Tel-Aviv Revisited – A Proven Success
Updated: Apr 22
I had a month to complete my combination ticket entrances to the Israeli Ministry of Defense Museums from my previous post so I went back. I’ve added a short street tour to complete the day and now you have some additional options on where to go to in Tel-Aviv on our 70th Independence Day when all these museums will be open for free. Additional street tour stops will be included in a separate post.
The nice thing about these three remaining museums is that they cover all three paramilitary organizations that were active just prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. Therefore, after this tour you will have a full understanding of the sequence of events and the main differences between these organizations that basically were due to conflicting opinions on how to achieve the desired goal of establishing a Jewish state.
Trip Itinerary Options:
Remaining Israeli Ministry of Defense Museums
The Hagana Museum
The Etzel Museum
The Lehi Museum, named after Avraham Stern (alias ‘Yair’)
A Street Tour
Nahalat Binyamin St.
The Handcraft Fair open on Tuesdays and Fridays
Beit HaTamar No. 8
Nordoy Hotel No. 27
The Great Synagogue
Nachum Gutman’s Mosaic
The Hagana was the largest paramilitary organization prior to establishment of the State of Israel that served as the immediate foundation of the IDF. I loved this museum because it presents the historic sequence of defense of the Jewish population very systematically and clearly starting from the ‘Shomer’ (i.e. Guard) a self-defense organization in 1909 till establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. If you need a history lesson, this is where you can really gain a clear understanding of what happened. Perhaps that is why so many schoolchildren visit this museum.
The museum presents the history of the Etzel or ‘Irgun’ a more revisionistic organization that broke off from the Hagana in 1936. The museum displays three films. The first is about the life of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a Zionist Revisionist leader, the co-founder of the Jewish Legion of the British Army in WWI and founder of several jewish organizations inlcuding the ‘Irgun’. Another film, depicts the history of the organization and its operations and a third film is dedicated to the story of the clandestine immigration ship ‘Af Al Pi Chen’, which you can visit in Haifa (see my previous post). The museum’s exhibit contains several models explaining some of the operations in more detail as well as some original possessions.
The museum is interesting in itself because it is located in the home that served as the last hiding place of Avraham ‘Yair’ Stern, its founder. The exhibit provides both Yair Stern’s personal life story as well as the story of the ‘Lehi’, the most extremist organization of the three. It’s display also contains several 3D models of its operations and several original possessions. By the way, this museum also has the biggest bookstore if you’re interested in purchasing one.
Nahalat Binyamin Street
The main attraction of this stroll is the handcraft fair that takes place on Tuesdays or Fridays so you may want to plan your visit accordingly. Basically, artists and craftsment open stalls all along the ‘pedestrian-only’ part of Nahalat Binyamin Street and to sell their latest works. The selection is large and mainly beautiful, not junk.
I even met two well-known artists who have exhibited their works abroad. I was pleased with myself that I was able to single them out although many of the other sellers had beautiful pieces as well. The first artist was Mira Raman, whose naïve paper and acrylic paintings caught my eye. I asked her why she still came to the fair and she told me that she liked to interact with people. Isn’t that nice?
The second was Igor Kabisher, who has a more traditional Jewish style and is also beautiful. I took a photo of his painting of the Nordoy Hotel, which is part of this trip’s itinerary.
Two buildings are worth pointing out on this street. Number 8 called ‘Beit HaTamar’ or Palm Tree House (Beit=House, Ha=The, Tamar=Palm Tree) was built in 1922 by an architect called Yehoshua Tzvi Tabachnik (Tabori) who tried to establish an local Israeli style by using motifs such as the palm tree, Star of David and Menorah decorations.
Number 27 is the Nordoy Hotel. The establishment was one of the prominent hotels in the late 1920s. It was built in 1925 by an Israeli architect called Yehuda Magidovitch who used an ecelectic style for the building and placed a large dome with silver slates in the forefront of the building.
An nearby building of interest is The Great Synagogue of Tel-Aviv. This impressive building was the product of a number of architects including the previously mentioned Yehuda Magidovitch who laid the cornerstone in 1921. Other architects included Arpad Guth who designed the dome, Ze’ev Raban who designed the stained glass windows based on European synagogue windows that were destroyed in the holocaust and Zalman Axelrod who designed the Menorah with the carving of the 12 tribes. In 1969, the architect Aryeh Elhanani added arches and concrete supports giving it a more modernist appearance and in the 1980s a model of the ‘Hurva’ synagogue from Jerusalem was placed on the southeast corner facing Allenby street.
However, it has an interesting history as well. In July 1946, after the explosion of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the British imposed a curfew during which they discovered a weapons depot in the basement and attic of the synagogue. The weapons were confiscated and the ‘Gabai’ (synagogue caretaker), Eliezer Neumann was sentenced for a year of imprisonment by a military court.
The Great Synagogue has been used for several communal gatherings and has hosted several famous cantors and singers over the years.
This fountain is located on the border of ‘Neve Zedek’ the topic of my previous post (the first Jewish neighborhood outside Old Jaffa) and a later part of the city initially called ‘Ahuzat Bait’ that unlike the first neighborhood was supposed to be a pre-planned modern city with running water, electricity and a proper sewage system. In 1923 both neighborhoods were united into what is currently called ‘Tel-Aviv’. The mosaic was created by Nachum Gutman one of the first artists in Tel-Aviv (see also previous post) in 1976 and was initially placed in front of the city hall building in Bialik square, but later moved to its current location near the Nachum Gutman museum. The mosaic depicts the history of the city until the 1970s as well as some biblical stories. Key scenes include Andromeda’s rock in Jaffa, the arrival of crusaders, Napoleon, Moses Montefiore, Hertzl, modern immigrants and the Declaration of Independence. The biblical stories include the Prophet Jonah being thrown into the sea and the transfer of the cedars by King Solomon from the Port of Jaffa to the First Temple. The mosaic scenes are located on three main slabs standing in the center of the fountain and on 15 surrounding pictures placed in a circle around them.
This trip is enough to fill a day or two depending on your pace.
This is what it looks like on the map:
What impressed you the most?