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About Tel Aviv then and now

About Tel Aviv then and now
Tel Aviv, is the second largest city in Israel in Israel, with an estimated population of 390,100. The city is situated on the Mediterranean Coastline with a land area of 51.8 square kilometres (20.0 sq mi). Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 on the outskirts of the ancient port city of Jaffa. Tel Aviv's White City, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, comprises the world's largest concentration of Modernist Style buildings. Its beaches, bars, cafes, upscale shopping and cosmopolitan lifestyle have made it a popular tourist destination and given way to its reputation as a "Mediterranean city that never sleeps". It is the country's cultural capital and a major performing arts and commerce center.

How Tel-Aviv got its name

There are few cities in the world which have gone through so many names as did Tel-Aviv in its early years. The Home Building Society was the original name of the association that had decided to build the new neighborhood. It soon became "Ahuzat Bayit" but, at the end of 1909, about six months after the neighborhood's establishment, its members were already engaged in a lively debate over the appropriate name for the new neighborhood: New Yafo, Neve Yafo, Nof Yafo, Aviva, Beauty, Tranquil, Ivria. One of the names that came up during the discussions - and was nearly chosen - was Herzlyia, named after Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism. And that was not surprising. Everyone wished to commemorate Herzl in one way or another in the new neighborhood. Eventually, Menahem Sheinkin, who was one of the leading Zionist figures at the time, suggested the name Tel-Aviv. Sheinkin remembered that Nahum Sokolow had used that name when translating the title of Herzl's book "Altneuland' (Old-New Land in German). What Sheinkin didn't know, however, was that a neighborhood in Ness Ziona already had that name. In any event, the members of the "Ahuzat Bayit" association held a democratic vote and the name Tel-Aviv was chosen by a majority of 20 votes, as opposed to Neve Yafo which received only 15. Sokolow once explained why he chose to translate the title of "Altneuland" as "Tel-Aviv". He had been especially intrigued by the combination of the two words "Tel" and "Aviv", which link old and new together. A "Tel" is a mound of ruins, and "Aviv" means springtime, the season of blossoming and renewal. The combination of the two words also appears in the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. The history of Yaffo Yafo is one of the most ancient cities in the world, dating back to Biblical times. According to a Christian legend, Yafo was named after the righteous man Yefet ben Noah, who founded the city after the Deluge. In the 15th century B.C., Pharaoh Thutmose III from Egypt conquered the city, which was later inhabited by Philistines. After the Israelites reached the Land of Canaan, members of the Tribe of Dan settled in the area, "with the border opposite Yafo".

During the times of King Solomon, Yafo was a major port which also served as a gateway for the import of cedars from Lebanon, used to build the First Temple. Over the years numerous conquerors and invaders passed through Yafo's gates and, during the Ottoman Empire, it was an important port for goods and cargo ships. In 1879, Yafo's ancient city wall was completely destroyed and the city expanded out into new areas. It was during this period that the first Jewish neighborhoods were established, including Neve Tzedek.

In the decades following Tel-Aviv's founding in 1909, and prior to Israel's declaring its independence, there was growing friction between Tel-Aviv and Yafo residents. As the end of the British Mandate over Palestine approached, fighting erupted between Yafo Arabs and Tel-Aviv Jews. "Etzel" soldiers led the battles against Yafo, which surrendered on May 13, 1947 - exactly 24 hours before the State of Israel was proclaimed by David Ben-Gurion. After the State was founded, the then mayor of Tel-Aviv, Israel Rokach, decided that it was fitting for the first Hebrew city to merge with the ancient port city from which it had emerged and grown. Rokach's initiative was formalized by an Israeli government decision in 1950, stipulating that both cities would be united under a single municipal entity named Tel-Aviv-Yafo.

The history of Tel-Aviv

The "lots drawing" day on 20 Nisan 5770 (April 11, 1909) has since been considered the day on which Tel-Aviv was founded. However, the city was actually established three years earlier at a meeting of Yafo Jews who had convened in July 1906 at the "Yeshurun" Club, located at the end of Bostrus Street. Those who attended that social gathering complained about the difficult living conditions that Yafo Jews were facing - severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, inadequate lighting and, primarily, the "ostracized" decree, which forced them to find alternative housing every year. On the very same day, a new immigrant had arrived in the country, named Aryeh Akiva Weiss, who encouraged the people at the gathering to build a new, clean neighborhood far away from Yafo, where Jews could sleep peacefully at the end of a hard day. Weiss envisioned an exemplary community and even went so far as to say: "Just like New York, which is the main gateway to America, we must also upgrade our city, and it will eventually become the New York of the Land of Israel". The association they formed to establish the new neighborhood, called The Home Building Society, later changed its name to "Ahuzat Bayit". This marked the beginning of Tel-Aviv.

The city's founders intended to build a neighborhood distant and separate from Yafo, one that would offer the quality of life that was common in Western Europe at the end of the 19th century. The new neighborhood was supposed to be built according the "garden cities" model espoused by the urban philosopher Ebenezer Howard. This model combined town and country life and envisioned cities with vegetable gardens, flower beds, and playgrounds - a complete contrast to the deteriorating quality of life that characterized Yafo at the time.

After enough members signed up for the new neighborhood, they acquired land in the area of the "Jabali" vineyard, on the sand dunes east of Neve Tzedek and adjacent to the beach. They divided the area into 60 lots for the first 60 families who had joined "Ahuzat Bayit" (although, officially, there were 66 founding families). Initially uncertain about how to assign which lot to which family, the members of the new neighborhood decided to draw lots and convened for that purpose on the second night of Passover in 1909. These distinguished people gathered on one of the embankments in the middle of the desolate area, and Aryeh Akiva Weiss, by then head of the neighborhood committee, went to the beach to collect 60 white seashells and 60 grey ones. On the white ones he wrote the members' names and, on the grey ones, the lot numbers. Weiss believed that it was fitting for a new city located along the coast to incorporate seashells at its founding ceremony. One of the founders' children was asked to match the lot numbers up with the names, and that's how the first Hebrew city was born.

After Israeli independence

By the time of Israel's Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, the population of Tel Aviv had risen to more than 200,000. Tel Aviv was the temporary government center of the State of Israel until the government moved to Jerusalem in December 1949. In April 1949Tel Aviv and Jaffa were united in the single municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo. Over the past 60 years, Tel Aviv has developed into a secular liberal-minded city with a vibrant nightlife and café culture.

On November 4, 1995, Israel's prime mininster Yitzhak Rabin, was assasinated at a rally in Tel Aviv in support of the Oslo peace accord. The outdoor plaza where this occurred, formerly known as Kikar Malchei Yisrael, was renamed Rabin Square. Tel Aviv has suffered from violence by Palestinian military groups.


The early architecture of Tel Aviv consisted largely of Eastern European-style single-story houses with red-tiled roofs. Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood to be constructed outside of Jaffa is characterised by two-story sandstone buildings. By the 1920s, a new eclectic Orientalist style came into vogue, combining European architecture with Middle Eastern features such as arches, domes and ornamental tiles. Municipal construction followed the "garden city" master plan drawn up by Patrick Geddes.

Two- and three-story buildings were interspersed with boulevards and public parks . Tel Aviv's White City, in north Tel Aviv, contains more than 5,000 Modernist-style buildings inspired by the Bauhaus school and Le Corbusier.Construction of these buildings, later declared protected landmarks and, collectively, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, continued until the 1950s in the area around Rothschild Boulevard. Three thousand buildings were created in this style between 1931 and 1939 alone.

In the 1960s, this architectural style gave way to office towers and a chain of waterfront hotels and commercial skyscrapers. Some of the city's Modernist buildings were neglected to the point of ruin. Before legislation to preserve this landmark architecture, many of the old buildings were demolished.

In recent years, efforts have been made to refurbish Bauhaus buildings and restore them to their original condition.

In recent years, Tel Aviv has become a hub of modern high-rise architecture due to the soaring price of real-estate in the city. The Shalom Meir Tower, Israel's first skyscraper, was built in Tel Aviv in 1965 and remained the country's tallest building until 1999. The Azrieli Center, composed of three buildings— one square, one triangular, and one circular—usurped that title. Since 2001, Israel's tallest building is the City Gate Tower, which is located in the neighboring city of Ramat Gan, although the country's tallest wholly residential building, the Neve Tzedek Tower, is in Tel Aviv. New neighborhoods such as the Park Tzameret are being constructed to house luxury apartment towers including YOO Tel Aviv towers designed by Philippe Starck, while zones such as The southern Kirya are being developed with office towers.

Tourism and recreation

As a major Mediterranean city, Tel Aviv is a magnet for international tourism likened by some to Barcelona and Miami. It is described as a top international destination by Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Tel Aviv has been called "the city that never sleeps" due to its thriving nightlife and 24-hour culture.

Tel Aviv's largest public park is Hayarkon Park with other smaller parks such as Gan Meir and Dubnow Park located within the city center area. Seventeen percent of the city is covered in plants. Dizengoff Center was Israel's first mall. Tel Aviv has branches of some of the world's leading hotels, among them the Crowne Plaza, Sheraton, Dan, Isrotel and Hilton. It is home to many museums, architectural and cultural sites, with city tours available in different languages. Apart from bus tours, there are architectural tours and Segway tours and walking tours. The nightlife centers particularly around the beachfront area due to its many nightclubs and bars. The city has a wide variety of restaurants offering traditional Israeli dishes as well as international fare. More than 100 sushi restaurants, the third highest concentration in the world, do business in the city, and an Italian restaurant in Tel Aviv was called the best Italian restaurant outside of Italy by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture.

Performing Arts and Cinema

Tel Aviv is a major cultural center in Israel and within the region. Eighteen of Israel's 35 major centers for the performing arts are located in the city, including five of the country's nine large theaters, where 55% of all performances in the country and 75% of all attendance occurs. The Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center is the home of the Israeli Opera, where Placido Domingo was house tenor between 1962 and 1965, and the Cameri Theater. With 3,000 seats, the Fredric R. Mann Auditorium (Heichal Hatarbut) is the city's largest theater. Habima Theater, Israel's national theater, was closed down for renovations in early 2008. Enav Cultural Center is one of the newer additions to the cultural scene.Other theaters in Tel Aviv are the Gesher Theater and Beit Lessin Theater; Tzavta and Tmuna are smaller theaters that host musical performances and fringe productions. In Jaffa, the Simta and Notzar theaters specialize in fringe style.Tel Aviv is home to a number of established dance centers and companies. The Batsheva Dance Company, a contemporary dance troupe, as well as Bat Dor and the Israel Ballet are also headquartered in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv's center for modern and classical dance is the Suzanne Dellal Center in Neve Tzedek.

The city often hosts top musical acts of all music genres.

Opera and classical music performances are held daily in Tel Aviv, with many of the world's leading classical conductors and soloists performing on Tel Aviv stages over the years.

The Tel Aviv Cinemathèque screens art movies, premieres of short and full-length Israeli films, and hosts a variety of film festivals, among them the Festival of Animation, Comics and Caricatures, the Student Film Festival, the Jazz, Film and Videotape Festival and Salute to Israeli Cinema. The city has several multiplex cinemas.

Museums Israel is said to have the highest number of museums per capita of any country, three of the largest of which are in Tel Aviv. Among these are the Eretz Israel Museum, known for its collection of archaeology and history exhibits dealing with the Land of Israel, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Housed on the campus of Tel Aviv University is the Beth Hatefutsoth, a museum of the international Jewish diaspora that tells the story of Jewish prosperity and persecution throughout the centuries of exile. Batey Haosef Museum specializes in Israel Defense Forces' military history.

The Palmach Museum near Tel Aviv University offers a multimedia experience of the history of the Palmach as well as archives depicting the lives of Jewish soldiers who became Israel's first defenders. Near Charles Clore's garden in north Jaffa is a small museum of the Etzel Jewish militant organization, which conquered Jaffa in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Tel Aviv Exhibition Center in the northern part of the city hosts more than 60 major events a year. Many offbeat museums and galleries operate in the city's southern areas, including the Tel Aviv Raw Art contemporary art gallery.

Nahum Gutman Museum

Nahum Gutman was one of Israel's most well known artists. His body of work was broad. He worked in a variety of media including oils, watercolors, gouache, sculpture, mosaics and engravings. Born in Telenesty, Bessrabia, he immigrated to Eretz-Israel in 1905 with his parents at the age of seven.

Gutman was truly a product of his environment and one the students who rebelled against the European way of painting at the Bezalel (art academy). Hemi Gutman, the artist's son, a professor of biophysics at Tel Aviv University, explained that when his father attended Bezalel, all the teachers were of European decent. Their entire treatment of subject matter was based on European landscapes and even on European lighting. The group that rebelled, believed that the different landscape in Israel, one in which summer days are often gray and filled with blinding light (from dust) required a new and different treatment.

The museum dedicated to Nahum Gutman opened lately, in a building known as the Writer's or Editor's House. It is the result of what Hemi Gutman described as, "15 years of blood sweat and tears". Only a small portion of the permanent collection of several thousand works are on display at any given time. Located in the Neve Zedek, area of Tel Aviv - the building was originally built in 1887 in one of the first neighborhoods outside of Jaffa. It housed the editorial board of the `Ha'poel Ha'tzair' (Young Laborer) newspaper between 1907-1914 and was home to Y.H. Brenner, Dvora Baron and Joesph Aharonovitz.

Hemi Gutman said that his father loved people and never did or looked at anything from a superior standpoint. He noted that while most people tend to equate his father's work with optimism, his father also saw the bad.

Gutman was not only preoccupied with painting (illustration) but with writing as well. In fact, many knew him best for his drawings and illustrated children's books. He once wrote, "This person (myself) occupies himself, as it were, in two lines of work, but in truth only does what his heart desires, namely one." Gutman wrote and published prose, mostly short stories and children's tales, on which generations of Israeli children were raised. He was the recipient of numerous prizes and in 1978 received the Israel Prize (Israel's highest accolade), for his contribution to children's literature.

Describing his father's work, Hemi Gutman said, "He didn't have just one style of painting. He switched from the figurative style to one which started having more abstract elements, but not because he was trying to copy anyone." In fact, during the 1950's when Israeli painting seemed to be in a crisis and there were those who advocated adopting the International style in order to lose the local stigma Gutman wasn't swayed and was true to the local style.

In a catalog from the museum's first exhibition, the artist's son wrote, "The most difficult moment in my father's art was parting with it. The house was full of new and old paintings. My father liked their proximity, they seemed to remind him of the good moments in life. These selected moments have been compiled to populate a museum dedicated to Nahum Gutman."

And a charming museum it is.

The museum is located at 21 Rokach Street, Neve Zedek, Tel Aviv, 65148 Visiting Hours: Sunday-Wednesday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM Thursday - 10:00 Am 7:00 PM Friday - 10:00 Am - 2:00 PM Saturday - 10:00 AM - 5 PM

The Independence Hall

The independence of the state of Israel was declared on this very spot.

This building on Rothschild Street used to be home of Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv's first mayor. This is the very place in which Israel's independence was declared in the 14th of May 1948.

The museum’s Hall of declaration remains intact, the original setting untouched in order to commemorate this extraordinary moment in the history of the Jewish people. The portrait of Herzel, the first man to vision the state of Israel, hangs over the microphones and tables.

This is where the concept of Zionism received the official standing it longed for, the place in which the Jewish people's entitlement of a state was finally recognized.

Admission is free. Address: 16 Rothschild Boulevard Tel: (03) 517-3942

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