On Thursday, Tel Aviv celebrated its 9th annual “White Night,” a city-wide party to mark the UNESCO declaration of Tel Aviv as “the White City,” in honor of its many (white) Bauhaus-era buildings.
My wife Jody and I had never been to White Night (“Layla Levan” in Hebrew) – the throngs of revelers and infamous traffic jams scared us off. But we ventured out this year, parking near the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, a 15-minute walk from ground zero: Rothschild Boulevard.
It turned out to be a good choice. Clearly, the entire city had headed outside and jammed into a several kilometer stretch of the street, one of Tel Aviv’s most beautiful with its wide park down the center and majestic trees above.
The basic set up is this: every block or so, there is a small stage where some Tel Aviv rock band trots out its tunes. Some are amateurish, while others quite good (a decent Beatles cover band played near the HaBima Theater).
Our favorite was a singer songwriter named Niv Kaikov whose melodic, jangly-pop songs immediately caught our attention. A beaming woman – clearly smitten but much too old to be a fan – was hawking his CD for only NIS 20. “Are you his mother?” Jody asked, politically way incorrect (what if it was Kaikov’s girlfriend!) “Of course,” she said and we purchased the CD (you can also listed to Kaikov’s music on his MySpace page).
The cafes along Rotshchild were all packed, as was the Iceberg ice cream shop. After having read last year that it sold the best ice cream in town, we joined the line (actually a totally un-Israeli orderly queue) and purchased a two scoop bitter chocolate and Irish cream mix. It was good – though I can’t say if it was better than Aldo (our usual ice cream haunt).
We started our stroll around 9:30 PM when there were still lots of families, strollers and dogs out. When we left two hours later, the demographic had dropped to teens and twenty-somethings and was more wall-to-wall than a free Justin Bieber concert on the Banana Beach.
Our choice to park near the museum was not entirely to avoid the blocked off streets of central Tel Aviv. The Litvak Gallery, at 4 Berkowitz Street, had a marvelous exhibition of works from world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly – and it was totally free for the evening (the exhibition runs until July 31 although you’ll have to pay).
And in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art itself was “Indie City,” a showcase of local bands on two stages (the three bands we caught a few notes of were all pretty downbeat and emo).
Oh, and to top it all off, we splurged for a dinner at Liliyot, a kosher restaurant, also in the museum area, that helps give youth-at-risk and high school drop outs a second chance (and serves up some inspired creations – imagine grilled chicken livers on toast with bananas and vanilla caramel). Not cheap but worth it.
Jody and I have a number of festivals and events we attend every year – the wine festival at the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Film Festival and Jacob’s Ladder. Now we’ll be adding White Night in Tel Aviv to the list.