a renovation.

"Haim Ozer Street is a main artery in the city, and this is part of the concept to develop the city center," explains Ami Greenberg, an assistant to the municipality's director general. "The telephone boxes were part of an upgrade that also included mosaic benches, two fountains and other elements. At the moment, the boxes are on Haim Ozer Street, because the development work is complete there."

The phone boxes were imported from the same company that manufactured the London phone boxes, Greenberg said, noting that the municipality had received positive feedback.

"It's very practical. It's closed during the winter, affords privacy and good acoustics and the design has a connotation of Europe and the world at large. We learn from them and they learn from us. A great big global world."

But not everyone is pleased about the red boxes.

"I think it belongs to a different place, a different culture," says City Councilor Sarah Oren. "It is associated with London and England, and there's no point in adopting symbols of another culture. It's a foreign transplant. Some of the residents liked it and some didn't, but all in all, it was not a particularly big hit. It's very symbolic, like transferring a double-decker bus to Petah Tikva. The red boxes will not transform Petah Tikva into London."