Mayor hails spe­cial bond with UK cap­i­tal

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - IN­TER­VIEW RON HUL­DAI BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

LON­DON AND Tel Aviv are both “open, demo­cratic, tol­er­ant, plu­ral­is­tic cities, at the cen­tre of art, cul­ture, sci­ence and re­search”.

So says Ron Hul­dai, the mayor of Tel Aviv for the past 19 years, who paid a spe­cial visit for the TLV in LDN fes­ti­val.

De­scrib­ing his city as “maybe the big­gest achieve­ment of the Zion­ist move­ment”, he hailed the close bond be­tween Tel Aviv and the Bri­tish cap­i­tal.

“You have to re­alise that we are not rep­re­sent­ing Tel Aviv [in Lon­don] by mis­take”, he said.

Mr Hul­dai said he un­der­stood that Is­rael’s im­age abroad — and cer­tainly in the UK — is “mostly con­sid­ered in terms of the cri­sis and se­cu­rity is­sues be­tween us and the Pales­tini­ans.”

But Tel Aviv, he said, is” a demo­cratic and pros­per­ous city, part of a demo­cratic coun­try.

“The peo­ple them­selves are very plu­ral­is­tic. We are or­di­nary peo­ple, with the same joy, hap­pi­ness and vi­brancy as other world cities.”

Mr Hul­dai vis­ited Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of Lon­don, dur­ing his trip. They dis­cussed se­cu­rity, hi-tech, and the bur­geon­ing start-up in­dus­tries of both cities.

“Where do you find cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion? You find it only in free so­ci­eties, in so­ci­eties with free­dom of speech, where peo­ple can ex­press their ideas. Where they can chal­lenge, they are not afraid to fail — then you have cre­ativ­ity. It’s like that both in Lon­don and Tel Aviv.”

The two may­ors also dis­cussed ter­ror­ism, which both cities have suf­fered from over the years. Mr Hul­dai said Mr Khan had raised the pos­si­bil­ity of sur­veil­lance cam­eras in­stalled with fa­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy as an ef­fec­tive se­cu­rity mea­sure that both cities could ben­e­fit from.

“The tech­nol­ogy ex­ists,” he said. “The ques­tion is price.”

Mr Hul­dai also said that in re­cent years, Tel Aviv had be­come “the num­ber-one des­ti­na­tion for Bri­tish em­i­grants to Is­rael.

“The type of aliyah has changed com­pletely,” he said. “In the past, many of the peo­ple mak­ing aliyah came from poor com­mu­ni­ties, or com­mu­ni­ties in dan­ger. To­day, they are com­ing from Paris, Lon­don, New York — those peo­ple are used to liv­ing in cities, and they are com­ing to Tel Aviv.” The fes­ti­val, he said, was also in­tended to show Bri­tish peo­ple that Tel Aviv is “a fun city where you can en­joy your­self.

“When I came to of­fice, most of the tourists that came to Tel Aviv were busi­ness­men, and the time they spent on av­er­age was 1.5 nights”, he said.

Lon­don and Tel Aviv are both open, demo­cratic, tol­er­ant cities’

“We have changed that com­pletely. “Tourists come from everywhere in the world for leisure. And our gal­leries, our ex­cel­lent cui­sine scene — the whole pur­pose of this fes­ti­val is to show that”.

PHOTO: FLASH 90

Ron Hul­dai

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