Tel Aviv, often called “the city that never stops,” was the first modern Jewish city built in Israel, and is the country’s economic and cultural center. It is a lively, active city with entertainment, culture and art, festivals, and a rich night life.
Situated on a 14-kilometer-long strip on the Mediterranean seacoast, Tel Aviv extends beyond the Yarkon River to the north and the Ayalon River to the east. Hundreds of thousands of workers, visitors, tourists, and partygoers move about the city each day until the early hours of the morning, seeking out the city’s nightclubs, restaurants, and centers of entertainment.
Tel Aviv began its history in Jaffa (Yafo) – the ancient 3,000-year-old adjoining city that lies to its southwest. The current Old City of Jaffa was built during the Ottoman Empire and its stone houses and narrow alleyways now house the picturesque artists’ quarter and tourist center.
Among the main attractions of Old Jaffa are Gan HaPisga – the Summit Garden with its restaurants, galleries, shops with Judaica, and unique atmosphere, the seaside promenade and walls of the old city, the visitors’ center in the old courtyard, and the fishing port.
There are also several important Christian sites in Old Jaffa such as the Church of Saint Peter, which dates back to the 17th century, the house of Simon the Tanner where Peter had his vision of the non-kosher animals, and the tomb of Tabitha, whose righteous deeds enabled Peter to raise her from the dead. Around Jaffa there is the Ottoman clock tower, a vibrant flea market that is always worth visiting, and the Ajami neighborhood.
In 1909 sixty-six Jewish families who resided in Jaffa established the first neighborhood of what would later become the city of Tel Aviv. The neighborhood, called “Akhuzat Bayit” (homestead) was originally within Jaffa. In 1910 it was renamed Tel Aviv, and the neighborhood began to expand. Other new neighborhoods were added until it eventually became the center of the Yishuv – the Jewish settlement in Palestine at the time. It was in Tel Aviv, on May 14 1948, that David Ben Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel.
The former Akhuzat Bayit neighborhood, which extends between Montifiore Street and Yehuda HaLevi, is the historical nucleus of Tel Aviv. To the west is the neighborhood of Neveh Tsedek, which was the first Jewish neighborhood to be established outside Jaffa in 1887. This neighborhood was renovated in the 1980s and today it is a picturesque and charming neighborhood where many of the original houses are still standing.
There are many buildings in the neighborhoods surrounding Akhuzat Bayit that were built in the eclectic style that was popular in Tel Aviv in the 1920s. Clusters of buildings built in this style can be found on Nakhlat Binyamin and in the “heart of the city” – the triangle between Shenkin Street, Rothschild Boulevard, and Allenby Street.
The White City:
Tel Aviv hosts a wide range of architectural styles which were influenced by various schools of architecture – among which was the International Bauhaus style. The central portion of Tel Aviv – which is known as “The White City” – contains the largest group of buildings in the world built in the International Bauhaus style. For this reason the White City has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This style originated in Germany and was based upon clean geometric shapes and asymmetry, and flourished from the 1930s until the establishment of the State. It soon attracted other city architects as well.
The White City extends from Allenby Street to the south to the Yarkon River to the north, and from Begin Boulvard to the east to the sea. There are large concentrations of buildings of this style on Rothschild Boulevard and in the area of Dizengoff Center. Park HaYarkon is in the northern part of the White City on the banks of the Yarkon River and the Tel Aviv port lies at the northwest corner and has a large concentration of entertainment centers, nightclubs, and restaurants.
Culture and Entertainment:
Tel Aviv is Israel’s center for culture and entertainment. The city has more than 20 museums, the most important of which are the Land of Israel (HaAretz) Museum and the Tel Aviv Art Museum. Other Tel Aviv museums include the Museum of the Diaspora, the Israel Defense Forces History Museum, the Etzel Museum, the Haganah Museum, the Palmach Museum, The Lekhi Museum, and the Nachum Guttman Museum.
The city hosts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli Opera Company, as well as most of the national dance and theater companies.
Tel Aviv is also the national center for night life and entertainment and is filled with night clubs featuring music of all types, dancing, restaurants, pubs, coffee houses, discotheques, movie theaters, auditoriums, and concert halls.
The beachfront of Tel Aviv has bathing beaches and a romantic waterfront promenade.
Tel Aviv’s important historical sites include Bialik House, Ben Gurion House, Dizengoff House, the old cemetery on Trumpeldor Street, and Reuven House. Nature lovers can visit the garden at Abu Kabir, HaYarkon Park, and the Botanical Gardens near Tel Aviv University. Families with children can enjoy an action-filled amusement park.
The city has several plazas, the best known being Rabin Square, HaMedina Square, and Dizengoff Circle.
Eleven of the city’s churches, monasteries, and mosques, such as Saint Peter’s Church and the Franciscan Monastery, are located in Jaffa.
Vacationers in Tel Aviv can lodge at any of the dozens of hotels, boarding houses, and youth hostels scattered throughout the city. These offer every type of accommodation ranging from luxurious rooms to simple, pleasant lodging.
Tel Aviv is also a business and trade center. There are colorful and bustling markets such as the flea market in Jaffa, the Carmel market, the HaTikva Market, and Levinsky market. There are also modern shopping malls such as Dizengoff Center and Azrieli Center, and important business centers for high-tech companies, realtors, and the stock market. All these have made Tel Aviv the business capital of Israel and an international center for conventions, exhibitions, and conferences.