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Bialik – The Poet, The House, The Street

Just off Allenby Street, which is a somewhat rundown commercial street in the heart of Tel Aviv, is another street, which is a real jewel. It’s Bialik Street. The street is named after Haim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s national poet, and for a good reason – he lived here. Other very wealthy residents of Tel Aviv lived here too and seeing the homes they lived in makes a stroll down this street so wonderful.

Bialik was born in Russian Ukraine in 1874. Although born into a typical orthodox household and having a yeshiva education he was inspired by the Zionist movement and wrote many stories and poems in Hebrew as well as in his native Yiddish.

One of Bialik’s most famous poems is City of Slaughter which he wrote after interviewing survivors of the Kishinev pogrom. The epic poem is a powerful statement of sorrow about the situation of the Jews in the early 20th century. Some credit Bialik's condemnation of passivity against anti-Semitic violence for influencing the founding of Jewish self-defense groups in the Russian Empire. These groups helped to create the Hagana in British Mandate Palestine. The Hagana was the main component of the Israel Defense Forces formed in 1948 – That’s some poem!

Bialik visited Ottoman Palestine in 1909, the year Tel Aviv was founded. Living in Odessa at the time of the Russian revolution he wasn’t able to leave the Soviet Union until 1921. He first went to Germany, settling in Tel Aviv in 1924. By the time he arrived in Mandate Palestine he was recognized as a celebrated literary figure. He even addressed the attendees at the opening ceremony for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1925.

In 1919, while living in Odessa, Bialik founded the Dvir publishing house, which he eventually moved to Tel Aviv. Through Dvir he published many important Hebrew works on various topics. This publishing house is now known as Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir.

The house Bialik had built for himself and his family was on a sandy patch of land on a street where a hotel was being built. Let’s not forget Tel Aviv was built on sand dunes, and that hotel was actually turned into Tel Aviv’s first Municipality Building.

Me in front of the Old Municipality Building

The house was built in the eclectic style, typical of 1920’s Tel Aviv. The entire street has several architectural gems from the 1920s and 30s. Bialik’s house is now a museum dedicated to his work. It is well worth a visit, even if it’s just for the architecture and furnishings. There is also a museum in the old Municipality Building with changing art exhibitions and a museum in another beautiful building dedicated to the works of artist Reuven Rubin. Even without going into the museums, although I suggest you do, the street itself is a great place to walk along with all its eclectic and Bauhaus buildings.

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