How Tel Aviv fell for a gi­ant duck

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News -

FOR THE LAST cou­ple of weeks, a gi­ant in­flat­able yel­low duck has been perched on the rooftop of Tel Aviv city hall. It is the su­per­sized, in­stantly recog­nis­able im­age of the fa­mous comic strip cre­ation of the late, much-loved artist Dudu Geva — and has caught Tel Aviv’s imag­i­na­tion in a big way. Just how much be­came clear when a mu­nic­i­pal­ity labourer ac­ci­den­tally pulled the plug on the 10me­tre-long avian ef­figy. The enor­mous bird shrank im­me­di­ately.

“Hun­dreds of con­cerned cit­i­zens called us,” re­calls Aharon Geva, 20, one of the project’s ini­tia­tors and Dudu’s son. “The clerks from City Hall phoned too. It took them quite a while to re­alise that it was just a hu­man er­ror which took a minute to fix.”

This, of course, could only be the un­for­tu­nate fate of the Bar­vaz (duck, in He­brew), a comic pro­tag­o­nist that ever since its cre­ation in the late 1970s has been a per­pet­ual vic­tim of mu­nic­i­pal bu­reau­cracy, cap­i­tal­is­tic greed and the gen­eral mis­use of power.

When Dudu of­fered a few years ago to stage the yel­low im­age over the city’s main plaza as a part of “a plan for the Bar­vaz­i­ta­tion of Tel Aviv” — an ironic scheme aimed at mock­ing the ex­ploita­tion of the city’s pub­lic space by com­mer­cial bod­ies — he was in­stantly re­jected by the town’s au­thor­i­ties. It was only three years ago, af­ter the artist’s sud­den death from a heart at­tack, aged 55, that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity ap­proved a one-month stag­ing of the bal­loon just above the mayor’s of­fices.

The mod­est “tri­umph of the un­der­dog”, as Aharon puts it, brought thou- sands to the duck’s launch cer­e­mony and to the af­ter-party at one of the town’s hottest clubs. In­deed, the car­toon por­trays not only Dudu’s per­son­al­ity — a naïve-yet-sar­cas­tic loser who con­sciously strug­gles against all odds — the Bar­vaz also re­flects the self-im­age of many in this town: half-ridicu­lous, half-charm­ing; stymied by a re­al­ity that never ends well.

The re-in­fla­tion was a some­what shaky vic­tory. As the bird started to re­fill with air, its orig­i­nal cheery sit­ting po­si­tion changed and it found it­self bend­ing over the roof, gaz­ing, as­tounded, at a vul­gar “Fam­ily Fes­ti­val” or­gan­ised by a bank down be­low in Rabin Square. Chil­dren and par­ents, too busy with a deaf­en­ing disco, did not even look up into the hor­ri­fied eyes of the free-spir­ited old duck.

To­day, back in its nor­mal sit­ting po­si­tion, the Duck is again in­spir­ing Tel Avi­vians. Ei­nat Gef­fen, a City Hall em­ployee, is en­joy­ing a sunny lunch break in the square. “The duck sym­bol­ises the open­ness of this city and its young spirit,” she muses. A few me­tres away, Eli, a seven-year-old boy, dares to con­tra­dict his mother’s de­ter­mi­na­tion that the duck is “silly”. “He’s ac­tu­ally pretty cool,” the boy in­sists.

Nearby, 30-some­thing Noam, an “ex­hausted” peace ac­tivist, says he had just texted a col­league of his: “As long as gi­ant ducks sit on the City Hall’s roof, we still have some hope”.

“Not nec­es­sar­ily,” texted the friend in re­ply. “The Bar­vaz may have climbed all the way up only in or­der to jump down.”

Dudu’s duck

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