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The Art Of Tel Aviv

Reporting about Israel in the New York Times is usually gloomy. My old friend Isabel Kershner, one of the Times's correspondents in Jerusalem, has the old politics of the old Israeli peace movement in which almost no one still believes.  It is, in any case, a gestural politics: You go to Rabin Square and sing "We Shall Overcome." Nobody in this evaporating movement has yet recognized that Israel is willing to give up almost all of the West Bank, like it did literally all of the Gaza Strip. Some more sensible folk have noticed that the Palestinian position is "not an inch to be left with the Israelis." But the real problem is whether the Palestinians are willing to live with any Israel in any borders. And, since no one except President Abbas and his weak government has so much as given a hint that this is the case, the Palestinians as a whole are still yearning for Haifa as their own.

Another old friend Ethan Bronner is the Times bureau chief, and he has taken to covering cultural topics as well as bloody politics. He, for example, worries as the about the survival of Hebrew as a language. Oh my!

What really agitates these burdened souls and rather more hostile journalists like Tobias Buck of the FT is that Israelis seem to be living their own lives as individuals and Israelis with quotidian joys and quotidian sorrows, and some of both that are not quotidian. Yes, most Israelis are not burdened by the Palestinians. They have made their beds and they now sleep in them. If they had not tolerated and cheered on terrorists from the West Bank leaving bombs as calling cards in Israel there would not now be checkpoints in and separation barriers from the territories.

Anyway, this is a long way to the Times story I want to notice as a story about normalcy in Israel. Robert Goff is the author, and his article is about a Tel Aviv art fair: "Is Tel Aviv About to Crash the Art Party?"  Indeed, it is. "You can walk around and it's not a question of price tag," says one of Goff's informants. I know the Tel Aviv art scene, and I've bought from two of the galleries mentioned in the piece. It is artistically serious but it is nonetheless casual and even fun. I think the standards are higher than in most of the Chelsea emporiums. The long struggle between the Jewish state and the Arabs of Palestine is not much in evidence.

Tel Aviv is the center of this freedom from "the problem." It is a joyous and liberated city. "How great is that?" exclaimed a Whitney curator about the fair.