The Israeli consulate helps usher in Tel Aviv’s centennial celebration with a South Beach pool party. Other festivities are scheduled in the months to come.
BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
A little more than 100 years ago, about 40 people gathered on a desolate sand dune on what is now Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s modern cities.
The first settlers of Tel Aviv, which means Hill of Spring, wanted to leave a long-lasting historical image. So they took a picture of themselves on the outskirts of Jaffa, marking the city’s beginning.
Flash forward to last week, when hundreds of Miami Beach partygoers raised their shot glass at the Catalina Hotel on South Beach in honor of what those settlers accomplished a century ago.
“It’s great to share this moment in Miami because we aren’t there,” said Lital Diener, an Israeli native who studied computer science in Tel Aviv for four years.
The Israel consulate hosted a celebratory pool party on Aug. 23, helping kick off Tel Aviv anniversary festivities in South Florida. Photographer Thomas Loewy took a commemorative centennial photo of the young and hip crowd from the Catalina’s rooftop saluting Tel Aviv. The picture will be mailed to Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai. For Diener, the party brought back memories of Tel Aviv.
“The party life over there is incredible,” said Diener, who moved from Tel Aviv to work as an airline pilot in the U.S. and now lives in Surfside. She visits her country about three times a year. “They call it the nonstop city because it keeps going 24/7.”
Known for its beaches, clubs, bars and social scene, Miami Beach is similar to Tel Aviv, making it the perfect spot to have the celebration, said Consul General Ofer Bavly.
“It’s a modern and vibrant city,” said Bavly, who recently visited Tel Aviv. “It’s multicultural and ethnic like Miami.”
Partygoers from all over the world threw beach balls in the pool and enjoyed music, a drum show, raffle and hookahs.
They also had a chance to taste some Israeli food and wine, which was mostly donated.
“This party conveys a message that Tel Aviv is a fun place to be, and it’s our intention to show this to the people of Miami,” Bavly said.
John Pagelsohn, from Venezuela and lives in Miami, said the party hits close to home.
“Tel Aviv is where my heritage is because my mom is from there,” said Pagelsohn, who enjoyed some drinks with friends. “It’s great the city is still around.”
He said the party has inspired him to visit Tel Aviv, possibly next year.
Bavly said it’s important to reach out to the future.
“We haven’t given a lot of attention to the young,” he said. “I thought it would be a good idea to address this group of people who are in their 20s and 30s and get them to visit Israel.”
The pool party celebration reminded Moises Maya of his time in Tel Aviv, where he moved after leaving Cuba in 1961.
“This brings me a lot of memories; it was a great time over there,” said Maya, who spent a short time studying in Tel Aviv before moving to the United States. “For us young people back then, Israel was awesome. I sometimes wonder if I would have stayed.”
Many cities around the world are celebrating Tel Aviv’s centennial.
The Israeli consulate is planning several activities that will last well into next year, including a street celebration scheduled for October that Tel Aviv’s mayor plans to attend, according to the consulate.
Concerts celebrating Tel Aviv will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in October.
For more information, go to www.consulateisrael.com.