A Country is Born

A Jewish state is a state where the vision of the Jews can be fulfilled: to be together in this land and make it a role model, a human and moral utopia, a land where everyone can live together, and in harmony with the world.

From the hotel balcony I look out over the White City. At the height of summer the light is intense. It doesn’t let up for a moment throughout the exhilarating day. A busy city: offices, technology, commerce, services. It is said that in Jerusalem they pray, in Haifa they work, and in Tel Aviv they play – but that’s not true. In Tel Aviv they work hard, even if people hang out at night everywhere, all the time. In bars, pubs, restaurants that spring up like mushrooms after the rain, at open-air parties, in abandoned buildings or warehouses, in courtyards, on the sidewalks, on the roofs. They dance everywhere in this crazy city.

This country, which is constantly under attack and whose very existence is not taken for granted, is so famous and yet so unknown. It carves a path through all the prejudices. A vibrant society safeguarded in every possible way and protected by an iron dome that stops no small number of bombs and terrorist attacks – unfortunately, in France they are just now understanding the meaning of living under the threat of Islamic fascism. A society that struggles with this scourge, but is nourished, and also excited, by its astonishing contradictions and mysteries. Side by side – in the same neighborhoods and shops, on the same sidewalks – men and women in swimsuits or sportswear and young Instagram personalities on their way to the beach, and others, ultra-Orthodox dressed in long black garments under the blazing sun, head to the synagogue or Beit Midrash. Lives, ideas, values that are diametrically opposed. Muslims, Jews, Christians. People from all over the world – from Russia to South America and Africa – coexist in the same streets, in the same neighborhoods, and in the same buildings.

In Tel Aviv you hear the muezzin’s call. But not only the muezzin calling from the mosque. Every day in Jaffa you hear the meandering tunes broadcast over the loudspeakers. While the Muslims go to pray, the artists and young high-tech workers march off to the beach, and the merchants shut up shop at half past five in the afternoon. Shirtless, a surfboard on their shoulders, under and among the palm trees. Quite a Californian atmosphere. The landscape is unique: hurried nonchalance, elegance without pretension, a “careless” look, unpolished beauty, quite relaxed. People move between the streets in the defined, almost Germanic contours of the city’s north and the other side, Jaffa, suffused with the East and Arabia. A crossroads of all the influences: European, thanks to the Crusades; English, due to the colonial heritage; Russian, because of the first immigrants and also more recent ones who arrived not long ago, looking tough and speaking Hebrew with the rolling “r”; Asian, because of the yoga, of which David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister and one of the founders of 20th century Zionism, was so fond; and also because of those one meets at all hours of the day or night, a small rug rolled up under their arm for the designated prayer time. Middle Eastern, thanks to the markets, the amazing stores where everything is sold, the hummus stalls spread over the endless sidewalks, the yellowing buildings and the crumbling walls – all this unreasonableness that is the secret magic of this city. Africa too, because of the climate and the population of immigrants from Ethiopia; because of its inexact pace, and because of the way the city’s residents walk barefoot through the sun-soaked streets. A kind of city-world that contains the entire globe and inspires it, thanks to its cuisine and also to its technology. Tel Aviv is at the focus of everything.

If it weren’t for the extremists armed by Iran, peace could have arrived here in the same way it was reached with so many Arab countries, from Morocco to the United Arab Emirates. Not the peace of people who just live next to each other, but of people who live together, somehow, proud of the differences between them, which make life exciting and the city alive. Today’s Tel Aviv is at its peak thanks to this improbable melting pot, which is the opposite of wokeness, and which is the very essence of shared life: not that everyone is the same, but that they are all at the extremities. Radically different. Black hats next to straw hats. Laced-up shoes alongside flip-flops. Houses of worship near the open-air markets. Low-rise buildings from the 1930s next to ziggurats worthy of Babylon. Tel Aviv is the Bauhaus capital of the world along with heritage sites. Born out of whatever was at hand. Sprung up out of crazy energy, out of the desire to create life on this earth. And why not? All together, and so different. This White City was created out of a dream. And in Herzl’s words: if you will it, it is no dream. A Jewish state is a state where the vision of the Jews can be fulfilled: to be together in this land and make it a role model, a human and moral utopia, a land where everyone can live together, and in harmony with the world.


Dr. Éliette Abécassis is a French-Jewish writer and a professor of philosophy at the University of Caen Normandy.