Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sounds of music in a city more crowded than Gaza


Some people will tell you that Gaza is the most crowded place on earth. Actually, Tel Aviv (aerial view at right) is much more densely populated than Gaza.

The first modern Hebrew city, not quite 100 years old, has already managed to cram almost 400,000 residents into its 51.8 square kilometers. This makes Tel Aviv more densely populated than Hong Kong or Singapore, which in turn are much more crowded than Gaza. (A note on comparative crowding appears below, at the end of this post.)

The other night at the seder, we sang loudly and made other noise. Some 20 of us, representing three generations, sat around a ping-pong table covered with white tablecloths in a central Tel Aviv backyard and sang Passover songs. No neighbors complained about the noise. From time to time, we could hear singing from other buildings.

A guest at the table remarked that nowhere but Israel would you hear voices from house after house, all singing the same traditional songs. Whether or not this is the case, it is true that sounds from apartments can be heard around the neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, especially in the mild months when windows are open. In a one-block stroll, you may hear my neighbors playing piano, various woodwinds, drums or electric guitar.

A trumpet player in the neighborhood used to walk down to the Mediterranean at night to find an empty place on the beach where he could play without an audience. One afternoon he was playing at home, fooling around with some improvised passages, and another trumpet answered from elsewhere in the neighborhood. The windows were open, and a fellow trumpeter had overheard his experimentation. He never found out who the other, unseen musician was.

The beach no longer offers much solitude at night. Tourists and local people in growing numbers visit the beachfront after dark. A cafe on a northern stretch of beach now stays open around the clock.

Even the rooftops of Tel Aviv don't provide much privacy. One recent day, a musician stood alone on a roof in the next block, playing jazz on a saxophone. Attracted by the sound, I listened from the rooftop where I live, 75 meters away.

It was a special event. I have heard this saxophonist perform with groups in concert halls, festivals, night spots and other venues. In years of living in the neighborhood, I had never seen him up on the roof before. If he had gone up there in search of privacy, he picked the wrong place.

A telephone rang and I went inside to answer it. When I got back outside moments later, the music had stopped and the other roof was empty. I don't know if the saxophonist had noticed that he had an audience, or whether he simply had finished what he wanted to play. I wonder if others in our crowded city got to enjoy his rooftop solo, too.

--Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv


A note on crowded places

The canard that Gaza is the most crowded place on earth continues to circulate.

The UK politician George Galloway wrote in The Glasgow Record last month that the Gaza Strip is "the most densely populated piece of earth on the planet." Galloway wrote that 1.5 million Palestinians live there.

Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist currently teaching at Princeton, wrote March 26 that Gaza is "one of the most densely populated places on earth, with 3,823 people per square kilometre." Kuttab's figure is in line with recent Gaza population estimates of 1.4 million.

If Galloway's estimate of 1.5 million Gaza population is correct, this is almost 4,200 people per square kilometer. The Central Intelligence Agency projects that the Gaza population will reach 1,537,269 in July. This would bring the density to 4,270 people per square kilometer.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong have more than 6,000 people per square kilometer. Tel Aviv has more than 7,000 people per square kilometer. If you count the suburbs of Tel Aviv, the metropolitan area with its population of 2.3 million has a density of more than 5,000 people per square kilometer, which is considerably more crowded than the Gaza Strip as reckoned by Galloway or Kuttab or the CIA.

Selected estimates of population density:

27,209 people/sq km

24,000 people/sq km

Tel Aviv
7,445 people/sq km
(385,000 people, 51.8 sq km)

Hong Kong
6,352 people/sq km

6,252 people/sq km

5,100 people/sq km

Tel Aviv metro area including suburbs
5,050 people/sq km
(2.3 million people, 453 sq km)

4,900 people/sq km

4,750 people/sq km

4,300 people/sq km

Gaza Strip per CIA projection
4,270 people/sq km
(1,537,269 population July 2008, 360 sq km)

Gaza Strip per George Galloway
4,167 people/sq km
(1.5 million people, 360 sq km)

Gaza Strip per Daoud Kuttab
3,822 people/sq km

The numbers for London, Tel Aviv metro area, Moscow, Tokyo/Yokohama and Warsaw are from the City Mayors site.


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