Tel Aviv by Night

Trip Start Mar 01, 2012
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Flag of Israel  , Tel Aviv District,
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I haven't been doing a very good job with blogging lately. I feel more at home and less on vacation than anywhere else...think that explains it.
Started my day at the medical clinic, getting the second booster of my Hepatitis A vaccine. The waiting room served coffee and had a pool table- hilarious! I'm now protected for 10 years. But boy does it hurt; I'm a big baby!
I wander around the craft market on Nachalat Binyamin and the nearby Carmel market. Gotta have some major willpower to resist all the Dead Sea soaps and creative goodies. Instead, I spend my shekels on some fresh squeezed carrot juice and a lamb kefta pita.
I'm in mid-Tel Aviv for my evening swim, and I swim out to the breakers to catch the sunset. Just as the sun dips below the horizon- it looks like a pool of molten lava melting onto the sea- I hear the familiar pitter-patter of canine feet over the rocks. Fifi, the black lab mix, has come to say hello! She loves to swim and keeps climbing the rocks and jumping back in the water. I love swimming in a place that allows the company of dogs!
I've met a nice young man from Palestine in the water. He's studying law at the University in Cairo, but vacationing in Israel for the summer. I'm surprised when he tells me that as a Palestinian, he is not permitted to fly out of Ben-Gurion airport. He has to take a bus to Jordan and fly to Egypt from there. There are so many things about my blue passport that I take for granted.
Enjoying the warm water and conversation when I realize that I'm about to miss the Tel Aviv By Night walking tour for the second Tuesday in a row. Thanks to my bike, I arrive just a few minutes late and just in time to learn that in Tel Aviv, "getting coffee" means going outside to one of TLV's many cafes. Especially in the summertime, people flock to the streets to enjoy each others' company on the many boulevards like Sderot Rothschild, where we've gathered.
We head towards Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv's oldest neighborhood. If I'm reading my notes right, Neve Tzedek means "garden of justice". It was a suburb of Jaffa, and Tel Aviv joined it 126 years ago, not the other way around. Jaffa could be as old as 5,000 years. The oldest home in Neve Tzedek is from 1890's. It's enjoying a 3rd generation revival. When the current residents' grandparents lived here, it was a good area. Hard times fell upon Neve Tzedek with the next generation, and it became a poor, undesirable neighborhood. The parents left. Now the grandchildren are back and it's a hip area once again. Many artists live here and it's a very mixed economic community.
As we enter the neighborhood, we pass Akiba Weiss' house - the founder of Tel Aviv. It's a big building on a busy corner that is now a bar. Weiss won the property in a lottery. Its bricks are made of seashells. Many of the original homes in Neve Tzedek are made of really thick sandstone.
We pass a store with an old quote by an influential rabbi:
"The old which becomes new. The new which becomes holy."
This was an important message for the founders of Tel Aviv.
We pass a restaurant that is a remodeled old home. We can see the traditional layout of a neighborhood home: the dining room and kitchen are outside. Like in Russia, multiple families share the patio and bathroom.
We turn onto Rishonim Street, which means "beginnings". Many Polish immigrants settled here. We pass a hone with a "menchela"- it's a two-headed, pivoting figurine of a soldier and woman. When the man left for work, he would put the soldier side up to signify protection of his home. The symbol took on a different meaning when a woman wanted to show her lover when husband at work and it was safe to come calling...
We pass another house that has a facade shaped like an open bible with a crown in the center. There's a shofar on either side and pomegranates, a typical Jewish food. There are also olive trees, which represent peace between husband and wife and even a few olives to represent kids. There us also a Star of David. When this home was built in 1926, Israel was not yet a state, but the star was still a symbol of protection for the house.
On the next corner is the Eden Cinema, built in 1914 and across the street, the city's first kiosk. During the British Mandate in the early 20's, there were many British soldiers in town and in need of female companionship. The girls were patriotic and didn't want pounds, so the local kiosk changed the soldiers pounds into shekels and everyone was happy. It became the black market of Israel. As recently as 15 years ago, you could only officially change 500 NIS (think that stands for New Israeli Shekel). The kiosk remains a currency exchange today.
We pass the "twin houses". One if the founders of Neve Tzedek, Schloos, built the houses for his daughters so they wouldn't fight over their inheritance. As a result if a construction error, the one on the right is 1.5m larger than the other. They fought.
The one on the right was donated to the city as its first school of art. The one on the left is restoration and worth more. They are currently both divided into four apartments one is on the market for 8M NIS.
We pass one of the first Bauhaus designs on Tel Aviv. It was the home of Sorkin, a famous photographer. I'll have to look him up. The Bauhaus movement was popular in Israel during the 20's and 30's. In the 1930's the Jewish population in Israel grew to 25 times the number it had been just ten years prior. They needed architects to provide housing for the influx of immigrants. When Hitler came into power, he closed the school because he believed it was an assault to the German way of life. I think the building design allowed for too much community. So most of the Bauhaus architecture in Germany dates from the 1940's, making the examples in Israel some of the earliest (hence the UNESCO protection.)
We pass the home of Tel Aviv's first mayor, Dizengoff (1910-37). He was very progressive. He bought land in the center of the city for parks, knowing that if he didn't save the open space now it would be developed. He built a playground under the City Council building to remind politicians for whom they were making laws. He was an avid movie fan and it became known that the best time to talk to him was when he was walking through Neve Tzedek on his way to the theatre; he would say yes just to keep moving.
We leave Neve Tzedek and stroll up Sderot Rothschild. We pass the Hall of Independence where the Jewish State was established on 5/14/48 and a monument to the 66 founding families. No one likes this monument because it blocks the boulevard. I tend to agree.
Our tour guide shows us a modern sculpture that his friend made. I had been curious about this green chair at the top of a stairway. He demonstrates the symbolism by having a girl climb the stairs and asking me to look in the same direction from the sidewalk. She sees a big square, but from where I'm standing, it's clear that the shape is a semi-circle. The artist was using this to represent Tel Aviv and the idea that before you make up your mind you should look at things from another perspective. Nice.
We end the tour at Albert Square. The Prince of Belgium was a good friend of Mayor Dizengoff. I can't remember which building we were looking at, but it must have been pink and blue, because the guide tells us that these colors represent sweet dreams and the evil eye. Apparently it's said that the devil can't live in the sky because the evil eye keeps him at bay. we must be in front of one of the strange neighbors- every time you see a high rise in Tel Aviv, there is an old building next door that is/has been renovated. I like the idea of preserving original architecture, but it leads to a strange cityscape! The last building we see is one we visited on the Bauhaus tour. It's shaped like a wave, but only the facade is original. Apparently, there is music in the lobby and when sun hits the rain on ceiling there is a rainbow.
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