Tel Aviv’s Black Tower
Where was the judge he'd
never seen? Where was the high court he had never reached?
Franz Kafka, The Trial
New in the Website
Tel Aviv, the White City
Feisty War Zone
Unexpectedly for a war-zone, tourism in Israel thrives. In 2010, roughly 3.5 million tourists visited the country, with the USA and Russia providing the bulk of them. In the first quarter of 2012, Israel enjoyed record numbers of tourists. Most travelers arrived through the Ben Gurion International Airport, which is minutes away from Tel Aviv’s downtown; thus, the city is a practically unavoidable attraction. The White City and the adjacent beaches are the town’s highlights.
In 2009, tourism contributed $3.3 billion to the Israeli economy. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that tourism in Israel is expected to average 5.0% per annum until 2020. Its expected contribution to Israel’s Gross Domestic Product will rise from 6.4% (US$12.0 billion) in 2010 to 7.2% ($22.1 billion) by 2020. Roughly 8% of Israelis are employed by this industry, which is ranked 51 in absolute size worldwide, of the 181 countries estimated by the WTTC. In other words, tourism is a massive part of Israel’s economy.
Tel Aviv’s Last Tower
The White City is a low city. The pictures of highways and skyscrapers that are so identified with Tel Aviv belong to its fringes and to the adjacent towns. The tallest buildings in the metropolitan area are not in Tel Aviv. Thus the picture above, depicting the controversial tower about to be inaugurated may seem so surprising to outsiders. The White City shrunk over the last decades into three areas, roughly at the center of the city. Some parts of it have been utterly ruined, like the now elevated Dizengoff Square. The original Bauhaus buildings exist, but the new square spoils the original design. The new tower is designed as the first ever Bauhaus tower–note the stylized outer balconies and the rounded off corners–but it was built at the center of a White City enclave. The picture shows clearly how wrong it feels. The building is 28-stories high, while most structures in the White City barely reach 4-stories (above that an elevator was compulsory, thus in order to save costs, this was a self-imposed limit by architects). Yet, all the apartments in the new tower have been sold, the penthouse to an English investor for roughly twenty million dollars.
Breach of UNESCO Conditions
“Very interesting,” some readers may be thinking now, “but I don’t visit this website to learn about outdated German architecture in Tel Aviv!” That’s probably true, though I mentioned the topic a few times in the past. However, the tower importance reaches beyond its styling. It breaches the UNECO preservation conditions for Tel Aviv being awarded the White City UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage Site.
The Israeli real estate market greediness, may cost Israel dear. In panic-stricken tones, the Hebrew media is advertising that the new tower—“the Black Tower in the White City”—is legal because it was planned in the early 1990s, a decade before the White City Heritage Site status was awarded. Owners of the buildings opposed back then the plan proposed by the Kahtan brothers, the entrepreneurs attempting to develop the area, and the project was scrapped. Only after UNESCO recognized the White City, the Euro Sat Company bought the rights for the project and developed the Black Tower. Thus, the Israeli claims are dubious at their best; probably no court will accept them. The tower breaches the conditions imposed by UNESCO. “Yes and No” Israel says to UNESCO. “Preservation and Development, yes and no.” Trick or treat, Israel, you can’t have both!
In 2011, UNESCO was the first UN agency to recognize Palestine as a member state (see US Enters UN Alley), and continuously proves that its reputation for being the most open-minded UN agency is true. Israel is a problematic member of the UN, to the extent of having been defined as “terror inflicting” by the UN Human Rights Council. Now, it is clearly breaching the conditions imposed by UNESCO for one of its attractions defined as Heritage Site. This is done out of greed, so that both its real estate and tourism industries will profit. It is time for UNESCO to rise again the flag of international decency and honesty and de-list Tel Aviv as the White City; after all, the Black Tower is out there for all to see that the White City has been stained.
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