In Tel Aviv, the windows of tall office buildings blaze all night long, conspicuously consuming. The brightest lights of Jerusalem, during Chanukah week, were those of a huge electric candelabrum at the city's gate: an expense for which the municipality, dominated by religious factions, was much criticised - the holy city is notoriously the poorest in the country. On the Tel Aviv seashore, private yachts share the sea with armed patrols. 'Lady, you're in a closed military zone,' a guard mutters, when I stray beyond an elegant new marina. In shabby downtown Jerusalem, by contrast, there are two guards for every bus: one at the stop, one on the bus itself. Many restaurants have barricades around them, and there is airport-style security at the Western Wall plaza, with separate entrances for women and men. Tel Aviv is Israel's pleasure-loving seaside, Jerusalem its austere, clerical face; Tel Aviv the 'normal' city, Jerusalem the disputed, divided heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict - the contrast between them is ever more striking. Despite the presence of that secular powerhouse, the Hebrew University, religious orthodoxy rules in Jerusalem, and young 'secular' Israelis are deserting the city in droves. These are not just two different cities; they are two different Israels.
LRB 3 February 2005 | PDF Download