Tel Aviv is completely different from most of the other cities that tourists visit in Israel. While it does feature the city of Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv is very new, vibrant and cosmopolitan relative to many others in Israel. Though a big city, it doesn’t take more than a day to explore the sites.
Where to Stay
Although it is a bit north of the central attractions, The Cinema Hotel, is located on Dizengoff Square about equidistant between Rothschild Street and the Tel Aviv Art Museum, the two must-sees of the city.
The hotel used to be an old movie theater and is decorated in a cinema theme with old cameras and film clips. It has great views of the city and even offers free popcorn as an afternoon snack. Book on Hotels.com
Tel Aviv is easy to get around by oneself (though easier with the knowledge of Hebrew). Regardless, I always like getting the perspective from the local guide. Page and I joined TLV Walking Tours led by Yaniv. He can be found on Trip Advisor.
The Jewish Point of View
Yaniv is Jewish and mentioned in a previous post about Bethlehem and the Palestinian plight, that I would discuss the Jewish point of view as well. So below are a few things I learned.
From the Jewish perspective the Jews were in Israel first. Albeit that was 3,000 years ago, and Jerusalem was left in ruins for some 500 years, but “they were here first”. In addition, the Israeli’s won the Six Day War in 1967. As a result, they rightfully have the land.
Jews also say they provide everything to the Palestinians like water, sewer, electric, and internet, though without adding my own opinion, I understand the Palestinians suffer from shortages, and it is not equal.
Furthermore, after all the discrimination they have suffered over the years, they need a safe place to live. Providing equal rights to Palestinians in certain areas like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank scares them. Afterall, they have bomb shelters in place as the terrorist group, Hamas, still shoots off rockets regularly.
Finally, the Jews offered some of the land back, but the Palestinians want the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be removed. Of course, they don’t want to displace their people. These are just some of the reasons why a peace accord has not been signed, though the situation is far more complicated than that. Anyway, back to tourism…
On our tour, we began at Rothschild Boulevard which lies in the heart of the city. The bustling avenue is lined with cafes, benches, and sculptures. There are also a few historic sites including the white coffee kiosk on the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street. This kiosk was one of the very first things constructed in Tel-Aviv 110 years ago.
Also, along the avenue is the former mayor’s home, now known as Independence Hall. Though currently under renovation, it was here, in 1948 where Israel was declared a country.
We continued along Neve Tzedek Stree, Sheikin Street and Bailik Street as Yaniv pointed out popular restaurants, homes of famous people, interesting street art, and the Bahaus architecture.
With over 4,000 examples, Tel Aviv features the world’s largest concentration of Bahaus architecture. These buildings, mostly constructed in the 1930s-40s, are designed with simplicity and functionality in mind. The cream, two-story, modern looking buildings have had their “top popped,” and the added third story must comply with the original design.
Bailik Street is named for Israel’s national poet, Haim Nahman Bailik. While he is well known among Israeli’s, what caught my attention is that his great granddaughter is Amy on The Big Bang Theory, one of my favorite shows. His house still remains and includes a library and artwork by well-known local artists.
While we explored slightly off the beaten path area with Yaniv, we visited some more popular sites on our own including the Carmel Market, the beachfront and promenade, Old Jaffa, and the Rabin Memorial.
The Carmel Market is located in the middle of all the aforementioned places and is similar to many of the markets around Israel. Products range from clothes, to accessories, to produce, to baklava, and more. I tend to gravitate to the food areas, and I liked the revolving tray of pomegranate juice. It remined me of the sushi conveyors in Japan. Here is a 4 second video.
Tel Aviv Beachfront and Promenade
The Tel Aviv Beachfront and promenade are just a short walk west from the central attractions. Tel Aviv’s 13 beaches stretch miles along the Mediterranean and on warm days a very popular place for swimming and sunbathing. While we visited, the strong wind turned the normally gentle waves into swells sized for novice surfers. The large promenade provides lots of room for exercising, and we followed it as far as it went to Old Jaffa.
Remains of Old Jaffa date back to the 20th century BC. The revitalized area includes a large garden with monuments, a wishing bridge, and nice views of Tel Aviv and the sea. It is said your wish will come true while touching your zodiac sign and viewing the sea from the multi changing colored bridge. Old Jaffa also has a wonderful maze of alley ways lined by art galleries and peppered with unique sculptures.
I personally liked the surrounding neighborhood with an eclectic flea market of rugs, silver, antiques and trinkets surrounded by cafes and more galleries. One of the coolest galleries displayed sculptures made of recycled items: dogs made of watch bands, keys, bicycle chains and pedals, a wedding dress made of light bulbs, and a squirrel made of pinecones. They were quite remarkable.
Rabin Memorial is next to City Hall which is not too far from the Cinema Hotel. This is where the former Prime Minister was assassinated from point blank range during a 1995 peace rally. Thereafter, many Israeli youth gathered here to mourn. A diagram indicates where each person was standing when the Prime Minister was shot, and there are also some flags and a graffiti wall.
While there are not as many site in the 110 year old city of Tel-Aviv as there are in the 3,000 year old City of Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv has a variety to offer for a day or two itinerary. ETB
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