All-night celebration fills city streets and squares with music, dance, poetry, art, theater, sunrise concerts and yoga on the beach, plus plenty of fine cuisine.
By Avigayil Kadesh
The streets of Tel Aviv pulsated all night long with music, street theater, a marketplace and open art galleries and eateries on June 30, for the eighth annual White Night celebration.
The festival began in celebration of the city’s 2003 designation as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Cultural Heritage site (whc.unesco.org) for its unequalled collection of white Bauhaus-style edifices – hence the appellation “White City.”
Some 50 Bauhaus buildings along Rothschild Boulevard and Bialik Street are specially lit during White Night each year.
Paralleling Tel Aviv’s rising rankings as a choice travel destination – HotelsCombined.com named it one of the 10 hottest 2011 summer party spots, White Night has grown to include dozens of open-air choices for entertainment, nearly all for free (one of the few venues charging admission was an hour-long cruise offered throughout the night). This year was the first time the city included a concert for children, held at the Cinemateque (with Yoni Rechter and Rona Kenan.)
Tel Aviv = fun
“There are White Night events all over Europe, but nothing like this one, with the vibe of nightlife, cuisine and music,” says Hila Oren, director general of Global City TLV, the municipality’s arm for promoting Tel Aviv as an international business, culture and leisure center.
“It’s so special. At 2, 3, or 4 am during White Night, you really feel safe in the streets. When people overseas hear ‘Israel,’ they hear ‘conflict,’ but when they hear ‘Tel Aviv,’ they hear ‘fun.’ There are not a lot of places you feel as safe as you do here.”
Oren says estimates placed the number of participants at between 200,000 and 250,000. “We don’t know how many of them are from foreign countries, but next year we will offer weekend City Break travel packages around White Night to market it overseas, as we do for our annual gay pride parade. But I can tell you that the hotels, beaches and clubs were all full. The happiness and joy in the streets was a phenomenon.”
“Eurovision” Israeli-Arab songstress duo Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad performed in the Jaffa Port. Renowned recording artists Mati Caspi, Shlomo Gronich and Shem Tov Levi presented a sunrise concert on the beach, while sunrise yoga and meditation was offered at the Tel Aviv Port.
A marathon of indie rock bands played to crowds in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; a sound-and-light show lit up Bialik Street; and Kobi Oz sang in Gan HaHashmal. Street theater enlivened the Jaffa Flea Market; while new Jewish songs were debuted at the Great Synagogue and the Ohel Moed Historic Synagogue. Night tours of the city were available from the municipality and restaurants featured special menus.
Tel Aviv often hosts culture ministers from European countries for White Night. This year, Oren says, an executive from California’s Universal Studios happened to be in town for a personal vacation on June 30, so she took him through White Night by bicycle. “He was crazy about it,” she reports.
Next June, according to Oren, White Night events will be themed to “keep up the good mood” of the planned Art Year festivities in Tel Aviv kicking off in March with the official opening a 20,000-square-meter addition to the Tel Aviv Museum.