White Night

July 6, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Adam Baratz, Voices from Israel | Leave a comment
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This Friday, I attended Tel Aviv’s White Night Festival. In 2003, UNESCO declared Tel Aviv a World Heritage Center and dubbed it as “The White City.” Since then, the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality has held an annual citywide party, offering a slew of special events for the benefit of the residents and visitors of the city.

As a firsthand witness, I can confidently say that this is an extraordinary event. Its uniqueness helps to providing some interesting clues about the Israeli culture. For starters, the event, which began at 8pm, continued until sunrise. I only got back home at 9:30am. For those familiar with Israeli culture, this might not sound too surprising. Israelis tend to be nocturnal, especially on the weekends. As a youth, I can vividly recall consistently staying up for the entire night with my friends.  Back then, when we finally surrendered to our exhaustion, we would wake up in the late afternoon. There is something humbling and exhilarating about watching the night from the sunset until the sunrise.

However, Israelis’ uniqueness goes far beyond their ability to suppress their need to sleep. When walking down the street, one could see thousands of people of all ages. In the States, “night parties” might attract a very limited demographic of people. However, at White Night, I saw 70 year-old couples dancing and singing alongside teenagers. The offerings included: opera, restaurants open all night, clubs, concerts, street-shows, and cult film screenings. There was something for everyone. Such an event helped to instill a sense of community and oneness around the city. It was great to see how comfortable the young and old felt when interacting with each other.

Most impressive however, was the fact that I saw very few police throughout the event. For such a huge occasion, there were very few incidents of vandalism. The city was self-regulated. There was little need for an official law-enforcement agency. Instead, the city’s residents acted as unofficial police. What is more, I did not see any people who were visibly drunk. Although I am sure that people did drink, they knew their limits. It was wonderful to see an entire population of young people who were able to have a good time without drinking and damaging property.

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