A Bit on Tel Aviv History and Architecture

Rumour will have it that as the tourists and rich have made their entry into Neve Tzedek, the artists and bohemians are moving on to Florentin, making it the new and upcoming neighbourhood.

If you put two jews in a room you will end up with five opinions! An iPhone is a peace of plastic with an Israeli brain! It is our second day in Tel Aviv and we are starting it off with a tour of the White City…

The White City

Despite the terrible jokes of our guide, he provided us with a thorough description of how Tel Aviv began back in 1909. He showed us the architecture of Rothchild Blvd and the surrounding streets while describing the first decades of Tel Aviv existence.

According to him, it is possible to walk down Rothchild Blvd and see as the city develops through the changing architecture. Except for the modern skyscrapers, which are from the last decade or so, the most dominant architectural styles of the area are the eclectic Orientalist style of the 1920s complete with arches, domes, oriental tiles and Greek inspired decorations and the International style of the 1930s – also known as Bauhaus.

More than 5000 houses around the centre are inspired by the Bauhaus school. The style was brought to Tel Aviv by German Jews who fled Nazi-Germany in the 1930s.

Unlike in Europe where much of the houses from this period were bombed away in WW2, Tel Aviv seems to be bursting with modernist houses of the International style. Sadly, many of them are crumbling and in a terrible state and pretty much falling apart in front of you.

However, our guide told us that in present-day Tel Aviv you have to agree to renovate one or two old houses in order to gain a permit for building. Thus, for every tall sparkling skyscraper being build in Tel Aviv an old historical house is completely renovated.

I really like that idea and it makes me want to return in 10 years just to see how far they have come with renovating the old houses. If things are going as they are now, the city will be full of skyscrapers mixed in between beautifully renovated houses from the 1920s and 30s.

After finishing our tour and having had an overload of Jewish jokes, we went on to see the centre with King George Street and Dizengoff Square and onwards down to Neve Tzedek and Florentin.

Neve Tzedek

Neve Tzedek which is one of the many names of Yehova and means the Abode of Justice is older than Tel Aviv itself. Today it is a fancy south-western neighbourhood, but in fact it dates back to 1887, 22 years prior to the founding of Tel Aviv.

And once again, it is the story of a group of Jewish families who were tired of living within the confines of Jaffa, thus moving out into the desert sand. The story however does not say whether they argued and complained as much as the later families establishing Tel Aviv.

The area is as Rothchild Blvd full of houses build in the International style. However, as the neighbourhood is two decades older you also find Jugendstil/Art Noveau inspired houses.

It is in many ways similar to Montmartre as it has a village feel atmosphere with small quisant houses in narrow streets. I definitely found it the most pleasant neighbourhood in Tel Aviv and was happy to see that also here were houses under renovation.

The very polite receptionist at our hostel had mentioned an ice-cream parlour called Anita. As we walked down Shabazi Street we easily spotted the place as it was full of locals and tourists alike standing in line for a homemade ice-cream to enjoy in the sun.

Florentin

After strolling around in the neighbourhood, we moved on to the rougher Florentin in which our hostel is. Here renovation is far away and the neighbourhood which is from the 1920’s suffers from lack of repair.

However, rumour will have it that as the tourists and rich have made their entry into Neve Tzedek, the artists and bohemians are moving on to Florentin, making it the new and upcoming neighbourhood. In a similar way as Neu Koln is slowly taking over from Kreutzberg as the hip place of Berlin.

My boyfriends very diplomatic statement of Florentin was that it was crappy. And it is true in a sense, but the area has potential and Herxzel Street and Florentin Street offer a ray of interesting places which indicate the bright future that the neighbourhood is on the brink of.

Unfortunately I have managed to delete 400 pictures from Neve Tzedek and Florentin.

From all of us to all of you ,

Shalom Shabbat

Zofka

Meeting Israeli culture, enjoying Old Jaffa, getting lost in Ha’Carmel Market and walking the beaches of Tel Aviv

The story of our flight to Tel Aviv very well sums up how the guide of our walking tour today explained Israeli culture – 80 % complaining, 20 % eating and then arguing for desert, not to forget the fact that Israelis are always late.

We have arrived in Tel Aviv! After an extremely long and cold day in Vienna we were greeted by a night temperature of 19°C and a very clean and organised airport. But before writing about our amazing days in Tel Aviv, I’ll add a few words about our journey from Austria.

Arriving in Tel Aviv

After a long and windy day in Vienna, we found ourselves finally boarding the flight to Tel Aviv, scheduled to land at 0:50. The boarding was in every aspect a different experience.

The passengers were mainly Israeli and many of them Orthodox Jews with big black hats and beatiful facial hair. Everyone was carrying hand luggage that seemed to weigh several tonnes and getting everyone on board was a puzzle that I still don’t know how was solved.

The Israelis moved slowly, while complaining and chatting and finding non-existent space for their heavy hand-luggage. The Austrian flight attendants were in every way stretched to the breaking point having to accomodate the passengers while moving the boarding along quickly.

Even when the pilot informed us that we wouldn’t make it to Tel Aviv before the airport closed unless we took off within 10 minutes, the Israelis continued their slow pace.

My boyfriend and I as well as an American lady behind us were all rapidly growing old with the thought that we might have to sleep overnight on the flight before taking off in the morning. But finally, with a few strict words from the flight attendants, people found their seats.

We made it to Tel Aviv at exactly 0:59 – one minute to closing.

The story of our flight to Tel Aviv very well sums up how the guide of our walking tour today explained Israeli culture – 80 % complaining, 20 % eating and then arguing for desert, not to forget the fact that Israelis are always late.

According to him Tel Aviv was founded by 66 Jewish families who began arguing the moment they had bought the land of future-Tel Aviv from the Ottoman Empire. They ended up splitting the land into 66 plots and then having a 10 year-old child draw seachells to find out which family got which plot. This again was surely followed by further complaining.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Old Jaffa

We woke up late on Friday, enjoying the possibility of a proper sleep. Around noon, we took a walk through Jaffa, which is an ancient seaport that Tel Aviv has grown together with.

While Tel Aviv dates back to 1909, Jaffa is more than 5000 years old and one of the eldest seaports of the world. Today, it is – as so many other historic places – a touristy hot spot famous for a clocktower, a flea market and Old Jaffa Port.

The flea market reminded me of the Grand Bazar in Istanbul and was full of colourful clothes and jewellery. The neighbourhod is quisant and despite the many tourists, including us, it has maintained a local atmosphere.

We ended up eating humus and enjoying the vibrant life of the Old Jaffa Port. I really loved the port. It was so very scenic and the hummus we had bought at a local restaurant tasted absolutely marvellous.

We ended up with a romantic stroll around the seaside of Jaffa.

I must admit, I really start liking the idea of having a travel buddy – espacially when promenating in such a beautiful spot.

Ha’Carmel Market and the beaches of Tel Aviv

After returning to our hostel we headed out again, desperate to see as much of Tel Aviv as we could during our short stay. We walked up Jaffa Road and further on Nahalat Binyamin to the arts and craft market. I had really looked forward to this and was so happy to catch it as it is only twice a week.

However, the items at display were both expensive and just as ordinary as at any other arts and craft market. I had hoped for something a bit more exotic but went away with the feeling that most of that stuff I can buy at the local christmas bazar back home.

What did please us greatly was the bustling and completely chaotic Ha’Carmel Market which took us absolutely by surprise. Here were fresh fruits and vegetables, cheap shoes and clothes, supplies for the home and much much more.

The market originally grew out of the Yemenite neighbourhood, Kerem HaTeimanim, in the 1920’s and is today an integrated part of Tel Aviv for tourists and locals alike. After finding our way out of the hectic market space and getting a breath of fresh air we walked through Kerem HaTeimanim ending up at Allenby Street.

From here we promenaded back along the beaches, walking with bare feet at the shore and past the many danger signs which warned people not to bath or swim in the area. I still haven’t figured out whether it is because of strong undercurrents that a sign was placed every 5th meter, but the locals definitely didn’t care.

In fact there are a lot of danger signs around Tel Aviv. Except from those at the beach almost every electricity line is accompanied by warning signs and even at the hostel toilet we are warned not to touch certain areas as it may cause immediate death.

I thought I would worry mostly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I am certain that the bare electrical lines running through the streets of Tel Aviv are a whole lot more dangerous. While it in many aspects is a modern city, the electricity lines seem to be a donation from the old Soviet Republic. But then again, I always had a soft spot for old Soviet buildings and architecture, and with all the dramatic warning signs guiding me away from danger, I only find it and added quirk to the splendor of Tel Aviv.

Zofka