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Tel Aviv – Part 1, The Beginning

Tel Aviv has become a tourist destination known for its food, markets, nightclubs and of course its great beaches along the Mediterranean coast. It’s also a very LGBT friendly city, something not to be taken for granted here in the Middle East. Pretty good for a relatively small city (approx. population 452,000) founded only at the beginning of the 20th century.

Modern Tel Aviv Growing Upwards

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about Tel Aviv. It was a general overview of the city. Here I’d like to go into more detail about different aspects of the city. The topics will include its founding, early neighborhoods, culture, architecture and as the center for the ”Start-up Nation”

Today the official name of the city is Tel Aviv-Yafo. What is Yafo? Well that’s the Hebrew name for Jaffa, the southernmost part of the city. Before the founding of the State of Israel, Jaffa and Tel Aviv were two separate and very distinct cities. Joined together in 1950, Jaffa still has its own vibe and uniqueness even today.

Old Jaffa, Jaffa Port - Tel Aviv in the Background

Tel Aviv was founded on April 11, 1909. But the story of the modern city of Tel Aviv goes back before its official founding. In the 1880's Jews started arriving in large numbers from Russia, Romania and Yemen to join the small communities which have always been present in the holy land. This immigration is known as the First Aliyah. Many settled in the Arab city of Jaffa. This was during Ottoman (Turkish) rule, a time when little investment was made here. Jaffa was an overcrowded, rundown and dirty city with few amenities.

Immigrants during the First Aliyah

In 1887 Jews built a new neighborhood in the north of Jaffa, called Neveh Tzedek. Other neighborhoods soon sprang up near Neveh Tzedek including Neveh Shalom in 1890, Yafa Nof in 1896, Achva in 1899, Ohel Moshe in 1904 and Kerem HaTeimanim, (Yemenite Quarter) in 1906. At the time of their establishment, these exclusively Jewish neighborhoods were part of the Jaffa municipality. At the same time new Arab neighborhoods were also being built including Manshiyeh which bordered Neveh Tzedek.

Typical Neveh Tzedek Street

The year 1904 is considered the start of the Second Aliyah – the next wave of Jews to come to the holy land. Again, most of these people were from the Russian empire with some arriving from Yemen. This led to the need for more housing. In 1906 a group of Jews from Jaffa created the Ahuzat Bayit Society. The leader was Akiva Areyeh Weiss, considered Tel Aviv’s founder. The object of the society was to create the “First Modern Hebrew City “. It was planned to have a healthy atmosphere, a tree lined, beautiful garden city with good housing and infrastructure. Basically, everything that Jaffa wasn’t at the time.

The story of Tel Aviv’s founding is unique. Look for it in my next blog to find out why.

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