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The Bubble

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The city of Tel Aviv was labeled “The Bubble” more than a decade ago. The right-wingers who coined the term meant for it to be a derogatory reference to the ideological and cultural split between the young, optimistic city thriving on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and other areas of the country, where ancient hatreds flourished.

I am writing this about an hour after a terror attack in the heart of Tel Aviv in which four were killed. And although fear and concern are clearly visible on the faces of the people rushing down my street, I’m quite sure that this attack, like the many others that preceded it in the city, won’t be able to burst the famous Tel Aviv bubble.

The desire for peace, the belief in minority rights, pluralism, and a rare freedom of speech, are only some of the reasons that visitors have bestowed this moniker on the city. And like all truly hurtful labels, this one also contains a bit of truth, increasingly so over recent years. So yes, during the difficult times that the bleeding Middle East as a whole and Israel in particular are enduring, times of religious fundamentalism, violence, racism, and despair, Tel Aviv has indeed been a bubble—a bubble that continues to draw to it many who still believe we can build a better future through action and not just through prayer; a determined, shining bubble in which it is possible to breathe the clear air of hope. I can only wish that this bubble expands until one day it encompasses not only Israel and Palestine, but the entire Middle East as well.

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Etgar Keret was born in Ramat Gan and lives in Tel Aviv. He is a recipient of the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Charles Bronfman Prize, a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and the author, most recently, of the memoir The Seven Good Years: A Memoir, now out in paperback from Riverhead Books. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, and the New York Times, among many other publications, and on “This American Life,” where he is a regular contributor.

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