Sunday, July 4, 2010

In a country known for its ‘never a dull moment’ status, try this: the best movie in town is now playing at Beersheba’s City Arnona offices.

Even if you don’t need to render unto Beersheba’s Caesar at the moment, it’s worth your while to go see the films. There’s no popcorn, but you can sit in reasonably air conditioned comfort and watch three amazing film shorts that truly are – no kidding – among the best I’ve ever seen.

Since the last time I darkened the doors of the Arnona office, the City has installed big LED screens on every wall. They’re playing films of Beersheba – three of them, I think. It might be just two, but I think there’s a third that’s part of one, then concludes with a different ending.

What’s so special? There’s been a lot of debate over what our energetic young Mayor has planned for the City of Abraham. Several of us have written about the plans, commented on them, or seen still photos or drawings of what the Mayor has in mind. But none of that brings the new City to life as do these films.

I’m not competent to comment on the technology beyond saying that it’s magnificent. Some of the shots show Beersheba’s attractions as they are now – the photography is incredible, especially some of the aerial shots that zoom into apartments and balconies. The streets, the buildings, the rest areas along city streets, the new apartments are absolutely gorgeous. The picture above is what the new city bus station will look like.

Which is the most fascinating part: the films show what Beersheba WILL look like, once the Mayor’s plan is completed. You wonder how ‘River Park’ – boats in Beersheba! -- will fit into the current topography? There it is, in all its glory. You can see it for yourself.

One of the more fascinating images is hard to describe, but imagine you’re flying in an airplane. Looking out, ahead of you, you see Beersheba as it is now. Then, as though the shadow of the airplane passes over the ground, you see Beersheba as it will be – a green, watery oasis filled with parks, recreational opportunities, the Sporteck, the new stadium, the amphitheater, all as they will look when completed. It doesn’t look like drawings – it looks real. The way it’s fitted into, around and among existing landmarks makes it appear to already exist.

Another favorite part was of the Promenade, that 3 kilometer walking, biking path that’s part of River Park. Today we see the sand and the rocks. Then we see it when the vegetation is grown and all the street furniture is in place – incredible.

I have no idea where else these little film masterpieces are playing – each is maybe three to four minutes long and they run on a continuous loop, with some other public announcements during the breaks. But how smart to start showing them in that dismal city dungeon, where I’ve always imagined that the sign that hung over Dante’s inferno would not be out of place: ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’.

The problem is, of course, that no matter what day or time of day you go to do business with the City, you still end up spending the requisite three hours waiting to talk to a clerk. But what better captive audience could there be? All eyes are focused on those big screens. Everyone is watching.

When I lived in the US, every time I had to write a quarterly check to pay my taxes, I made myself picture the several magnificent Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC, some of my favorite places in the entire world. “That’s what I’m paying for,” I’d tell myself – not that it’s true, of course. But by convincing myself my hard earned tax dollars were going to the Museum of American History, I could get through the check-writing without fury.

So now I’m in Beersheba, regularly forced to write out a check to the City government. What better vision could there be, that this magnificent view of the Beersheba of the future?

Of course it would be nice if someone could do something about that three-hour wait, which has been absolutely consistent for the eight years I’ve been here. If they’d just keep the offices open for a full workday, the problem could be solved with no added facilities. Instead – on Tuesdays, for example – the office doesn’t open at all until 4:00 pm. That’s really nuts.

Even so – to tell you how good these films were – when I’d finally finished doing bureaucracy, I went back, sat down, and watched the films again.

It’s that good.

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