A Walk in the Historic Neighborhoods of Little Tel Aviv

Neve Tzedek Background

In 1887 the first seeds were sown that would eventually grew into the new city of Tel Aviv when a Jewish neighborhood called Neve Tzedek (also Neve Zeddek or Neve Zedek) was established outside the walls of the ancient port city of Jaffa.  Three years later a second Jewish neighborhood outside Jaffa’s walls, named Neve Shalom, was established nearby. Within the space of a decade these neighborhoods became the center of Jewish Jaffa’s public and cultural life. Residents included Nobel prize winning author S. Y. Agnon, Israel’s national poet Chaim Nahman Bialik and the painter Nachum Guttman, to whom a small museum in the neighborhood is dedicated.

In 1909, a group of 66 Jewish families gathered on a sand dune nearby to found a new city initially called Achuzat Bayit, but shortly thereafter renamed Tel Aviv. As the center of the new city shifted north, Neve Tzeddek and Neve Shalom were eclipsed by more modern neighborhoods and the area deteriorated.  Slated to be demolished in favor of high rises, in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Neve Tzeddek and Neve Shalom were saved from the wrecker’s ball by proactive preservation activists and the granting of some additional building rights to local property owners.  Today these neighborhoods are genuinely a pleasure to walk through, and of course don’t forget to bring your camera.

Neve Tzedek Walk

We’ll begin our walk on Hamered Street behind the Dan Panorama Hotel. Cutting across some fairly unattractive looking parking lots takes us to Ein Yaakov St.  Turning right (south) onto Ein Yaakov St. we follow it until Achva St., where we turn left.  Along Ein Yaakov and Achva Streets we can still see some badly dilapidated houses.  This is what the most of the neighborhood looked like 20 years ago. At Shabazi Street, we turn right. Walking along the street, we see through the renovated buildings the changes that have taken place since then.

At the shady corner of Elazar St. next to a restaurant named Suzanna, we turn into a pedestrian lane that leads to the Suzanne Dellal Center, where we pass through a building into an open court. Today it serves as a theater and the home of two of Israel’s leading dance companies, the Batsheva Dance Company and the Inbal Dance Group, as well as the Orna Porat Theater for Children. In the early 20th century, the two buildings, which frame the open court were pioneering educational institutions, a Hebrew speaking girls school, and a French speaking boys school, the latter sponsored by the Alliance Israelite Universelle organization. The girls’ school was considered to be a radical innovator, not only did it offer girls a secular education, and in Hebrew no less, but its curriculum even included physical education! The education there was quite difficult and required perseverance and effort. This is quite different from our time, where every student can just buy customized essays and have a lot of free time while studying. The linguistic differences between the schools were at the center of an ideological and cultural clash with the Zionist leadership favoring Hebrew education, while Alliance championed the promotion of French culture.

We continue up a lane marked by an ice cream shop and turn right onto Chelouche Street. Aaron Chelouche was a pioneering landowner and industrialist, who sold some of his property at a token fee to the Neve Tzeddek Society for Building Homes in Jaffa in order to encourage the creation of a new neighborhood.  At the corner of Chelouche and Rokach Streets stands the former home of Rivka and Shlomo Aboulafia. The Nobel prize-winning author S.Y. Agnon rented a room in this house and here he launched his auspicious literary career.

We continue up Rokach St. to find the Nachum Guttman Museum, dedicated to the local Tel Aviv artist, who grew up in the neighborhood in the early 20th century. Scenes of Tel Aviv and Jaffa in the 1920’s – 40’s are the subject of many of his paintings.  Further up the street on the right is the former home of Shimon Rokach, today also a museum.  Shimon Rokach was the neighborhood’s visionary founder and his home was an important meeting place for local community leaders. The Rokach house was restored by his granddaughter, the sculptor Lea Mejaro Mintz, some of whose work is displayed in and above the front courtyard.

At the end of the street, actually across Pines St. at the corner with Yehuda Halevi St., stands an impressive Bauhaus building symbolically marking the end of the neighborhood and the beginning of a new era in Tel Aviv’s history.

Before leaving Neve Tzeddek behind, we will turn left and follow Pines St. to its corner with Lillienblum St.  The yellow and pink stucco building with the round façade was the Eden Cinema.  Founded in 1913, the Eden was Tel Aviv’s first movie theater.  Its founding necessitated the invention of a new word in the Hebrew language, re’i-noa, literally meaning moving image, was coined by Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the man who singlehandedly resurrected the Hebrew language. The open roofed cinema was later shut down during World War One by Jaffa’s Turkish governor, who suspected its projector was being used to signal British and French warships in the Mediterranean.

From here it is a short walk to Independence Hall on Rothschild Boulevard, where David Ben Gurion read Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the Nachalat Binyamin pedestrian mall, where there is an open air crafts fair every Tuesday and Friday afternoon. See also Shenkin Area

Also nearby is the new HaTachana (redeveloped train station) and of course Jaffa.

As this is a street based walk it is as wheelchair accessible as a normal public street.

See our photo album – Views of Neve Tzedek