Tel Aviv mayor gives Phila. group an eye-opening welcome

Mayor Nutter chats with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Nutter is the first Philadelphia mayor to visit Tel Aviv since it was established as a sister city in 1967.
Mayor Nutter chats with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Nutter is the first Philadelphia mayor to visit Tel Aviv since it was established as a sister city in 1967. (CHRIS HEPP / Staff)
Posted: November 09, 2013

TEL AVIV, Israel - A fairly polished public official in his own right, Mayor Nutter received a master class in political performance art from his counterpart in this major Israeli city Thursday.

Meeting Nutter at Tel Aviv's historic town hall, Mayor Ron Huldai mugged, shrugged, and hand-gestured his way through a presentation on his hometown that was heavy on humor, at times both irreverent and self-deprecating.

The 69-year-old, now starting his fourth term, recalled how he wanted to be a teacher as a young man.

"But they told me I was not qualified," the grinning Huldai said in his heavy Israeli accent. "So they made me the headmaster." At another point, a listener asked him to speak up.

"Most of the time," he said, raising his voice, "people ask me to stop shouting."

Asked to parse Tel Aviv politics, Huldai described the pressures created by the various competing political factions, using an earthy comparison to pain in a sensitive area of the male anatomy.

There was a slight moment of disbelief followed by raucous laughter from the roomful of Philadelphia businesspeople and city officials who are traveling with Nutter, a group that includes Deputy Mayor for Commerce Alan Greenberger, Deputy Mayor for Transportation Rina Cutler, and Nancy Gilboy, president of the International Visitors Council.

Tel Aviv is the second leg of Nutter's trade mission, which took him first to London. Thursday proved a particularly taxing day, as the entourage operated on little sleep.

Nutter and his team took an overnight flight from London, arriving in Tel Aviv at 5:30 a.m. There was time to get to a hotel, check in, and grab a couple of hours of fitful rest before meeting U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro at noon.

That was followed by sessions on the Israeli economy and doing business in Israel, a reception and dinner with Huldai, and a late-night tour of Tel Aviv - home to more than 400,000 people and notable for its 24-hour culture.

Tel Aviv is one of Philadelphia's eight sister cities, an honorary designation meant to promote cooperation and tourism between the siblings.

Nutter is the first Philadelphia mayor to visit Tel Aviv since James Tate established the Sister City connection in 1967.

Huldai was appreciative of Nutter's effort and said he hoped it would lead to a closer relationship going forward. He also asked Nutter to work with him to increase the number of Philadelphia students who spend some portion of their college careers studying in Israel.

Then he offered his guests some advice.

"The only way to really know this city is to get out of your hotel room at 2 a.m.," Huldai said, extolling the night life. "Go out, enjoy yourself. Don't take your jobs so seriously. The problems are going to come anyway."


chepp@phillynews.com

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