Sunday, August 15, 2010

Snobbery ...

I stumbled upon an interesting article in Haaretz the other day. It was a heavily sarcastic piece, deriding the recently renovated old Jaffa train station as a tourist trap. The writer could barely contain her displeasure at the quaint, but somewhat schmaltzy setting for a whole new set of typically Tel Aviv cafes, bars, restaurants, and stores.
Like every self-respecting tourist trap, Hatahana is also purporting to be the real thing. While the complex is marketed as a historic site "that preserved its original character," after not functioning as a train station for some time, what remains are prehistoric background props. This gives off an effect resembling the television series "The Flintstones," which created a kind of taste of the schizophrenia of modern life during the Stone Age.

No trains or vehicles travel along the train tracks, preserving their original character, while the station's surrounding facilities have been turned into cafes, boutiques, a souvenir shop and one store with nothing - which no self-respecting tourist trap would be without. The complex was mistakenly crowned "the next hot thing in Tel Aviv." But a tourist trap is a tourist trap; the cooler revelers will see through the forgery and stay away. Tourists from Paris or Rishon Letzion, however, will innocently wander through the refurbished area, scan through clothes selling for the price of a mortgage, search in vain for something else of interest and agree "Wow, look how nice they made this place."
When I first went there I did indeed remark that it had been renovated in quite a lovely way. I still like the place, and I'll hopefully get the chance to spend some more time over there in the near future. I don't pretend to understand the Haaretz writer's disdain for the new complex. Perhaps I'm just not sophisticated or "cool" enough to see what's wrong with the place.

Perhaps, I'm not the one with the problem. I recall a while back reading an article in Haaretz bewailing the fact that a prized architectural gem was going to be demolished in favor of a new apartment tower or some other modern development. The building in question was a classic example of the "Hideous" school of Tel Aviv architecture; a grey drab concrete building with no sense of decoration or style that was easily perceptible.

It seems that this Haaretz piece speaks more to that population that resists any and all attempts to develop Tel Aviv into something slightly more attractive than what it is today. The "old" Tel Aviv snobs claim that the city's ugliness is part of it's charm.

I love Tel Aviv and I love living in this city. But I don't feel threatened by the thought of adding a few coats of plaster or paint to some of the more disgusting and run down buildings here. If that means that a few more yuppies might move in than so be it.

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