A view beyond the border

One remarkable feature of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is the extensive building activity, especially the construction of high-rise buildings leaps to the eye. Priviledged with a stunnig and extensive beachfront, any area close to the sea is of course extremely sought after. Hence, even if the construction site is not located along the shoreline, the advertisement posters highlight sea view as a knockout argument for potential buyers. Consequently, besides the tourists in the hotels threaded along the coastline, buyers of condos, who are able to spend a couple of million dollars on property, are rewarded with a stunning vista over the sea.

seaview 01

© borderlandlevant

A sea-shore is very likely one of the clearest defined borders of a space and a position to take a view beyond this boundary has a special meaning, particularly in the context of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Israel. Were it possible to take a country and move it to another place, Israel would probably be one of the first candidates to do so. There are strong notions of attachment to ‘the West’, or the ‘Global North’ and to side Israel to “where it belongs”. More or less from the beginning of its history, Tel Aviv was seen as mentally close to Europe. As early as 1924, Menachem Ussishkin noted that Tel Aviv was “the most developed city in Palestine that served as a `window to Europe´”.[1] Similar to much other literature on the city’s history that makes reference to cities like New York, Paris or London, Azaryahu states that “[t]he yearning for New York reflected an aspiration to belong to and be part of the big world.”[2]

sea view 02

© borderlandlevant

Its immediate connection to the Mediterranean Sea renders Tel Aviv-Jaffa a part of a Mediterranean continuum that dates back far beyond the city’s history. Predrag Matvejevic, elaborating on the scope of the Mediterranean, claims that “[i]ts boundaries are drawn in neither space nor time. There is in fact no way of drawing them: they are neither ethnic nor historical, state nor national; they are like a chalk circle that is constantly traced and erased, that the winds and waves, that obligations and inspirations expand or reduce”.[3] Emphasising the problematic of delimiting the Mediterranean, and tying in with Balibar´snotion of “overlapping folds” [4] or borderland, Paolo Giaccaria and Claudio Minca[5] highlight the potential role of the Mediterranean in contemporary postcolonial and human geography discourses.

Hence, as much as the view beyond the Tel Aviv-Jaffa coastline means the transcending of a border, the Mediterranean space reaches into the city, incorporating it into a dialogue between the Levant and other Mediterranean regions.


[1] Azaryahu, M 2007, Tel Aviv – Mythography of a City, New York: Syracuse University Press, p 209

[2] Azaryahu 2007, p 138

[3] Matvejevic, P 1999, Mediterranean: A Cultural Landscape, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p 10

[4] Balibar, E 2009, Europe as borderland, Environment and Planning D-Society & Space 27(2), p 200

[5] Giaccaria, P, Minca, C 2010, The Mediterranean Alternative, Progress in Human Geography 35(3), p 345

All rights reserved: Sigi Atteneder, 2013

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