White Night is a movement that’s been spreading around the globe. It first lit up Tel Aviv in 2003, the same year that UNESCO designated this coastal mecca and its Bauhaus architectural beauties a world heritage site; and the year it was named White City. Since then, the annual festivities fall on the last Thursday of June, with a wide range of concerts and other activities taking place around town, starting from early evening and lasting until the wee hours of the morning.
Last night, the city lit up again. Israelis and tourists were out in droves. They signed up for a Diner en Blanc, which took place at an undisclosed location; with attendees wearing all-white for the exclusive event. Stores were decked in white ornaments, restaurants festooned with white balloons. There were white-themed parties and dinner menus, and Bauhaus buildings along Rothschild Boulevard dazzled under the spotlights.
The streets, sidewalks and plazas streamed with people of all ages. Bikes, skateboards, electric scooters and motorbikes jostled for space with pedestrians, while on the streets they swerved through car-traffic with ease. Wheelchair-bound seniors watched from the relative safety of the periphery, while their Asian-looking assistants congregated with their community of fellow care-givers nearby.
Stores and cafés stayed opened much later than usual, and the city’s Museum of Art remained open until midnight and treated late-night visitors to half-price tickets. The gardens of Sarona, on the site of the recently restored German Templar colony, had first-time visitors dropping by for a night-time view. Bars on the beach, and all around town, screened (what else?) the World Cup, while a group of students performed an odd-looking mime, complete with knives, bloody-looking shirts, and no ready explanation for their act.
At least one of the stages, set up for the event in one of Tel Aviv’s most spacious plazas (in front of Habima Theater), pulled in crowds for a blast of world music. It started with the consul of India welcoming onlookers in a few words of fragmented Hebrew, before handing over the stage to a group of Bollywood dancers. I learned that most of the sari-wearing women and girls were indeed of Indian origin (or 2nd generation) – yet their fluent Hebrew far surpassed mine.
Indian music eventually gave way to Latin vibes, a Brazilian dance troupe twirling and swirling about. The audience joined in, whether it was salsa, a tango or the Israeli version of line-dancing; a flash mob like no other. One thing is clear: Israelis do not need an invitation to dance. Give them music, a spot of space and they’ll shimmy and shake, twist and shout, like nobody’s business.
I would have liked to clone myself, if only to catch one event that I missed: A dance party at Rabin Square like no other. What was the hitch? It was SILENT. As in, bring your smartphone (or rent a pair of headphones) and tune into a radio station playing dance music for a few hours. What a sight that would have been; a few hundred souls shakin’ their booty at once, with not a sound to be heard – other than those emitted by the dancers themselves.
When the clock struck midnight, I was semi-politely booted out into the remnants of the White Night. Few people walked on the streets that I did at that hour. But then, as if the night itself held more wonders, I saw some of the oddest sights: a sign for a “heart building”- with what looked like two pumping hearts tucked into the facades; and (gasp!) a horse, tied up and waiting on the street. Which prompted me to wonder… where was the (my) shining armor-wearing White Knight?!