According to surveys, Petach Tikva is the number one destination for young couples purchasing apartments, with a population that is growing at an annual rate of 2.4 percent. As part of a public improvement campaign before the recent municipal elections, the city began two new traffic circles. One is near my home at a dangerous intersection, where drivers routinely threaten pedestrians by making illegal turns.
I’m pleased that traffic will slow, but I suspect the city’s main concern is traffic patterns and not safety. A circle will provide an additional way for cars to cross the main road. My daughter, though, worries that in times of heavy traffic the circle will make it difficult to cross the street, as she won’t know whether a car is headed toward her until the last minute.
Neighbors on a side street sued the city because they feared increased traffic and noise. Traffic violations don’t seem to concern them. They managed to have the work stopped on a technicality.
Then we have the aesthetic issue, as every traffic circle creates a new public space to be filled. Here’s how my friend Victoria describes one notable sculpture: “An astronaut holding a giant eyeball, standing on a pea pod that is growing out of a kettle.”
Last week I photographed a sculpture going up at the other new circle . A worker noticed me with the camera, so I asked him what he thought. He replied with some unpleasant comments about the mayor. Even though I’m not particularly artistic, I realized that an element seemed to be missing. So I asked him about that, too.
According to the worker, a statue of a black cat had been placed on the rock at the base of the dodecagon. When a woman living in an apartment nearby called the city to complain that she didn’t want to see that cat out her window every day, it was removed. Apparently a columnist wrote about it too.
If you look closely you can see the hoopoe, now Israel’s national bird, at the top of the figure. Several traffic circles feature hoopoes in various poses. I wonder whether the cat was supposed to be contemplating the bird for its next meal? The worker suspects that since the mayor has already been reelected, we shouldn’t expect a replacement for the cat.
In the meantime work has begun again at my corner, and I am anxious to see what artwork will appear.
Hannah Katsman lives in Petach Tikva and keeps a blog, A Mother in Israel.