And before there was Tel Aviv there was .........Neve Tzedek!
If Tel Aviv was considered to be established in 1909 and Neve Tzedek was established 22 years earlier in 1887, why isn’t Neve Tzedek considered the first neighborhood in Tel Aviv? Well the short answer is that the neighborhood was founded by Jaffa Jewish families who wanted to move beyond the crowded walls of Jaffa. They weren’t looking to establish an entire new city. How did the neighborhood eventually become part of Tel Aviv? For that detailed answer you’ll just have to take a tour with me to the area.
Neve Tzedek means “Abode of Justice” and is also one of the names of G-d. The residents constructed their new neighborhood with low-rise buildings along narrow streets. These homes frequently incorporated design elements from the Art Nouveau and later Bauhaus Art movements and featured contemporary luxuries such as private bathrooms. No outhouses here!
At the beginning of the 1900s, many artists and writers made Neve Tzedek their home. Most notably, future Nobel Prize laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon (better known as S.Y. Agnon), as well as Hebrew artist Nachum Gutman, used Neve Tzedek as both a home and a sanctuary for art.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was the first Rabbi of Neve Tzedek; he even maintained a Yeshiva here. During his time in Neve Tzedek he became very close friends with many of the writers, especially Agnon. Many of them were quite secular, but that was Rav Kook’s way.
Large school buildings were built in the neighborhood, one teaching in Hebrew and the other in French. These buildings are well preserved and are today part of the Susan Dallal Center.
The neighborhood suffered terrible neglect in the 40’s and 50’s with the wealthier families moving northward into Tel Aviv’s more modern neighborhoods. With its buildings abandoned, neglected and subjected to the unsightly corrosive effects of sea-air upon concrete and stucco, Neve Tzedek degenerated into disrepair and urban decay. It was a dangerous place to be. The neighborhood become the home of squatters and drug addicts. But since the early 1980s, Neve Tzedek has become one of Tel Aviv's most fashionable and expensive districts, with a village-like atmosphere. Real estate has skyrocketed!
The buildings are being renovated and are truly beautiful. The main street – Shabazi St has high end jewelry shops, galleries, fancy restaurants and bars. And if you're interested there are even some upscale realty agents who would love to show you some of the properties available.
The atmosphere is wonderful. Come see the neighborhood and learn about its past, the founding personalities and enjoy the present.