Tag Archives: Tel Aviv

Visit Palestine with Shmuel

VisitPalestineWalking through the Arab shuq you might notice graphic posters displayed in a number of shops. Perhaps one of the most striking says VISIT PALESTINE with a graphic of the Haram el-Sharif. Two of the most popular places to visit in Palestine are Bethlehem and Jericho. I am now authorized to guide there so you can now visit Palestine with me.

Interesting thing is that the poster is not contemporary, not by a Palestinian artist or graphic designer and in fact, has nothing to do with “Palestine”, meaning the West Bank and Gaza. The poster is from 1936 when the whole area was Palestine under the British Mandate and the poster was designed by an Austrian Jewish artist living in Tel Aviv.

Moving from Vienna to Berlin to Paris and then Barcelona, Franz Krausz and his wife Anni managed to flee Europe, came to Palestine in 1934 and settled in Tel Aviv. Krausz was a pioneer of art for advertising and designed posters for Israeli companies like Dubek cigarettes and Elite, the chocolate and candy manufacturer. Krausz most dynamic and colorful work was hand-painted gouache, sometimes based on photographic studies shot by his wife. My good  friend and artist, Bob Gottlieb is living in Louisville, KY with my photograph of the “Petrified Trees” in the Large Makhtesh from my calendar and is planning to do a painting of the scene. Anyone else interested in trying their hand at painting from my photographs? For an example of a photograph and painting of the same scene, see my post on Banias stream.

The “Visit Palestine” poster is Krausz’ best-known image, with just those two words in English, no Hebrew or Arabic, done using only six colors. On the left foreground of the poster is a tree in silhouette, perhaps an olive, or oak or carob, framing a view of the Haram el-Sharif and Dome of the Rock, even the Dome of the Chain is shown, with Jerusalem behind – the view of the city is from the Mount of Olives. Although prolific and one of Israel’s most-accomplished graphic designers Krausz made very little money from his frugal clients.

ComeSeeIsraelYou might notice two other graphic posters in the Arab shuq. One, with English and Hebrew, has the words Tourism in Palestine as the caption at the top (in Hebrew, the text is Tourism in the Land of Israel). The main image is a gentleman, dressed in white, with a British explorer hat and high boots pointing at a map of Palestine, ostensibly a guide.

Around the main image are small icon-like drawings of places of interest (certainly a peculiar list of sites for a tour), on the left:

  • Mosque of Omar, ie. Dome of the Rock
  • Herzliah, ie. Herzliah gymnasia (high school in Tel Aviv)
  • Cave of Machpelah
  • the town of Rishon LeZion

on the right:

  • Tower of David
  • Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem
  • Rachel’s Tomb
  • Metulah

The poster is an advertisement for “The Association of Jewish Guides, Properly Trained In All Subjects That Make a Good Guide, Is At Your Service Fixed Rates Apply to the Office” and to encourage the purchase of craft items made in the Holy Land in order to help it’s economy and the artists who lived here.

Come to PalestineThe other poster has Come to Palestine on the bottom. It has the words “Society for the Promotion of Travel in the Holy Land” across the top, with two circles, icons of the Dome of the Rock and Tower of David (like the previous poster). Below is an idyllic painting of a palm tree overlooking Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee with a snow-capped Mount Hermon in the distance, with shepherds sitting on the hillside beside an almond tree with blossoms. The scene is viewed through a horseshoe arch, the arch starts to curve inwards above the level of the capital or impost, a form developed during the early Islamic period.

Under the painting is a quotation from Song of Songs 2:11 For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone…

The whole thing, both Biblical and Zionist themes, is done in a style influenced by the European jugendstil (similar to Art Nouveau) and by traditional Persian and Syrian styles. Both posters were designed by Zev Raban of the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem in the mid 1920’s to promote tourism to Palestine.

Under the influence of Boris Schatz, the founder of the Bezalel Academy, Raban moved to Palestine in 1912 during the wave of immigration known as the Second Aliyah. He joined the faculty of the Bezalel school, and soon took on a central role there as a teacher of repoussé, painting, and sculpture. He also directed the academy’s Graphics Press and the Industrial Art Studio. By 1914, most of the works produced in the school’s workshops were of his design.

For other examples of Raban’s graphic work reproduced on ceramic tiles visit Bialik House in Tel Aviv. At the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Allenby Street, Lederberg House also has some ceramic murals: a Jewish pioneer sowing and harvesting, a shepherd, and Jerusalem with a verse from Jeremiah 31:4, “Again I will rebuild thee and thou shalt be rebuilt.”

Expert Travel Recommendations Israel

I was contacted for an article in a UK magazine on travel to Israel. This is what they say about Israel:

Get the insiders’ guide to Israel from those who know it best. There’s nothing like first-hand experience. But if you can’t get it, then the second best thing is to borrow someone else’s. And when it comes to knowing Israel, you won’t find experts with more expertise than ours – take a look at why they love Israel. With its long history, melting pot of cultures, religious heritage and cosmopolitan cities, Israel is an unforgettable destination.

They asked a series of questions and wanted my recommendations.

Favorite place to stay, a city/rural town or village rather than a specific hotel?
The two favourite places to stay while in Israel are Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but I would suggest something different. Since the Negev desert in the south makes up 60% of Israel’s land area, I think you should stay a few nights there and what could be more appropriate than the new hotel in Mitzpe Ramon on the edge of the large Ramon crater, a geological formation unique to this area. To explore, take a jeep tour into the crater and at night, away from the lights of the big cities, gaze  up at the stars and learn to identify the constellations with a guide.

Favorite place to eat, a restaurant and what you would recommend from the menu?
For a special experience I would recommend Uri Buri, a homey seafood restaurant in Acre, near the lighthouse, facing the Mediterranean Sea. What makes Uri Buri stand out are his unique dishes, based on interesting combinations of ingredients, for example, sashimi with carmelized beets and wasabi sorbet. The best way to go is to make a reservation, invite some friends and share the tasting menu (ask the waiter/waitress for local Israeli wine recommendations).

Best view?
To get an overview of the Old City of Jerusalem, within the 16th century Ottoman Turkish walls, you need to get high and the best view is by climbing 177 steps to the top of the bell tower (height about 40 meters) on the Church of the Redeemer with its 360 degree view of the city. While you’re there visit to the excavations under the church and the small museum.
Recommended excursion for visitors to Israel?
A day trip to the Dead Sea and Judean desert where you can combine history and nature. Visit Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered or Masada, KIng Herod’s fortified palaces on the top of a mountain. Take a hike in the Ein Gedi nature reserve, one of two natural springs in the Judean desert and enjoy a dip in freshwater pools under the cascade of a waterfall. Hopefully you will see ibex, a kind of mountain goat, native to the area. End the day at one of the spa/beaches for a float in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth.

Hidden gem?
Not far from Eilat is the Red Canyon, a colorful gem of a hike for the whole family where you slide down chutes and climb down ladders of a narrow canyon with purple, orange and pink sandstone sculpted walls.

Best way to spend a day in Israel?
Drive the Jordan valley, part of the Great African Rift, visit the archaeological site at Bet Shean, have lunch of St Peter’s fish overlooking the Sea of Galillee, visit Capernaum, with a 4th century synagogue and the house where Peter lived and Jesus preached, later a church. From there drive to the Mediterranean coastal town of Jaffa. At dinner time choose a restaurant on the boardwalk overlooking the sea and watch the sunset.

To see all this and more it’s worth using an expert guide, you’ll enjoy yourself more.

Immigration to Palestine and Israel

Sarig and Rabin

Sarig and Rabin

Under Britain’s White Paper of 1939 Jewish entry to Palestine was restricted to 10,000 immigrants a year. Aliyah Bet was the code name given to the clandestine immigration of Jews to Palestine under the British Mandate that operated from 1934-1948. In total, over 100,000 people attempted to illegally enter Palestine, using 120 ships that made 142 voyages. More than half were stopped by Britain’s Royal Navy, only a few thousand refugees successfully got through the blockade and entered Palestine. Originally the British held the illegal immigrants at the Atlit detention camp built in 1938 just south of Haifa. The Atlit camp was surrounded by three barbed wire fences and guarded by armed sentries in six watch towers and held men, women and children. The camp is eerily reminiscent of the Nazi concentration camps.

On the night of October 9, 1945 Palmach special forces led by Nachum Sarig, later commander of the Negev Brigade, and a youthful Yitzhak Rabin broke into the camp and led the 208 detainees on foot to freedom. After that the British sent the would-be immigrants to internment camps in Cyprus.

My parents entered Palestine on May 7, 1947 ostensibly as visitors but intending to make aliya; the British allowed them entry as they were Canadians and hence, British subjects.

Captured off Haifa by the HMS Pelican on April 26, 1948 after fierce resistance which left a number of people injured, the Nakhson with 553 passengers on board was the last ship stopped by the British. On the morning of May 15, 1948 the British left Palestine.

There is a story that on Saturday, May 15, 1948 Ben Gurion went to the port at Tel Aviv to personally meet the first boat with immigrants to the newly declared State of Israel. The question is “What was the name of the ship?”

This is one account  that I found, submitted to a newsgroup, http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Soc/soc.genealogy.jewish/2008-12/msg00266.html by Rony Golan.

I believe that the first legal boat of immigrants to the State of Israel was the Orchid (“Orchidea”) that left Italy from Gulf Gaeta on May 8, 1948 and was supposed to arrive to the shores of Palestine in mid May 1948. The British discovered the ship while at sea. The boat received a radio transmission from an Israeli radio operator of the Gideon network (used by the Mossad l’Aliya Bet) to stay a day at sea and to change its name to “Medinat Yisrael” (Hebrew of the State of Israel). Hence, the ship entered the port of Tel Aviv on Shabbat May 15, 1948, while the State was proclaimed on Friday.

Some sources say that the ship arrived to Haifa, but this is incorrect, since Haifa port was proclaimed a closed military zone, as the British had not finished withdrawing their troops from Palestine.

There are photos of the arrival of the ship both in the Central Zionist archives in Jerusalem as well as in USHMM in Washington, D.C..

More details and a photograph may be found at the Pal-Yam site (although not all the details are the same as what I have provided): http://www.palyam.org/Hahapala/Teur_haflagot/hf_Medinat_Israel

The source of the above information is my father, who was a crew member of this ship.

Rony Golan

Medinat Yisrael

The account on the Pal-Yam site which I’ve translated from the Hebrew is somewhat different:

The British discovered the ships (Medinat Yisrael with 243 passengers and LaNitzachon with 189 passengers) that had left Brindisi, Italy on May 8th on May 15th near Tel Aviv but did not intercept them as they had already announced the end of the British Mandate and were departing the country. The next morning the two boats reached the port but were forced to keep away from the shore because of bombing by Egyptian planes. The following day, May 17th the Jewish immigrants disembarked openly on the shore of Tel Aviv in the sovereign State of Israel.

Pan York ship

Photo from the Holocaust Museum in Washington at http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_ph.php?MediaId=729

There is record of a ship “Pan-York,” carrying Jewish refugees from southern Europe to the newly established State of Israel, via Cyprus, docking at Haifa on July 9, 1948.

In 1987 Atlit was declared a National heritage site. It’s a site very worth visiting to better understand the period that lead up to the establishment of the State of Israel.

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.


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.

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.

Related articles

Phoenician Glass-blowing to Chihuly

Glassblowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Phoenicians in about 50BCE along the Syro-Palestinian coast. The earliest evidence of glassblowing comes from waste from a glass workshop, including fragments of glass tubes, glass rods and tiny blown bottles, that was dumped in a mikveh (ritual bath) in the Jewish Quarter dated to the time of King Herod, from 37 to 4BCE.

During excavations in the Jewish Quarter by Avigad and Geva in the 1970s they discovered in the eastern wall of the Fresco room (F3) in the Palatial Mansion a niche in which was standing a glass jug by the 1st C artist Ennion of Sidon with his name in Greek on the vessel. This rare piece can be seen as part of the glass collection in the Israel museum’s archaeology wing. The buildings, with mosaic floors and frescoes, have been preserved in the Wohl museum and are worth a visit.

If you are interested in glass-making it is also worth checking out the Glass Pavilion at the Eretz Israel museum in Tel Aviv which exhibits ancient glass vessels, representing 3 chapters in the history of glass production:

  1. Pre-blown glass
  2. Blown glass from Roman/Byzantine period (they also have one of Ennion’s works, Blue Jug)
  3. Blown glass of Islamic period

Currently (January 2011) there is a gold-glass panel (table top) with mosaic-glass tiles found in the Byzantine “Birds Mosaic” mansion in Caesarea on display in Israel for the first time. Both museums collect and exhibit contemporary glass art.

Some of the earliest pieces of blown glass have been discovered in Israel and the tradition of glass blowing developed in this area but since then there has been little activity in glass art. Only in the the mid 1970s with Marvin Lipofsky’s visit to Israel was there an opportuity to try glass making. Lipovsky built the first glass furnace for the Ceramics department at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem, the first courses were taught in the late 70s but a formal department with a full curriculum was established only in 1997. The glass furnace built by Lipofsky over 35 years ago is the same furnace in use today and to date Bezalel remains the only university where students can study glass making in Israel.

In 1962 Dale Chihuly, a 21 year old American, came to Israel and volunteered on Kibbutz Lehav north west of Beersheva in the Negev.

I discovered there was more to life than having a good time,” he has said of his kibbutz service. “It’s difficult to explain how this change came about, but it had a lot to do with going out on border patrol during the night with guys my own age who had more responsibility and maturity than adults twice their age in the States.

Chihuly credits this Israel experience as the turning point in his life. He recalls that he began to think of how he could make a contribution to society. He became dedicated to the hard work and long hours necessary to realize his goals. Conceivably, the collective nature of kibbutz life also inspired him to work with a close-knit group of artisans for a common purpose, the creation of art.

Chihuly’s choice of a millennium project was his famous installation at the Tower of David Museum inside Jaffa Gate in 2000, a project that proved to be “history-making in its ambition, its difficulty and its enormous popular success”. The Light of Jerusalem 2000 installation was composed of 10,000 pieces of individually hand-blown glass weighing a total of 42 tons, the various elements of the work were shipped to Israel in 12 40-foot containers from five different countries. I was one of more than a million people who saw his work.

The installation was the fruit of Chihuly’s relationship to Israel and to the history of blown glass. Chihuly was aware that two thousand years ago, some of the oldest glass in the world had been made in Jerusalem and that just before the birth of Jesus, glassblowing was invented. Israeli artists say that Chihuly’s exhibit was an eye-opening experience and defining moment for them so like Israel affected Chihuly, he affected Israel.

Chihuly at Tower of DavidIf you’re interested in glass art check out the Litvak Gallery in Tel Aviv near the Gallery of Art for their current exhibition. They have works by Chihuly as well as other contemporary glass artists. There was a special Chihuly exhibit in January 2011.