Mayor of Tel Aviv hails city’s special bond with London

The mayor was in town for the TLV in LDN festival over the weekend


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 camer 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.

“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”.

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