Inside Tel Aviv
What To See in the White City
By Arnold Berke | Online Only | May/June 2008
Tel Aviv is Israel's liveliest metropolis, its center for culture and business as well as nightlife and seaside pursuits. Some two million people live in the metropolitan area, centered on the municipality officially called Tel Aviv-Jaffa, which includes both the 20th-century city and the ancient Mediterranean port from which it sprang.
Sprinkled through Tel Aviv, within the White City and beyond, are myriad architectural, historical, and cultural attractions, including:
Frederic Mann Auditorium (1 Huberman St.) – the country's largest concert hall, built in 1957 for the Israel Philharmonic
Habimah Theater (2 Tarsat Blvd.) – Israel's national theater, founded in Moscow in the early-20th century and reestablished in Tel Aviv in 1928
Eretz Israel (Land of Israel) Museum (2 Haim Levanon St.) – a complex of museums that covers ceramics, glass, science, and ethnography and includes a planetarium
Museum of the Jewish Diaspora (Klausner St.) – founded in 1979 and portraying Jewish histories and cultures worldwide and over the centuries
Ben-Gurion House (17 Ben-Gurion Blvd.) – built in 1931, the residence of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion
Nahum Gutman Museum (21 Rokach St.) – located in the house of the artist who portrayed early Tel Aviv through his colorful paintings, watercolors, and mosaics
Bialik House (22 Bialik St.) – the restored two-story house of the father of modern Hebrew poetry, Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934), who moved to Tel Aviv in 1924
Tel Aviv Museum of Art (27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd.) – on display are works of modern art, as well as those from the 16th to the 19th centuries; includes photography and graphics
Cameri Theater (19 Shaul Hamelech Blvd.) – one of Israel's major theaters, located in the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, which also houses opera and ballet companies
Carmel Market (off Allenby St.) – a noisy bazaar where purveyors of clothing, fruits and vegetables, fish, and other goods loudly hawk their wares; just east of the old Yemenite quarter
Independence Hall (16 Rothschild Blvd.) – occupying the former residence of Tel Aviv's first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, the site where Israel's independence was proclaimed on May 14, 1948
Great Synagogue (110 Allenby St.) – built in 1926 as the first major house of worship in the young city of Tel Aviv and expanded in 1970; features a huge dome
Jaffa Clock Tower – located in the center of the old city, it was built 1906 to mark the jubilee of Sultan Abdul Hamid II
Great Mosque – just west of the clock tower, built in 1810 by the Ottoman governor using ancient columns
Jaffa Archaeological Museum (10 Mifraz Shelomo St.) – near the Great Mosque and housed in an old Turkish seraglio
Modern Tel Aviv's first neighborhood, Neveh Tzedek, was founded in 1887. Today it is attracting large numbers of foreign and domestic visitors, eager to stroll its historic streets, check out the early houses of Tel Aviv's pioneers, and experience the quarter's renewed pride and sense of place. Located not far from old Jaffa, the area had been declining since the 1960s, when many of its residents began moving to apartments on Rothschild Boulevard and elsewhere in Tel Aviv. Now Neveh Tzedek is being rediscovered and, paralleling the revival of many an American neighborhood, has grown chic: Rundown quarters have been transformed into fashionable living spaces, expensive art galleries and boutiques, performance spaces, and stylish bars and restaurants. Many of these are located on the main street, Shalom Shabazi. One of the biggest cultural attractions in the quarter is the Suzanne Dellal Centre, which offers more than 600 dance performances every year, including those by Bat Sheva, Israel's famous dance company.
A number of Web sites provide information on visiting sites of interest in the city and area. The Association for Tourism Tel Aviv-Jaffa provides a good overview at visit-tlv.co.il/eng.html. Among the guides offering walking tours of the White City and beyond are Yona Wiseman (www.yonawise.net; phone 03-5163387) and Daniel Rosenblum (phone 972-3-5602513; firstname.lastname@example.org).
UNESCO's White City
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's 2003 designation of the White City area of Tel Aviv as one of 24 World Heritage Sites placed the neighborhood that year among the approximately 750 sites worldwide that the U.N. body considered of "outstanding universal value." Said Benny Elon, Israel's Minister of Tourism at the time, "What makes the designation of Tel Aviv so unprecedented [is that it] is one of the few UNESCO recognitions of a 20th-century phenomenon–and it makes us very proud."
The World Heritage List now includes 851 properties, both natural and cultural, in more than 140 countries. The other sites on the list in Israel are Masada (the rugged natural fortress overlooking the Dead Sea that hosted the last stand of Jewish patriots against the Roman Empire, in 73. A.D.); the Old City of Acre (a walled port city that dates to the Phoenician period); Biblical Tels (prehistoric settlement mounds of Megiddo, Hazor, and Beer Sheba); and Incense Route (four Nabatean towns in the Negev linked to the route of the ancient spice trade). The Old City of Jerusalem and its walls are also listed, as a "site proposed by Jordan," in the words of UNESCO.
The UNESCO listing for the White City can be found at whc.unesco.org/en/list/1096, with links to an array of background documents.
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