Category Archives: Tel Aviv

Where is Magidovitch Street?

Yehuda Leib Magidovitch was born in Uman, Ukraine in 1861, studied at the Odessa Academy and immigrated to Tel Aviv in 1919. From 1920-23 he worked as the chief engineer of the city of Tel Aviv. He then started his own company and for the next 20 years, as architect and contractor was instrumental in developing the city of Tel Aviv. A sampling of his buildings stands on Rothschild Blvd., along Allenby, Herzl and Lilienblum. I’ve shared a live Google map showing the locations at Magidovitch Tel Aviv.

Magidovitch TA

One of his buildings, the most opulent in early 1920s Tel Aviv was known as ‘The Casino.’ Not a gambling house, the Casino Galei-Aviv cafe-restaurant on the beach close to the port was constructed to boost the fledgling nightlife of the new city. It lasted about a dozen years and was destroyed by order of the municipality in 1939.

The Casino Galei-Aviv at Tel-Aviv photographed in 1932

Magidovitch built Levin House, at 46 Rothschild Blvd. in 1924 by as an urban mansion, in the style of 19th century Italian summer houses with neo-classical details. Terraces of greenery set the house apart from the street. Conservation of the building was done as part of a 22-story office high-rise. In order to build a 7-floor underground parking garage under the house it had to be disconnected from its original foundations and a new one incorporating the garage had to be built, an unprecedented engineering feat.

Levin House

Magidovitch built a house on Nahalat Binyamin St. for the Bachar brothers. Today, in keeping with Tel Aviv planning policy, you can see a new 30 floor office tower going up at 22 Rothschild Blvd., that will connect to Bachar House via a glass atrium.

Aviv project-Bachar House

From Google Streetview

At 16 Herzl St. is Fsag Fnsk, the first commercial shopping center under one roof, built by Magidovitch in 1925 with an elevator and his trademark metal dome.

From Google Streetview

From Google Streetview

At the corner of Yavne and Montefiore, what was the Ismailov hotel built in 1925, similar to the Ben Nahum hotel in design, is being renovated to become another boutique hotel.

Ismailov hotel  Ben Nahum hotel

The Nordau hotel is a classic Magidovitch with a silver domed tower.

Nordau hotel

Magidovitch’s House of Pillars was undergoing renovations but that seems to have stopped.

House of Pillars

TA Kiosk 3Magidovitch designed the Kol Yehuda synagogue at 5 Lilienblum St. for the Jewish community from Aden in 1934. “The façade of this unassuming building does not give away its inner monumental grandeur. The building is indicative of Magidovich`s virtuosic architectural abilities, having created within it an elegant and rhythmic space by means of a network of exposed construction beams.”

Next to the synagogue is a classic Magidovitch building with his signature corner tower covered with a sheet metal roof. Beside it, on the corner of Lilienblum and Rishonim streets, is the third Tel Aviv kiosk.

From Google Streetview

From Google Streetview

Magidovitch also built the Great Synagogue at 118 Allenby St. In the 1970s the outside of the building was renovated with the addition of arches but this is what it used to look like.

Tel_Aviv_Great_Synagogue

Although most of Magidovitch’s building were in the eclectic style, in the 30s, he also built in the popular Bauhaus style. Two examples are the Esther Cinema, now the Cinema hotel on 1 Zamenoff and a residential building at 90 Rothschild Blvd.

90 Rothschild

From Google Streetview

In all, Magidovitch built some 500 buildings in Tel Aviv over a period of 40 years. There is no street named after him, his many buildings are his monument.

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Tel Aviv Historical Walking Tour

Between 1887 and 1896 Jewish immigrants from Europe from the First Aliya settled north of Jaffa building the Neve Tzedek neighborhood which was the beginning of modern-day Tel Aviv. In 1906, on the initiative of Akiva Arye Weiss a group of Jews from the Second Aliya and residents of Jaffa got together to plan another neighborhood. To circumvent the Turkish prohibition on Jewish land acquisition, Jacobus Kann, a Dutch citizen and banker, helped to finance the purchase and registered it in his name. Kann perished during World War II in the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt. In the spring of 1909 sixty-six Jewish families took possession of building parcels by lottery and erected the first buildings among the sand dunes, vineyards, and orchards in Kerem Djebali along the coast north of Jaffa. There they established a “garden suburb” called Ahuzat Bayit (“Homestead”) which was shortly thereafter renamed Tel Aviv.

Building parcel lottery 1909 photo by Soskin

Avraham Soskin, on his most famous iconic photograph:

“One day, it was in 1909, I was roaming with the camera in one hand and the tripod on my other arm, on my way from a walk through the sand dunes of what is today Tel Aviv to Jaffa. Where the Herzliah Gymnasium once stood I saw a group of people who had assembled for a housing plot lottery. Although I was the only photographer in the area, the organizers hadn’t seen fit to invite me, and it was only by chance that this historic event was immortalized for the next generations.”

The name Tel Aviv is from Sokolow’s translation of the title of Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland (“Old New Land”) based on the name of a Mesopotamian site mentioned in Ezekiel 3:15: “Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel Abib, that lived by the river Chebar”. It embraced the idea of a renaissance in the ancient Jewish homeland. Aviv is Hebrew for “spring”, symbolizing renewal, and Tel is a mound made up of the accumulation of layers of civilization built one over the other symbolizing the ancient.

First kiosk & water tower 1910 photo by Soskin

First kiosk renovated, corner of Herzl

Walking along one of the first streets of Tel Aviv, leafy Rothschild Boulevard (did you know that the street was originally named Ha’am Street?), is like visiting a historical museum that lines both sides of the street. We start our tour at the corner of Rothschild and Herzl Street [another idea for a tour: the stories behind street names, the people and events important in the history of Israel] where you can savor the espresso at Tel Aviv’s first ‘kiosk’ (the second kiosk is also on Rothschild at the corner of Nahalat Binyamin; can you find the third kiosk?). The Eliavsons, one of the 66 founding families built their house on the southwest corner of Rothschild and Herzl in 1909; in the 1930s a 4-story Bauhaus building was built there which a few years ago became the home of the Institut Français.

From Google Streetview

Weiss built his house at 2 Herzl Street and at the end of the street stood the Gymnasium Herzliya until is was demolished in 1962 to make way for the Shalom Meir Tower. It seems ironic that this landmark lives on as the logo of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites. Weiss  continued with many other private initiatives — he built the first cinema (Eden) and the first post office in Tel Aviv and founded the Diamond Club which became the Israel Diamond Exchange.

From Google Streetview

Meir and Zina Dizengoff were assigned plot 43, the precise location where the group was standing in Soskin’s photo, today 16 Rothschild Blvd. Dizengoff was the first mayor of Tel Aviv and did much to develop the city. The residence is best known as the site of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14th, 1948; now it’s a museum with exhibits on the history of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. You can listen to the historic recording of Ben-Gurion declaring the State of Israel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZDSBF5xtoo&feature=related.

Google Streetview

In 1919 Yehuda Magidovich arrived in Israel and soon became the city’s chief engineer, his office was in the first city hall in the old water tower on Rothschild Boulevard. Afterwards he became one of Israel’s most prolific architects building 500 buildings in Tel Aviv, a number of them along Rothschild Blvd. The first public building designed by Magidovich in 1921 was the first luxury hotel in Tel Aviv (called at various times the Ben Nahum Hotel and the Ginosar Pension). Today you can see the newly renovated building (on the corner of Allenby Street) with its Magidovich signature tower. Historic buildings often owe their existence to adjacent office towers, part of Tel Aviv’s preservation and development policy — the city agrees to increase the height of the building if the developer agrees to renovate and preserve a historic building in the complex.

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Meze Appetizers

While in Israel try meze (also spelled mezze), a selection of small dishes served in the Mediterranean and Middle East as appetizers, think of Spanish tapas.

The word meze was probably borrowed from the Greek mezés (μεζές), which was borrowed from Turkish meze, which was in turn borrowed from Persian maze ‘taste, flavour, snack, relish’, and is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire.

The meze served depends on the chef and the restaurant but could include some or all of the following:

  • Labne – strained yoghurt cheese
  • Babaghanoush – eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with various seasonings
  • Muhammara – a hot pepper dip with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil
  • Pastirma – seasoned, air-dried cured beef
  • Tabbouleh – bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, scallion, with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings

Walking along the promenade from Jaffa to Tel Aviv, you’ll find Etzel Pini BaChatzer, a restaurant that offers typical Mediterranean dining by the sea (not kosher) with a good selection of mezes. One of their specialties is chopped beef and lamb salad with Swiss chard and pine nuts.

As you walk along the promenade there is a fun wall mural on a building facing the beach that shows some famous people enjoying the restaurant/bar scene in Tel Aviv. The mural was painted by Israeli artist Anna Kogan (http://tziur-kir.co.il).

Wall mural-Anna KoganTwo of the people are from Renaissance paintings – the gentleman in the large-brimmed black hat and yellow jacket is from a painting, La Buveuse (Woman Drinking, 1658) by Pieter de Hooche and the fellow with the red outfit and hat playing the lute is from a painting, Jester with a Lute, by the Dutch Frans Hals about 1625. The two young women (in positions 2 and 10) are both named Orit and lived in a building nearby. Position 3 is based on George Harrison from this photo of the Beatles. Position 8 is based on rapper, Master P.

So the people from left to right are :

de Hooche painting, Orit, George Harrison,  Marx,  Freud, Golda Meir, Einstein, Master P., Ben Gurion, Orit, Herzl, Jester with a Lute, model, Golda Meir

Eclectic Style Architecture

If you pay attention to the buildings while walking around Tel Aviv you may notice that you could divide them into two distinctly different styles. Those built in the 1930s are influenced by the International (Bauhaus) style, clean lines without much ornamentation whereas, the earlier buildings were designed in an eclectic style, a combination of neo-classic architecture with other styles, for example, romantic or oriental. With the establishment of the Bezalel School, Jewish artists created art and craft with Jewish symbols in various media, metalwork, ceramic tile, glass, stone that were used as architectural details. Buildings in the eclectic style tend to be uniquely interesting and are significant landmarks. There are many examples, it is worth taking a guided tour to find them, including the beautiful Pagoda House (Alexander Levy, 1924) on the corners of Melchett, Nachmani and Montifiori, the Levine House (Yehuda Megidovich, 1924) on 46 Rothschild Boulevard and the Palm House (Tabachnik, 1928) at 8 Nahalat Binyamin.

Pagoda House

The building was inspired by southern Asian pagodas, and is the first building in Tel Aviv to have an elevator. The building is composed of Doric pillars, Arabic style arches, and other elements that connect East and West, in a combination of styles. Impressively situated off King Albert Square.

Levine House

This magnificent urban villa was built on a 1700 sq m plot on a small hill on Rothschild Boulevard for Yakov Levine in 1924. The Levine family lived on the second floor and rented out the first. One of its special features is a turret with a mechanically operated roof that could be opened to create space for a sukka.

The architect was Yehuda Megidovich who was Tel Aviv’s first city engineer. Between 1919 and 1951 he designed more then 500 buildings in Tel Aviv, among them the House of Pillars (1925), Nordau Hotel, Ben Nahum Hotel (1921) and the Great Synagogue. Look at buildings he designed for one of his signature trademarks up at the roof line, a tower or dome.

The building was almost demolished in 1943 by a developer who wanted to build a six storey building in its place and was badly damaged by a bomb planted by members of Lehi protesting Jewish discrimination in the USSR in 1953 (when it was the Soviet embassy). In 1995 the developer Akirov bought the property and renovated the building in exchange for permission to build a 26 floor skyscraper, Elrov Tower, on the site.

Palm House

The architect Tabachnick wanted to create an architecture grounded in Israel that would emphasize Jewish motifs often blended with art-nouveau style. In the center section of the building is a window in the shape of a palm tree from which the building gets its name. Note the use of the Star of David, the grillwork of the railings in the shape of the menorah (Jewish candelabra) and the tops of the 3 towers in the shape of an altar.

Art and Architecture, Jaffa

The Tachana (“Station”) complex includes the historic train station built in 1892, the freight terminal, German Templer Hugo Wieland’s tile factory and cement works and the Wieland family’s home. Today the complex has been renovated and houses restaurants and cafes, fashion, art, antique and jewelry boutiques, a large art bookstore, galleries and every Friday an organic food market. Notwithstanding the commercial aspect, it’s still a historic site and standing on the station platform it’s easy to imagine being transported back to a time of steam engines, pilgrims and pioneers.

The German Templers Society (Tempelgesellschaft) were a Protestant sect who originally settled in Haifa and established the German Colony there; subsequently they built settlements in Sarona and Jerusalem. After the visit of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1899, another wave of pioneers founded Wilhelma, Walhalla, Bet Lehem HaGlilit and Waldheim. The colony’s oranges were the first to carry a “Jaffa Orange” brand, one of the better known agricultural brands in Europe, used to market Israeli oranges to this day. The Templers established a regular coach service between Haifa and other cities and made an important contribution to road construction. They  were architects and engineers, ran hotels, beer gardens and promoted the country’s tourist industry.

The Wieland family came to Israel in 1900 and established its building materials factory beside the Jaffa train station and the nearby Templer neighborhood. The patriarch, Hugo Wieland, built the villa in 1902 as a single storey structure; a second storey was added a few years later to accommodate the family of 12. The building was designed in the Templer style, stone buildings with a tile roof, wooden shutters, balcony. The front room served as a lounge and was the most beautiful and impressive room in the house, it had a painted ceiling and coal fireplace for heating. The floors were made of decorative tiles produced by the family factory.

During restoration work, some paintings of scenes of women, drinking and dancing, were discovered on walls in one of the rooms. Originally the thought was that these were copies of caricatures from a German magazine. In further investigation it was discovered that these painting were done by Gerd Rothschild, partner with Zev Lipman in Roli Graphic Studio, between 1942-1946. Rothschild learned graphic design in the first class of the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem. He was enlisted into the British army as a cook but when his artistic talent was discovered he wandered from British base to base in the region – Palestine, Libya, Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus painting on walls. In later years, Rothschild used art therapy to work with children with disabilities and painted murals in pediatric psychiatric wards. He died in 1991 at the age 72. The British used the buildings in the Jaffa rail yard as a base for supplies after the German Templers were deported to Australia during WWII.

Another atmospheric building is the Red House, an example of typical Arab construction in the Jaffa area that got its name from the red plaster used on its walls. This building was probably built before the Wieland villa as part of the Manshiya neighborhood, adjacent to the train station complex. A unique feature is the western entrance accented with chiseled sandstone left unplastered which frames the symmetrical series of three openings. Two round openings on the facade, common in Arab buildings are for ventilation.

Bauhaus Architecture Tour

Bauhaus style was influenced by the 19th century English designer William Morris who argued that art should meet the needs of society and there should be no distinction between form and function. It was marked by radically simplified forms, the absence of ornamentation, by harmony between the design of an object or building and its function and the idea that mass-production was reconcilable with the individual artistic spirit. These criteria were a good match for the modern city of Tel Aviv, a new Israeli city built in 1909 on sand dunes of the Mediterranean coast.

From a postcard, published by S. Adler, Haifa  Photo by J. Benor-Kalter

In 1925 as Tel Aviv grew, the innovative Scottish urban planner Patrick Geddes submitted a master plan for the city where he laid out the streets and decided on block size and utilization – Geddes did not prescribe an architectural style for the buildings in the new city. The impetus for large-scale construction came from the rapid influx of Jewish immigrants from Europe who grew in numbers from about 2,000 in 1914 to about 150,000 in 1937. In the 1930s, Jewish architects who had studied the architectural ideas of the Bauhaus school fled the rise of Nazism in Germany and converged on Tel Aviv. The residential and public buildings were designed by these architects, who took advantage of the absence of established architectural conventions to put the principles of modern architecture into practice. With their emphasis on functionality and inexpensive building materials, it was perceived as ideal for Tel Aviv. The result is that Tel Aviv has the largest concentration of International style buildings, recognized by UNESCO in 2003 when the “White City” was declared a World Heritage Site.

Here on the shores of the Mediterranean the “International” architecture had to be adapted to suit the hot and sunny climate.

  • White and light colors reflected the heat.
  • Walls not only provided privacy but protected against the sun.
  • Large areas of glass that let in the light, a key element of the Bauhaus style in Europe, were replaced with small recessed windows that limited the heat and glare.
  • Long narrow balconies, each shaded by the balcony above it, allowed residents to catch the breeze blowing in from the sea to the west.
  • Slanted roofs were replaced with flat ones, providing a common area where residents could socialize in the cool of the evening.
  • Buildings were built on pillars (pilotis) to allow the wind to blow under and cool the apartments, as well as providing a play area for children.

Here are 2 highlights from the Bauhaus tour.

Soskin House (1933, Ze’ev Rechter)

In 1934 Avraham Soskin closed his photographic studio at 24 Herzl Street and moved his family and typesetting business to the two winged house at 12 Lilienblum Street. Considered Tel Aviv’s first and foremost photographer because his work provides a rich documentation of the city’s early years [another idea for a tour: photographs by Matson, Soskin, Phillips, Rubinger and the sites today], Soskin (1884-1963) immigrated to Palestine in 1905.

Architect Ze’ev Rechter (1898-1960) returned from his studies in Paris in late 1932 and designed the house for Soskin.

The facade is divided into two major fields defined according to Golden Section proportions: the first is located on the east, shaped as a vertical rectangle that anchors the structure to the ground; the second is a horizontal rectangle pulled from the vertical rectangle. The building was renovated in 2005 and made into a number of apartments.

Engel House (1933, Ze’ev Rechter)

Courtesy of Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality


A large residential building of apartments this is the first structure in the city that was built on pillars, a modification to Bauhaus style to address the hot Tel Aviv weather, so that air could flow under the building to cool it. Located on the roof was an exercise room and a roof garden and concrete pergola (no longer in existence) in the style of Le Corbusier for the enjoyment of the tenants. Engel House was built in a u-shape around an inner courtyard, facing Mazeh St. Horizontal emphasis was created by protruding window frames around the wide, strip windows (another modification for climatic conditions). The convergence between the balconies of the two facades creates plays of mass and light and shade (you have to imagine the house plastered in clean white). The space under the pillars was closed during WW II for use as a British headquarters. Unfortunately, the building has not been well maintained and is in need of renovation.

Ze’ev Rechter designed the building and rented a spacious apartment there.

Jaffa

If you want to meet up with a friend in Jaffa all you have to say is “Meet you at the clock tower”. The clock tower in Jaffa is one of seven built by the Ottoman Turks in 1908 on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the reign of the Sultan abd al-Hamid II. From there you can explore the Flea market and shops and restaurants. There’s a funky restaurant called Pua on 3 Rabbi Yohanan Street. For what some people swear is the best humus go to Abu Hassan’s. For a truly middle eastern taste try the stuffed breads at Abulafiya’s.

There is something else that Jaffa is known for and that is the shamouti orange which is known throughout the world as the Jaffa orange. The shamouti was a new variety developed by Arab farmers after first emerging in mid-19th century Palestine as a mutation on a tree of the Beladi variety near the city of Jaffa. Orange exports grew from 200,000 oranges in 1845 to 38 million oranges by 1870. Today the orchards described by a European traveller in 1872  “Surrounding Jaffa are the orange gardens for which it is justly extolled…” have disappeared in the face of urban development. But walking through the alleyways of Jaffa you can find an incredible sculpture by the environmental Israeli artist, Ran Morin, called Orange Suspendu that reminds us of the connection between the city of Jaffa, the earth and the orange tree and its fruit. Morin has 2 other tree sculptures that are worth seeing in Jerusalem, one at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and one in the Olive park near Kibbutz Ramat Rahel.

From Jaffa, walk north along the promenade to Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood that was established outside the walls of Jaffa in 1887 and that some 20 years later grew into the new city of Tel Aviv. Along the way drop in to the old Jaffa train station, that is being renovated and developed into a cultural, artistic and commercial area. For a guided tour of Tel Aviv-Jaffa please contact me. It’s possible to incorporate riding a Segway along the whole length of the promenade as part of your tour.