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Rothschild Boulevard as History Book

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I got a brilliant gift from my friend Dana for my birthday: a Bauhaus tour with friends and, to top it all off, in German. Last week, we made tracks. Four German-speaking girls strolling through Tel Aviv on a sunny day. And I promise, that’s a great experience for any Tel Aviv travel too.

Dana picked us up in her car in order to park near Rothschild. The carpark was jam-packed so we only managed to snag a parking space at what felt like a hundred meters underground. Then Dana pushed the parking ticket into my pocket. To be on the safe side, she said, that it doesn’t get lost. We get ourselves a coffee-to-go, for me, just an Americano, because of the sugar detox.

GLASS TOWERS AND MOSAICS

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There comes our guide Sandra: without umbrella, cap or waist pouch. Very untypical for a stereotypical tourist guide. Our tour starts in front of the mosaic fountain on the southern tip of Rothschild. I’ve sat here so often but never really realized what the mosaic is all about. Created by Nahum Gutman, the fountain is located at a historical site. On this very spot, Tel Aviv was founded in 1909.

60 families from Europe had the vision of a modern, urban Jewish city, away from dusty Jaffa. At the eastern end of Neve Zedek, the oldest neighborhood of Tel Aviv, they established the purchasing community Ahuzat Bayit. With bonds from the Jewish National Fund, they purchased five hectares of sand dunes. The plots were raffled. On 60 shells stood the names of the families, on 60 others, the plot numbers. A boy and a girl each picked a shell with a number and a name. That’s how it was decided who received which plot.

The Fulfilled Vision of the Founding Families

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pic: Pia Steigmüller

Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv’s first mayor, was also a member of Ahuzat Bayit. Within just one year, the inner city of present-day Tel Aviv arose: Rothschild, Ahad Ha’am, Lilienblum, Herzl and Yehuda Halevi. The first modern Hebrew high school was built in Herzl Street in a Moorish style temple. It was demolished in the sixties to make way for the first skyscraper, the Shalom Meir Tower.

I have bad memories of the tower. Previously, the Ministry of the Interior was on the fourteenth floor. In order to extend my journalism visa every year, I would have to drag myself to the entrance at five in the morning and draw a number in the scramble. This provided me with my visa, provided things went quickly, in the afternoon. I hadn’t noticed the historical black and white photos in the belly of the tower back then. Anyone interested in urban history should definitely go see the exhibition.

ROTHSCHILD GRIPPED ME

The second part of the tour leads us to Rothschild, my favorite boulevard, where last summer I couldn’t tear myself away from a kiosk at night (the best kiosks in TLV are here).This boulevard with the beautiful Bauhaus buildings did it for me.

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I love the urban flair on the wide green strips with the skaters and bikers, children playing, coffee lovers, tourists and foodies. The history behind the facades was unknown to me. Sandra shows us the house of Dizengoff (now the Independence Hall), in front of which a bunch of people is gathering around a tourist guide. It was here that Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel in 1948. Along Rothschild are the impressive eclectic-style mansions of the founders. Over the past years, many of these have been laboriously renovated and fashionable glass towers now merge with historic monuments.

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Tel Aviv has 4000 buildings in the Bauhaus architectural style. Due to this worldwide unique stock of buildings, white city was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003. On our way to Habima national theater we make a detour to number 71. The Boutiquehotel is a splendid example of the Bauhaus style. What used to be the family’s living room now serves as the hotel lobby.

Seen a Thousand Times and Never Asked

We keep strolling up Rothschild, past sun-worshippers on deckchairs, snooping dogs and racing e-bikes. At Habima square, our tour ends. I’ve cycled past this piazza countless times without ever wondering what the terraced patch embedded in the ground is all about.

rothschild habima

A great retreat to take a breather and people-watch. But even here, history lurks. Sandra tells us that the garden symbolizes the emergence of Tel Aviv: from sand dunes to planting right through to urban development.

Almost three hours have passed. I play the post-birthday joker and set off, straight back home. Without walking back to Dana’s car. As I buy myself a bottle of water, a white slip of paper peeks out of my purse. Dana’s parking ticket! So much for playing it safe. Eventually, with a photo of the ticket, the parking attendant releases her car. Warning: Never park in that underground car park. I swear to you, we would have rather paid two parking fines than the astronomical charge for a parking space 100 meters below ground.

Do you know what your city’s all about? Do you have an anecdote to tell about Tel Aviv and its history? Add a comment…

Translations by Catherine Bradshaw

Book a German-speaking tour with Sandra on:

Zaatar Tours, Sandra Carmeli

 

 

 

 

 

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