Tag Archives: Jaffa

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

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.