While many have observed that the boundary in Israel between public and private space is far thinner than in the rest of the West – in some cases non-existent – I believe that I may be the first to point out its manifestation in the form of – wait for it – street signage. To illustrate, let’s first look at this unencumbered street sign in Brisbane:
Couldn’t be clearer where you are, right? Now before we look at some street signs in Israel’s two major cities, recall that street signs are 1) a tax-funded utility aimed at the citizens’ welfare and 2) meant to convey important navigational information to locals and visitors (hey Tourism Ministry, that means you) alike. With those two purposes in mind, let’s see how we’re doing:
But apparently the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem so badly need the revenue from the ad cubes that block or obstruct street "signs" that they sell ad space at the expense of the citizenry. In other words, that’s your municipal taxes funding broken, incorrect, and obstructed street signs!
Moreover, if it were such a crucial revenue stream for the cities, how come multiple image searches for “street-level advertising” found not a single instance in any other city in the world? You’re telling me this revenue stream is efficacious in only two world cities?
And by the way, the atrocious ad cubes are not part of some neoliberal plot to divert all the middle class’s hard-earned money to the tycoons: The ad cubes have been there as long as I can remember (1976), if not decades before. So what’s the deal? Why are we taking this sitting down? Has it not occurred to a single other Israeli that the cubes ride roughshod over our rights?
If so, why aren’t the citizens pressuring the cities to remove them? Why aren’t tour guides and others in the tourism industry pressuring the Visitors’ Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, and the Tourism Ministry to get rid of them? Where are Rotary and other civic groups?
I propose a solution that serves everyone: Leave the cubes in place and convert them into street signs! They’re ideally situated and highly visible, thereby expediting the flow of traffic and everyone’s travels. Each side of the cube could be divided into two vertically: The top half would tell you what street you’re now on; the bottom half would indicate the cross street, thusly:
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OK, so you see that I’m neither a semiologist nor a graphic artist (tried multiple times to get the triangle arrows situated alongside the text), but you get the idea. Just lose the word רח' [“street”]. It’s superfluous: We all know we’re on a street. It’s simple, clear, and conveys much more, and much more useful information than do the present “signs”.
Cities still want ad revenue? Mount solar-powered, slowly rotating cubes atop bus shelters, each side bearing a different ad. There: quadruple bang for your buck, no one’s vision is impeded, win win. I hereby appeal to everyone reading this, especially if you’re a Tel Avivian, Jerusalemite, or work in tourism, to get the ball rolling. Time to take back the street signs!