Before ISRAEL21c started filming its new video, “Happy Tel Aviv-Yafo,” we were worried. We’d already lined up volunteers to meet us at different locations across the city, but we also needed passersby. Would the average Tel Avivian really stop to dance in front of strangers on the street for a bunch of people they didn’t know?

Well, the answer is yes, they will. A resounding yes. As we soon discovered, the problem wasn’t getting people to dance; it was stopping them. As soon as our director, Elahn Zetlin, turned on the music, people were smiling, tapping their feet, waving their arms and begging us to film them.

The song “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams, is undoubtedly infectious. It’s such an uplifting song with an amazing beat. But what impressed us all was how people on the street were so ready to take part in anything that looked like fun.

Policemen, builders, bakery owners, sweeps, kids, teenagers, grandparents, fishermen, even a bride and groom – they all wanted to take part.

At Habima Square, when Brazilian-Israeli singer Elisete started dancing, dozens of people formed a circle around her to watch, and within a minute or two leapt irrepressibly into the frame to dance. When we turned off the music, they were disappointed and called out, “Again, again!”

It was a refrain we heard repeatedly during the two-day shoot.

People loved the music, and they loved the whole concept of what we were doing – showing the world an alternative vision of Tel Aviv.

Israel has a reputation around the world, and it’s not a particularly good one. We all know it. The country might be lauded as one of the world’s high-tech capitals, but that doesn’t stop people imagining the country as a depressing, militaristic nation peopled only by soldiers and rabbis.

In one fell swoop, we managed in this video to prove the fallacy of that impression. The people of Tel Aviv love to dance. It’s a city that loves to have fun. The people here are open to anything – whether they are religious, secular, Jewish, Arab, young, old, male or female.

My bet, after the amazing experience of this two-day shoot, is that we’d get a similar response in almost every Israeli city. It’s not by chance that Israel has repeatedly shown up at the top of the world happiness survey, despite seemingly insurmountable difficulties that should make that impossible.

So there we have it. We’ve got our problems and issues, but the people of Israel also understand the joy of life, and are willing to grab their moments of happiness everywhere.

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