Thursday, May 10, 2007

New towers by the sea

The weather is spring crazy: hot, dusty, dry days of 'hamsin' followed by dirty rain and then a perfect day. In general it's getting progressively warmer and so I took my first dip of the season this week. This is the best season for swimming in the sea. The water is clean (or at least looks clean). In summer, this end of the Med has the consistency of dirty chicken soup and is often infested with massive jellyfish (medusot in Hebrew). The waves also get bigger, churning up the sea bed and on a really good day something goes wrong with the system and raw sewage is added to the mix. But this week everything looked pristine and, after the initial shock, the water felt great.

For demographic reasons (Jewish Tel Aviv wanted to bypass its Arab neighbours in Jaffa and Manshiyeh the 1920s and 30's) , Tel Aviv's main streets (Hayarkon, Allenby, Ben Yehuda, Dizengoff) run parallel to the sea, thereby breaking the rule of every Mediterranean seaside town. Hence, the sea in Tel Aviv only appears when you are almost on top of it, surprising you somewhat each time anew. In the 1970s the municipality decided to build a string of (ugly) hotels along the beach front, thereby blocking access to the sea for several blocks. Still, the beachfront promenade and the beaches, which now run uninterrupted from Yaffo in the south to Tel Aviv port in the north are our greatest natural asset. There aren't enough green spaces , especially in the south. but the beach makes up for it.

Opening Ha'aretz on Monday I discovered that "Tel Aviv residents might be separated from the beachfront permanently, if plans by the Tel Aviv Municipality come to fruition. Contradicting its own bylaw passed in 1983, which prohibits beachfront construction, over the past few years City Hall has been promoting 11 projects to build 1,800 housing units in those very areas."
The view from the rooftop will also be harmed. Two big residential towers are going to rob us of another chunk of our sea view. Tel Avivians have never been obsessive about a sea view and a seaside address was never that much of a big deal. The beach belonged to everyone and was always easy to access. But now the property sharks in league with the planners and answering the new demand for apartments with a sea view, will be blocking Tel Avivians from their urban playground.

If the plans go ahead, this might be the only way to get to the beach soon.

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