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"show And Tel"

That's the title of Ha'aretz's special magazine insert for the the hundredth anniversary of Tel Aviv, "the first Hebrew city."  I'm in Jerusalem right now. But I suspect that, had he lived, Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, would have spent this night--and many other nights--out on the new town.

At Rabin Square there were literally hundreds of thousands of mostly young people listening to the music of the Israel Philharmonic, with Zubin Mehta conducting, and the latest rock stars, rollerblading and crowd surfing, dancing and feasting on the street festival versions of the exotic and sophisticated food that is Tel Aviv cuisine. You can read a report of the celebration in Sunday's Ha'aretz.

No, the crowds of celebrants were not brooding over the peace process. They were living normal lives, with a big leaven of permanent joy. If the Israelis were obsessively brooding the Palestinians would have won a great victory. And it's not that they don't want peace. It may ultimately not be peace on all of their terms. But the peace that may come will certainly not be peace with the terms imagined by whatever spectrum there is (and there isn't much of a spectrum) in Palestinian public opinion.

You see: there is a triumphalist spirit to Israel. It is not, however, triumphalism over the Palestinians. It is triumphalism over Jewish history. Tel Aviv is a symbol of that triumphalism...but only a symbol. Elsewhere and across the country, really, there are so many symbols of achievement and triumph that the Israelis are now paying close attention to their mistakes.

The Palestinians resisted history. They stubbornly refused to reckon with the Zionists. They exported both their diplomacy and their wars to the neighboring Arab countries. Their last desperate gambit is to call for the one-state solution. Only Palestinians would stoop so low in their aspirations. Let anyone show us one polity in the Arab world that could be an acceptable model for this state.  Show and tell.

Architect and city planner Hillel Schocken, the great grandson of the great Hebrew bibliographer, publisher and founder of Ha'aretz (now run by Hillel's brother Amos), has written a prophetic article, "Fifty Years from Today," in the supplement.  Looking to the future of Tel Aviv, Schocken envisions the continuation of the great design of Lewis Mumford's master teacher, Patrick Geddes. The greatness of the Geddes Plan, Schocken writes, lies in its two main elements:  

*It created a dense and continuous network of public spaces--mainly streets, along with some public gardens.
*It set out the dimensions of urban lots and blocks, thus enabling a gradual increase of the density of residential units over the years while preserving a distinct urban fabric.

This vision was sorely compromised by the creation of almost helter-skelter bedroom communities and build-fast-at-any-aesthetic-price undifferentiated neighborhoods to meet the new waves of immigrants swamping the country, almost on schedule every decade.  But Schocken is very optimistic about the future of Tel Aviv:

Its population density should double from about 7,000 to 15,000 people per square kilometer --though even then it will have only slightly more than half of the populations density of Paris...High urban density will be recognized as a positive contribution to the quality of city life.

Given the aesthetic retrieval of particular areas of the city like the ones that boast the greatest concentration of Bauhaus and International Style architecture, one can imagine with Schocken one of Tel Aviv's polluted backwaters as the city's "River Seine." Of course, all of this is yet to come.

But the celebration is not just of a city as such. It is also a celebration of a people who built an incandescent future on a gruesome past.