An examination of the effects of violence on an urban center and how it shapes both the physical and cultural landscape of a city.
Series: Jewish History, Life, and Culture Series, Michael Neiditch, series editor
Violent acts over the past fifteen years have profoundly altered civil rituals, cultural identity, and the meaning of place in Tel Aviv. Three events in particular have shed light on the global rule of urban space in the struggle for territory, resources, and power: the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in 1995 in the city council square; the suicidal bombing at the Dolphinarium Discothèque along the shoreline in 2001; and bombings in the Neve Shaanan neighborhood in 2003.
Tali Hatuka uses an interdisciplinary framework of urban theory and sociopolitical theory to shed light on the discourse regarding violent events to include an analysis of the physical space where these events take place. She exposes the complex relationships among local groups, the state, and the city, challenging the national discourse by offering a fresh interpretation of contesting forces and their effect on the urban environment.
Perhaps the most valuable contribution of this book is its critical assessment of the current Israeli reality, which is affected by violent events that continually alter the everyday life of its citizens. Although these events have been widely publicized by the media, there is scant literature focusing on their impact on the urban spaces where people live and meet. In addition, Hatuka shows how sociopolitical events become crucial defining moments in contemporary lived experience, allowing us to examine universal questions about the way democracy, ideology, and memory are manifested in the city.
- Foreword by Diane E. Davis
- Introduction: Political Violence and the City
- 1. Violent Acts and Revisioning Moments
- 2. Absence, Urban Space, and Civil Participation in Rabin Square: The Assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, November 4, 1995
- Ideology: Urban Space and Civil Participation
- Memory: Everyday Life versus Traumatic Practices
- 3. Borders, Urban Order, and State-City Relationships along the Shoreline: The Suicide Bombing at the Dolphinarium Discothèque, June 1, 2001
- Boundaries: The Role of Planning and Architecture in Constructing Urban Borders
- Order: State-City Relationships and Their Effect on Urban Order
- 4. Urbanity, Immigration, and Everyday Life in Neve Shaanan: The Suicide Bombings at the Central Bus Station, January 5, 2003
- Center and Periphery: Economic Production and Urban Representation
- Everyday: Visibility and Temporary Urban Coalitions
- Conclusion: The Routine of Violence
- Appendix A: Key Dates and Events
- Appendix B: Tel Aviv in Numbers
- Selected Bibliography
Sunday, July 11, 2004, 7 a.m. An earsplitting noise rouses me from my bed. Ambulance sirens invade the room. I stand at the window and watch the crowd gathering, standing, running, looking lost in the commotion, shifting the landscape of the street. Policemen in grey and blue uniforms are running too, trying to disperse the crowd. The buzz of a helicopter adds to the chaos. A policeman is now closing off the street with red and white plastic tape; nearby some ambulances offer emergency assistance to the injured. I can only watch. The telephone rings, I pick up the receiver. It is my family, confirming that I am at home, that I am okay. Yes, I answer, it happened here at the end of the street. I hang up and turn on the radio. The announcer informs us that the temperature is rising; it is going to be very hot. He does not announce the events taking place outside my window; that will take a few more minutes. My mind wanders. I am thinking about the people who waited at the bus stop, standing in the blazing sunlight on Har-Zion Boulevard. A new noise joins the general tumult—some trucks are unloading paving stones. The City Council is renovating the pavement on our street, the result of a long negotiation between the neighborhood committee and the Council. The crooked pavement makes the dense everyday traffic in the area intolerable. The radio is now telling everyone to stay away from the area. I will stay at home today. I make myself coffee and go to my study, to write. The voices and sounds of war, death, street renovation, and everyday life are all mixed together in one continuous violent and clashing negotiation that modifies and designs our environment. And the architects? They make plans. And daily life? A non-stop negotiation of construction and destruction.
At this point the radio continued broadcasting from the site of this event. Words of war such as violence, aggression, hostility, nationalism, bloodshed, destruction, were voiced in concert with words of heartache such as pain, fear, memory, scars, wounds, and death. Broadcasters, eyewitnesses, government administrators, police were all searching for the right words to describe the event and explain its meaning. But how can we begin to understand arenas of violence? Where do we start—with the personal scarred body, or with an unveiling of the ideology of the national body, the generator and political manipulator of violent events? This tension between the personal and the national is familiar to Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is apparent in the private domain and in the public arena that is not merely a locus where violent events take place but is a catalyst, a symbol. The violent events and the arena where they occur—the concrete and the cognitive sacred public spaces—are the departure points for discussion in this book. The intention is to try to understand the relationship between the occurrence of violence and the spaces where violence occurs.
Although most people are aware that the Israeli reality is fueled by violence, most of us have difficulty defining the violence, per se—partly because violence takes many different forms in modern society—that is, institutional violence, psychological violence, and physical violence. Therefore, let us start by clarifying the term. According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics, violence is the exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury on, or cause damage to, persons or property. This definition does not refer to psychological abuse or attack, does not include animals or objects that could be exposed to violence, and assumes direct connection between attacker and attacked. A more inclusive definition was suggested by sociologist Johan Galtung: that, in addition to direct violence, there are forms of structural violence by individuals or social institutions that use either physical or psychological force. However, we need to ask, particularly in the political arena, under what circumstances are acts of violence morally justified? When is it legitimate for a country to oppress a population in the name of authority? When is resistance by the oppressed legitimate? In order to answer these questions, we need to acknowledge that currently the nation-state is the monopolizer of a "legitimate" use of power. When citizens challenge this legitimacy through their own acts of violence, the State immediately brands the violence as negative, evil, civil disobedience.
From within the wide range of definitions of violence, I choose to focus in this book on political violence in Israel as a form of contentious politics—contentious because the participants make claims that affect each other's interests; politics because relations of participants to governments are at stake. Like other national struggles, the Israeli-Palestinian case is circular. The nation-state oppresses and occupies another nation's territory and violates its interests. Citizens, in turn, use political violence against the oppressor. The nation-state responds harshly, increasing urgency and fear among its citizens, creating social camaraderie among citizens, on the one hand, and economic sanctions and violent action against the oppressed nation, on the other. When public opinion advocates the notion of the "external collective enemy" it prevents political mediation, concession, and compromise, as noted by Lev Grinberg. This state of affairs accelerates extreme emotions of hatred on both sides and encourages many to volunteer for resistance against the oppressor, and the whole cycle of violence re-commences.
As a result, this conflict shifts constantly between what Charles Tilly names as coordinated destruction and broken negotiations. Coordinated destruction takes place when persons or organizations specializing in the deployment of coercive means undertake a program of damage to persons and/or objects. Examples include war, self-immolation, some kinds of terrorism, and genocide. Broken negotiations are forms of collective action that aim to generate resistance or rivalry, to which one or more parties respond by actions that damage persons and/or property. Examples include demonstrations, government repression, and military coups. The two forms are connected, as it often happens that the threat of force exacerbates conflict. When these forms of violence are repeated, violence becomes a ritual.
This ritualistic violence occurs not simply along one straight path but rather in a jagged, unpredictable trajectory of eruptions. As Hannah Arendt reminds us, violence always has an element of arbitrariness, which is why it is unpredictable. Predictions of the future are no more than projections of present automatic processes and procedures. Setting the violent (unexpected) act within its concrete socio-physical context illuminates the city's configuration as a complex, dynamic, changing entity. Thus, it is extremely difficult to calculate the consequences of the violent act on everyday life. But we know for sure that the trajectory of violence disrupts, invades, and intersects with the mundane trajectory of daily life, and that this juxtaposition encourages us to see the city as a dynamic entity that adjusts itself according to social pressures, political ideology, and urban planning ideas.
To clarify this juxtaposition, we offer the term revisioning moments. This concept refers to actions of people exposed to violent acts. These actions can be understood to be a form of mediation or recovery from the violent events, an action that aims at repairing or improving space, whether physical or imagined. As we see with Germany's unification, for example, revisioning moments are applicable to the realm of the everyday and to the realm of the Utopian (presenting Berlin as a global entity in unified Germany). The term also applies to actions following the attacks of September 11, which included "getting back to normal" and initiating the symbolic reconstruction of the Twin Towers. Harold Garfinkel discusses this phenomenon of revision immediately after a moment of crisis, showing that individuals read the reality in an interpretative process with the assumption that there is a "social order." Furthermore, people construct a social order that normalizes that which was chaotic or accidental. From this perspective, revisioning moments follow the violent act and contribute to organizing it as a clear cognitive reality. That is to say that the violated order is reconstructed by revisioning moments that create an illusion of stability and agreement. Thus, revisioning moments are a way to codify the process of production in a city and a way to codify the daily rhythm of cities frequently exposed to violence.
You could say the plot of this book is the confluence of violent acts and the spaces in which they occur. In this sense, there are three plot lines, three central sites in the city: Rabin Square (formerly Malchei Israel Square), the Shore, and the Neve Shaanan neighborhood. Within this framework, the lead characters in the plot are the State, the citizens, and professional planners, all of whom we use to interpret the socio-spatial psychology of Tel Aviv, to understand the distinctive dynamic between violence and cities.
Planning and Architectural Perspectives on Urban Violence
The relationship between violence and the city is not new. The war as a particular typology of collective violence has always destroyed living places. Cities as commercial, social, and economic centers have always been agents of a specific power or regime and thus, by definition, a center of political control and a target in war. Since the sixteenth century, the State has had a monopoly on violence, but this central control has not decreased the vulnerability of cities as targets. On the contrary, modernity has increased vulnerability, in particular since the nineteenth century, when cities developed as industrial and population centers.
Today, scholars tend to see a connection between the weakened nation-state and increased contestation in cities. Wars between armies are now rare events, replaced by new strategies, formal and informal, in the city that are embedded in technology and the global economy. Although the events of September 11 symbolized for many this shift to city warfare, it is inappropriate to define this event that accelerated the U.S. war in Afghanistan and Iraq as a phenomenon of the twenty-first century. Rather, we witnessed a change in the form of violence and in its simultaneous effect on the local, national, and international scene. Our discussion follows this line of thought, seeing violent occurrences in Tel Aviv as continuous forms of contestation.
So what is the context of contemporary urban violence? Stephen Graham argues that the current epoch, which he calls "post-colonialism" or the "post-cold war," brought to an end the polarized political era and released long-restrained tensions among ethnic groups. These tensions are nourished by geopolitical, cultural, and economic changes such as the increasing urban alienation, the increased power of religious groups, the armies of city gangs, population growth, etc., all of which have created a social "ticking bomb" that expresses itself in violence, as in the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, the riots in Paris suburbs in 2005, and the October 2000 events in Israel. But, as Arjun Appadurai reminds us, violence and "new" wars, nourished by global politics and waged in the everyday life of the neighborhood, are just another phase in the development of city life. Unfortunately, violence and loss of lives often divert attention from the struggle, from the anger of the powerless and the needy, and from measures taken by the State, including violations of human rights and the law.
Violence infringes on urban order, or at least challenges it. How and what are the mechanisms for re-establishing order? Obviously, the army and the police force are the immediate resources for restoring social order; planning institutions are also recruited to impose spatial order. These institutions, essential to the existence of any society, are both pragmatic and tangential. Referring to this link between violence and space in the early 1990s, the architectural theoretician Mark Wigley wrote that it is so obvious that it is often ignored. Today, this link, with our increased knowledge about control and surveillance of public spaces worldwide and the debate about whether we now have increased security in cities or are creating cities of fear, is not ignored at all but is rather a focal point in professional discourse.
In this discourse, we identify at least three perspectives, namely the physical, the behavioral, and the socio-political. The physical approach, dating back to studies conducted after World War II, emphasizes the (at times deterministic) power of the physical environment to influence social behavior. According to proponents of this approach who emphasize solutions for preventing violence, graffiti and spatial-physical decay are considered signs of violence. This relationship between physical space and society is acknowledged in the behavioral approach, but it is not identified as a departure point. Rather, what is emphasized is the impact of human behavior on the built environment. Thirdly, the socio-political approach emphasizes the impact of politics, such as oppression and control, on space. This approach investigates questions of identity, power, and memory, presenting a more complex picture of the thematically linked relationship between violence and the city.
In the Israeli context, the focus of the socio-spatial approach is on how architectural and planning practices are recruited by the State for the oppression and separation of populations in occupied territories. However, these previous studies, examining the interrelationship of violence and the city, present a broad analysis but without the advantage of going deeply into the relationship of particular events in space. To do this, we have chosen to identify particular events in order to examine the socio-spatial changes generated by specific acts of violence in Tel Aviv during the 1990s.
Tel Aviv as an Arena of Power and Conflict
Violence and the struggle over resources, territory, and capital among groups is part of the city's history. However, understanding the contested forces operating as part of its historical development is an essential part of the narrative about violence and public space.
Located along the seashore in what was Palestine, the pre-state national Jewish renaissance was, since the beginning of the twentieth century, centered in the area of Jaffa rather than in the more traditional centers of Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Tzefat. Jaffa's conglomeration of ethnic and religious communities led to the establishment of autonomous Jewish neighborhoods apart from the Arab city's Moslem and Christian communities in the 1890s during the Ottoman Empire. This kind of development outside a city wall is characteristic of modern urbanization of medieval cities worldwide, but in Jaffa the new development outside the wall signified the emergence of an autonomous national entity (Map 0.1, Figure 0.1). As opposed to the new Jewish neighborhoods outside the wall in Jerusalem, the new Jewish neighborhood of Jaffa—Achuzat Bayit, later to become Tel Aviv—was conceived as a separate entity.
The establishment of Achuzat Bayit in 1909, constructed with the assistance of the international Zionist establishment, marked the real beginning of Tel Aviv. From the outset, Achuzat Bayit was a new urban entity that expressed its founders' political and cultural boundaries. Its construction of national identity and cultural difference was based on autonomous communal life and a new spatial order. The adoption of a novel physical and morphological order, in contrast to Jaffa's crowded streets, emphasized the neighborhood's boundaries. The new neighborhood was characterized by a grid of suburban streets divided into spacious building lots, allowing for European-style detached residential buildings with pitched roofs and small gardens. These were new aesthetic ideas and social norms influenced by the Garden City Movement, expressing the separation between work and living and the regulation of hygiene, light, and air. Although in terms of management and capital the neighborhood was still part of Jaffa, its spatial conceptualization allowed the community to separate itself, and thus delineate its identity, from the linear Jaffa's history.
Initially, Achuzat Bayit's cultural and architectural boundaries did not give rise to conflict, since it was managed like other peripheral neighborhoods of Jaffa, and thus presented no threat to the city unity. However, this situation was changed with the British occupation of Palestine in 1917. The British perceived cities as important locations for deploying power technologies by means of which populations could be categorized and controlled. In this context, town planning became the mechanism by which aspirations toward cleanliness, civility and modernity were realized, quite literally, "on the ground." In an effort to control newly acquired territory, the new rule created surveys, reports, and maps, along with demolition and construction. This aim to control population along with the spatial practices of demarcation eventually assisted the Jewish community to achieve autonomy from Jaffa, following the conflicts between the two ethnic communities during the riots of 1921. Although the Scottish town planner, Patrick Geddes, reported in 1925 that "with all due respect to the ethnic distinctiveness and the civic individuality of Tel Aviv as a township, its geographic, social and fundamental economic situation is determined by its location in relation to northern Jaffa; . . . The old town and the modern township must increasingly work and grow together" (Map 0.2), separation was inevitable. The parallel development of the two communities, increased tensions and violence between groups, and especially the Jewish demands for autonomy, contributed to the British Mandate's decision to separate Tel Aviv from Jaffa.
Thus, Tel Aviv's evolution is first identified with moving Jewish neighborhoods outside the walls of Jaffa in the early 1900s and the unification of these neighborhoods under one presiding committee in 1913. On May 11, 1921, Tel Aviv was recognized as a separate township from Jaffa. However, only in 1934 did Tel Aviv receive municipal autonomy from the British Mandate authorities. The 1926 Geddes Plan (and its approval in 1927, followed by the council new amendment plan in 1938, Map 0.3) largely determined the character and growth of the city, although the massive growth took place only after the 1948 war with the occupation of Arab lands and the annexation of Jaffa.
One can notice value changes by looking at the different plans that had been prepared for Tel Aviv over the years. The first comprehensive plan—the Geddes Plan—dealt with the solidification of the different components of the city into one municipal unit functioning as a big city (to this day the Geddes plan is the official master plan for Tel Aviv). Other plans, including the Horovitz Master Plan (prepared at the beginning of the 1950s, but never approved), dealt with density problems, traffic, and the operation of activities in space. Subsequent plans dealt with the importance of the city within the metropolis, the region, and the country as a whole. For instance, the Shimshony master plan (prepared at the beginning of the 1960s) defined the main business district of the city, regarding Tel Aviv as the center, the metropolis. The strategic Mazor plan (prepared at the beginning of the 1980s and accepted by the City Council in 1985) referred to the entire metropolis, defining it as the financial and cultural center of Israel. Redefining the relationships between land use and activities, the Mazor plan had significant influence on the development of the city center, the designation of specialized areas within it, and the revision of the relationship between residential and commercial areas. Since early 2000 the Municipality of Tel-Aviv is preparing a strategic Plan for the city. Aiming at addressing all the city's facets—social fabric, economy, culture, leisure, land-use, urban fabric, transport, and environment—in a participatory planning process, this plan allowed short-term and long-term "Action Plans" in the Neoliberal context. Thus it is clear the development of the city was affected by ever-changing global concepts and local values that characterize each period in time.
Beyond understanding the physical growth of the city, one must understand the dynamic changes influencing the conflicts in Palestine (later to be renamed Israel). Since the early days of its establishment, Tel Aviv as a place was hierarchically located within the rest of Israel—within the "big place" (i.e., the State)—and particularly in relation to Jerusalem. Indeed, the spatial borders of Jerusalem are directly related to both historical and contemporary conflicts (the 1948 war, the 1967 war, and the acts that followed, whose purpose was to establish Jerusalem as an Israeli city). But Jerusalem's birth and development has always been based on an enlisted mythology. The mythical dimension of Jerusalem as a "city in conflict" intensifies the differences of the daily material existence in Tel Aviv. Furthermore, the status of Jerusalem, especially within a reality so loaded with political and ideological implications, has strengthened its abstractness against the concreteness of Tel Aviv's mundane life. "Tel Aviv is the opportunity to deal with the business of the small place. This is exactly what it celebrates . . . the ultimate Israeli cosmos whose focus is the everyday—making a living, participating in cultural events, living in society, having fun."
However, the conflicts of the 1990s disrupted Tel Aviv's daily life and made it the center of conflict. In 1991, during the Gulf War, Iraqi forces attacked Tel Aviv. So the war and suicide bombings, which became an everyday occurrence as a result of the Second Intifada, turned the city into a war zone. Examples of these suicide bombings include one in 1996 on the Number 5 Bus, the 1997 suicide bombing at the Dizengoff Center, the 1998 suicide bombing at the Apropo Cafe, and the 2001 suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium Discotheque. This violence that was perpetrated on the city resonated nationwide. These attacks were most commonly followed by a rapid resumption of day-to-day routines, repair of the physical damage, and an increase in security measures, all in an attempt to erase the violence from the urban landscape. Significantly, the specific locations where these attacks occurred were minimized in order to establish these attacks as national-political conflict—creating imagined solidarity. At the same time, it became clear that this solidarity was, and still is, contested and debated by forces within the city and the state.
To fully understand this argument, which is further developed throughout the book, it is important to address the relationship between the city and the state. First, one of the distinct characteristics of Israel is its relatively small national scale—both in terms of land and population. As of 2006, the number of citizens living in Tel Aviv was 384,400, with only 7,116,700 comprising the whole country. Another distinct characteristic is that, while Israel's central government plays an authoritarian role, this authority selectively gives municipalities an ability to influence some local decisions. At same time, Tel Aviv's role as the powerful economic and cultural center of the region and the state has enabled the city to significantly contribute to the central government's decisions. As a result, Tel Aviv is in the position to modify and even initiate national policy, or operate parallel to it. For example, in the area of education, Tel Aviv is a full partner in the decisions made by the education ministry; it also has an influence on the development of master plans on national and regional scales. In other situations, Tel Aviv stands directly contradict national policy, as, for example, when Tel Aviv founded a center for foreign labor to provide legal and illegal foreign workers support—against the state's policy of deporting illegal immigrants. These powers in Israel's different arenas, which lead to both negotiations and conflicts, are the precise context in which we examine urban violence in this book.
Violence and Spatial Conflicts in Tel Aviv
Over the last years, we have witnessed the emergence of new historiographic perspectives of Tel Aviv, offering an understanding of the power struggle among the different groups in the city. These perspectives, expressed in scholarly works, challenge the canonical image of Tel Aviv, placing the city in its contested social political reality, showing how the urban space cannot be separated from it. My aim is, however, to track the dynamic of the ongoing processes of urban production and the changes taking place in the city during violent events.
Focusing on space and time, this book presents three trajectories that together illustrate the powers, acts, and lives of the city. To understand the mosaic of Tel Aviv, we look at violent acts as points of departure for examining the socio-spatial fabric of the city. In other words, the book offers an analysis of the construction and deconstruction of space through violence, and a complex socio-physical portrait of Tel Aviv. It does not aim to provide a comprehensive account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor a chronological thread of Tel Aviv history. Instead, it concentrates on how acts of violence change and affect the production of space and the discourse about space.
The first trajectory traces the evolution of Rabin Square (formerly Malchei Israel Square) as an arena of rituals and civic congregations (Map 0.4). Tracing the evolution requires establishing reference points to particular events that help us understand the complex relationship between political discourse and social process in Israeli society. This relationship was also the context of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, which took place in the square, November 4, 1995. The idea of revisioning moments helps us comprehend the voices and acts regarding the place immediately after the assassination.
The second trajectory focuses on the border zone between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, and on the ethnic and political conflicts that have taken place there since the 1920s until today. Here, we have an opportunity to understand the way the rhythm of space was affected by the conception of border and the economic interests of the city and the State. The violent history of this border zone pinpoints the significance of architecture and planning as practices that order space and restructure it. This connection of the city, violence, and architecture is looked at through a set of plans of the beach, in the context of the suicide bombing of the Dolphinarium Discothèque on the beach in 2001.
The third trajectory traces the development of the Neve Shaanan neighborhood, which developed in Tel Aviv's geographical periphery, perceived as the "backyard" of the city. This site illuminates the way violence is a catalyst in the initiation of citizens' tactics and policy strategies to affect the socio-spatial design of the neighborhood.
By tracing the process of the construction of space in Tel Aviv, the role and effects of violent events throughout the city's history are made more visible. Space has no voice, but by mapping the cultural and social struggles within space we can tell the story of the reciprocal relationships between architectural and planning practices, and violence, defining physical and symbolic boundaries, alienation, and conflicts among diverse groups.
The concluding chapter explains how order is restored by citizens and political actors alike, who are re-making, re-visioning, and re-acting in response to violent acts. These negotiating forces, a portrait of a social struggle embedded in space, reveal the role of professionals (architects and planners) as mediators in the conflicted human drama of space. We discuss the actions of the architect and planner that contribute to shaping Israeli society. By examining the connection between violence and urban space, we stress the importance of urban planners and architects as active agents in the socio-spatial arena. This is a call to engage with the process of spatial production beyond the architectural or urban design discourse about the object or the environment, per se. In other words, this critical mode aims not only at understanding the world but also at transforming it.
Finally, despite its focus on Tel Aviv, the analysis of the relationship between space and violence is applicable to other cities in Israel and Palestine, such as Jerusalem, Haifa, Netanya, and Hadera in Israel; Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron in Palestine. All of these cities were, and still are, exposed to political violence. Each city has its own particularities and history that influence the relationship between space and violence. Still, it is beyond the scope of the book to detail these particularities, but I would like to argue that there are similarities in the way human beings respond to, interpret, and address violent events in terms of space.
Thus, aside from giving a detailed perspective on Tel Aviv, the book's goal is to address the way violence profoundly alters civil rituals, cultural identity, and the meaning of place in our cities. By explaining the way social discourse influences planning and architectural practices, across time, place, and social setting, I hope to illuminate the temporal dimension of space. If successful, such an approach will resonate within a broader geographical territory, stimulating dialogue about the relationship between space and violence.