Put simply, Tel
Aviv is where the action is in Israel.
The beaches are clean and fulll of white sand,
the sea enticing, the nightclubs hopping, the shopping plentiful and the
restaurants appetizing. During the dy, stroll down the boardwalk-style promenade or on the
beach itself. At dusk, catch the nightlife seen along Dizengoff Street. Meet up at
the sculpture fountain created by the acclaimed Israeli artist Yaacov Agam
and go to a club, or just hang out and people-watch from an outdoor cafe.
Tel Aviv is also a good base for exploring the northern and southern
Aviv is the first all-Jewish city in modern times. Originally named
Ahuzat Bayit, it was founded by 60 families in 1909 as a Jewish
neighborhood near Jaffa. In 1910, the name was changed to Tel Aviv, meaning
"hill of spring." The name was taken from Ezekiel 3:15,
"...and I came to the exiles at Tel Aviv," and from a reference
in Herzl's novel Altneuland,
in which he foresaw the future Jewish state as a socialist utopia.
Most Jews were expelled from Jaffa and Tel
Aviv by the Turks during World War I, but returned after the war when
Britain received the mandate
The population of Tel
Aviv gradually swelled, particularly as Jews were
stimulated to leave predominantly Arab Jaffa by unrest
in the 1920s. Arab forces in Jaffa shelled Tel Aviv
in 1948 prior to the beginning of the actual
war. Jewish forces responded by capturing the city
two days before declaring independence. The declaration was made in the home of the city's mayor Meir Dizengoff.
Because Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan after Israel became an independent state in 1948,
the temporary capital and home of the government offices was in Tel
Aviv. Several government offices remain there and Tel Aviv is still
home to foreign diplomats from countries (including the U.S.) that don't
recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Modern Tel Aviv
Ben-Gurion reading Israel's Declaration of
Aviv is Israel's second largest city (after Jerusalem),
with a population of 380,000, and among the big city problems it shares
is traffic congestion. Things are more spread out in Tel Aviv than the
smaller cities, but it's still often easier -- and faster -- to travel
by foot. Walk along the Orange
Routes, for example, to get acquainted with the city. Though much
of the city is a drab gray, many buildings, especially along Rothschild
Boulevard, actually have an interesting architectural pedigree that can
be traced to the Bauhaus
architecture of pre-Nazi Germany. There are over 5000 Bauhaus buildings,
the largest number in any one city in the world. In fact, the city's “outstanding
universal value” led UNESCO to recognize it as a “World
Heritage Site." Tel Aviv is also known as, "The white city",
named so in account of the the bright colors of the building style: white,
off-white, light yellow. There are over 1,500 buildings marked for historic
conservation in Tel Aviv.
Fifty percent of the polished diamonds in the world come from Israel.
Aviv is the country's business and cultural center. The Tel Aviv Stock
Exchange, founded in 1953, and the Diamond Exchange, are two of major
economic institutions in the city. For the arts, the Habima National Theater
is excellent and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is world-class. The
city also boasts several impressive museums and a top-flight university.
Though no Sears Tower or Empire
State Building, the Azrieli Tower is the city’s tallest
building, at 614 feet (the tallest in the country
is Migdal Shaar Ayir in nearby Ramat Gan at
801 feet). Before the Observation Floor was
opened to the public, Israel’s
highest observation deck was the 433-foot-high
rooftop of the Shalom Meir Tower, which had
been Israel’s tallest building for 34
Due to terrorism threats, the Azrieli Towers’ mall,
one of the busiest in Israel, is probably the
most secure shopping center.
In addition to Dizengoff, other streets filled with
shops, galleries and restaurants worth strolling are Allenby and Ben Yehuda
streets. Off Rehov HaCarmel, for example, you'll find an open-air market.
If you walk north (opposite Jaffa) down the seashore, beyond the Yarkon
River, you'll reach a hip area of restaurants and clubs around the
intersection of Dizengoff and Yirmiyahu streets.
The Tel Aviv Museum on Sderot Shaul Hamelekh is home to
magnificent works of art, particularly sculpture and paintings by local
artists. Another popular museum is the home of Israel's national poet Hayyim
Nahman Bialik. A small, less visited museum is devoted to Nahum Gutman, one of Israel's most well-known artists.
Ben-Gurion's home in the center of Tel Aviv has also been turned into a
museum. The modest digs are impressive because they show the simple way the
country's most powerful politician lived. Besides a collection of awards
and gifts assembled in the house, his awesome library of 20,000 volumes
remains intact, filling much of the upper floor of the house and testifying
to the man's thirst for knowledge.
A less well known museum is the Haganah Museum on Sderot Rothschild. It was set up in the apartment of the founder
of the Haganah, Eliyahu
Golomb. Despite being one of the most wanted men in Palestine, the
British never found Golomb's home. Additions to the building now house
collections of weapons and exhibits on the struggle for independence.
The Arch of Titus was built by the Roman commander to
commemorate his Judean victory in 70 C.E. It shows the triumphal parade
with the Temple vessels carried aloft. The Arch is part of the Roman
forum. A replica is in Beth Hatefutsoth (GPO).
can't miss attraction is Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Diaspora, on
the campus of Tel Aviv University. It contains exhibits on the history of
the Jewish people covering more than 2,500 years. The University
itself is also a nice place to visit and a popular destination for foreign
students spending time studying in Israel.
Tel Aviv University is in the suburb
of Ramat Aviv. Another academic institution, Bar Ilan University
is in the suburb of Ramat Gan. Some of the other
well-known neighborhoods in Tel Aviv include
the Orthodox enclave of B'nei Brak, the "Beverly
Hills" of Israel, Savyon, and one Israel's
earliest modern settlements, Petah
Tikvah, which was founded in 1878.
Jaffa has been a fortified port city overlooking the Mediterranean Sea for more
than 4,000 years. It is one of the world's most ancient towns. It has
been the target of conquerors throughout the ages because of its strategic
locations between Asia, Africa and Europe.
According to the
Bible, Jonah left from Jaffa on his fateful voyage before
encountering the whale. Christians learn hat St. Peter miraculously
restored life to Tabitha in Jaffa.
Up until the early 20th century, when visitors came to
Palestine, they usually arrived in Jaffa. The coast there is too rocky for
ships to land, so they usually had to anchor offshore and send their
passengers to the port in longboats and dinghies.
Today, Jaffa is a popular tourist destination because of
its beautifully restored old quarter filled with galleries, shops and
restaurants. One of the few religious sites is the house of Simon the
Tanner, where, according to the New
Testament, Peter first realized the gospel message had to be extended
beyond the confines of Judaism.
You can walk from Tel
Aviv, but it's a good 40 minutes, and once you get past the strip of
hotels not as well-trafficked, especially at night. The easiest spot to
locate is Hagana Square where the clock tower stands. It was built in 1906
by the Turkish Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, to commemorate his 30th anniversary
If you head toward the minaret towering over the
Mahmoudiya Mosque, you'll find yourself in a Middle Eastern buffet, with
cafes and kiosks selling all of the region's delicacies.
The Visitors' Center in Kedumim Square has exhibits of
archaeological remains and the history of Jaffa. The square is a good place
to sit and have a picnic and people watch. At night, bands often play here.
The streets off the square are lined with shops, nightclubs and cafes.
The ancient port is now a modern sailing facility and a tourist
attraction with restaurants and entertainment.
The beautiful area of Neve
tzedek (Oasis of Justice) was actually the
first neighborhood of Tel Aviv. It was established
in 1887 on land that belonged to a political
activist named Aaron Shlush. You can still
see his house as well as other old buildings
representative of the architecture of the early
days of settlement in Israel. Don't miss the
Suzanne Dellal Center for dance and theater,
the home of the world famous BatSheva
Dance Company. Neve
Tzedek is the home of many artists whose works
are displayed throughout the area. Pull up
a chair at a sidewalk cafe and relax before
continuing your tour.