Israel Sites – Tel Aviv-Yafo
“From sand dunes to the biggest city in Israel in less than four decades” aptly describes the unparalleled development of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
Tel Aviv itself, the “first all-Jewish city in modern times,” was founded in 1909; built on the sand dunes that stretched northward from the Arab city of Jaffa, it has developed since then into a kind of “megalopolis” (complex of cities) extending from Herzliya in the north to Rehovot in the south, and merging in the east with such towns as Givatayim, Ramat Gan, Bene Berak and Petah Tikvah.
In 1995 Tel Aviv-Jaffa contained close to 355,200 inhabitants and ever since the establishment of the State of Israel, has served as the finance, entertainment, press and publication center of the country. Like most large cities, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a city of contrasts. In its southern districts, it embodies some of Israel’s worst slums, while in the north and east there are attractive suburbs such as Ramat Aviv, the location of Tel Aviv’s rapidly-expanding university.
These residential sections have a somewhat “Americanized” character. Tel Aviv’s commercial center is Dizengoff Street and the city’s bohemian center is Sheinkin Street. At the heart of the southern end of the city rises Migdal Shalom, the highest skyscraper in Israel, and along the coast, a whole chain of hotels has been built, most with their own beaches which serve as recreation and entertainment spots for tourists and residents alike.
Tel Aviv’s beginnings actually date back to the early 19th century, when a Jewish community was reestablished in the all-Arab city of Jaffa. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jaffa’s port had served as the “gateway to Zion” for Jewish pilgrims coming to Erez Israel, but no Jewish residents had been allowed to settle there. In 1820, however, a Jewish traveler from Constantinople named Yeshaya Adjima, bought a house there (it was called Dar al-Yahud, the house of the Jew, by the local Arabs) and laid the foundations for a revived Jewish community. Merchants and artisans from North Africa followed him as settlers in Jaffa, and in the latter part of the century European Jews began to arrive as well.
The First Aliyah swelled Jaffa’s Jewish population and in 1887 the building of Jaffa’s first Jewish quarter, Neveh Zedek, was initiated. This set the pattern for later Jewish settlements structured in tightly-knit, fraternal quarters within the midst of the Arab population. In the 1990s, Neve Zedek is experiencing a bit of an architectural revival as young and old Israeli artists of all types are renovating its turn of the century buildings and recapturing some of its lost magic.
The Second Aliyah further enlarged Jaffa’s Jewish population, increasing it to 8,000 out of a total population of 17,000 in 1906. In 1909 it was decided to create a new suburb outside of Jaffa’s boundaries which would constitute the “first all-Jewish city.” The result was the city of Tel Aviv, whose foundations were then laid.
Tel Aviv grew steadily until World War I when the Jews were expelled from both Jaffa and Tel Aviv by the Turks. When the British took over, the Jews returned and Tel Aviv continued to expand. On May 12, 1934, Tel Aviv was officially given municipal status. In the same year, the Philharmonic Orchestra was founded, the Tel Aviv Museum was opened in the home of the city’s long-time mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and the cornerstone was laid for the Habimah Theater building. After World War II, the city played a prominent role and suffered much in the struggle with the British authorities, for the Haganah and the Irgun had their headquarters there, and during the War of Independence, Tel Aviv was incessantly shelled from Jaffa’s Arab quarters. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv’s museum building.
On April 24, 1949, Tel Aviv and Jaffa were united and the city’s official name became Tel Aviv-Jaffa; one of the world’s youngest cities had thus incorporated one of the oldest.
Tel Aviv Centenary Resources (100 תל אביב)
Reproduced with permission from “Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth” CD-ROM
(C) C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.