The Checkpoint at 17 Ha'oman Street

Entry to the "in" clubs reminds one of an attempt to pass through an IDF checkpoint in the territories.

Tel Aviv is not really a "city that never stops" - it takes a break during the day. At night, this ugly and provincial city becomes incomparably vibrant and frenetic. A few nighttime tours of the city in preparation for an article in the Haaretz Passover supplement have revealed that at any given moment there are thousands of young people reveling in a new subculture about which little has been written. This subculture has quite a few positive characteristics - normalcy, secularism and liberalism - "like all the other nations" - but it also has negative aspects. There, in the giant clubs, in dance bars and in dens of alcohol and drugs, the next generation of Israelis is being formed, and it will be different from the generation that came before.

Achbar Ha'ir, the "Bible of Tel Aviv nightlife," lists about 100 clubs and bars operating in the big city at night. The scene also includes countless alternative and underground places that are not included in the list. The language spoken in most of these places is foreign to most adult Israelis. This is not just true of its world of incomprehensible concepts, with a myriad of terms for types of music, sex, and various and sundry drugs. It is particularly true in regard to the unspoken communication being fashioned there, a subject worthy of wider public discussion. In front of our very eyes, a young generation is developing that we know very little about. Every Hebrew mother should be aware that she has no idea what her son and daughter are doing at night.

First of all - there is almost no talking. If computer and cellular communications have created a shockingly meager language, then the nightclubs have imposed a rite of silence. The Internet chat may have made identity extraneous and SMS may have generated a hollow vocabulary, with short abbreviations that are somehow supposed to express feelings and experiences, but when entering a nightclub, there is no need to talk at all. The pandemonium makes it impossible to exchange any words. No one wants to speak. And in such circumstances no one will learn to speak. One can only assume that this phenomenon will mold the character of those growing up there no less than the education system or army service.

Instead of words, there are looks and body movements. A quick glance, bits of a vague idiom, is enough to lead, for example, to sexual relations in the bathroom. They are already building spacious and especially equipped bathrooms for this purpose.

On the other hand, any self-respecting club has a very varied menu of drugs available. The drug dealers mingle among the partygoers and offer drugs to anyone who wishes. You can smoke, swallow, suck, lick, snort, inject - everything is available. Probably no one has any idea of the true scope of this phenomenon. And this is on top of the alcohol. The parking lot outside one of the mega clubs in the wee hours of a weekend night looks like a mass picnic: Hundreds of young people standing by their cars and "tanking up" before going inside.

And what takes place here, outside the clubs, is perhaps the most troubling part of "the scene." Entry to the "in" clubs reminds one of an attempt to pass through an IDF checkpoint in the territories. In both places there is violence and fear implicit in the language. Each club employs a staff of intimidating muscle men, barriers and selection lists intended to prevent entry in accordance with certain criteria, some of which are tainted with racism.

Outside the clubs, a social bitterness develops akin to the feelings engendered at the IDF checkpoints. It is enough to look at the expressions of the hundreds of young people crowding behind the barriers. In the same way that the violent behavior of some soldiers in the territories serves to fuel violence on the other side rather than prevent it - one can reasonably assume that quite a few of the acts of murder and riotous behavior at the entrances to nightclubs were triggered by frustration and bitterness caused by discrimination and excessive violence on the part of the bouncers. A direct line runs from the checkpoint at Qalandiyah to the barriers at 17 Ha'oman Street.

To an outside observer, these big city nights of revelry seem like the last nights of Pompeii, disconnected from the demanding days experienced by most of Israeli society. Ostensibly, there is nothing wrong with this. But these nights are also giving birth to troubling phenomena which are not actually disconnected from the daytime reality. Something bad is being forged in the darkness of night, and it would be worthwhile for us to know more about it.