Earlier this week, the US-Israel Fulbright commission hosted an orientation for all of this year’s fellows in Tel Aviv. We had a private meeting with the US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, and a security briefing from the State Dept. regional security office. Cunningham spoke briefly and most of the time was spent with him answering our questions, which he did candidly and spontaneously. Or else he is an excellent diplomat and made us think he was being candid and spontaneous. He must get the same questions repeatedly, but he was gracious to let us think that each one was fresh and deserving of a thoughtful answer. Perhaps that interpretation is too cynical. Regardless, the whole group was impressed and appreciative. The Fulbrighters (and families)  were also treated to a tour of the city over 2 days. Our guide was excellent and she really hit the highlights, but we will have to go back to spend more time, since it was such a whirlwind.

Haifa Fulbrighters, Sarah, Julia, Sarah (l to r & r to l)

The tour began with a brief discussion of the history of Bauhaus in Tel Aviv (shout out to Julie!). TelAviv is called the “white city” after the white Bauhaus buildings that characterize the architecture of the city. They were designed primarily by Jewish architects who were refugees from Germany in the 1930’s and the buildings themselves are characterized by a move away from the detail of art deco. Our guide pointed out many of the apartments that have become derelict and fallen into disrepair and contrasted them with the recently renovated buildings that have been restored to their former glory. Although it is not a completely honest portrayal, I couldn’t bring myself to take photos of the trashed buildings, so here is an idealized view:

Bauhaus apartment, Tel Aviv

Bauhaus apartment, Tel Aviv

Bauhaus apartment, Tel Aviv

Our first stop was to the house-turned-museum of Chaim Bialik, Israel’s national poet. He his famous for his children’s stories, love poems, and helping to establish modern Hebrew. In his will, he left his home to the city to continue serving as a cultural center.

Bialik House, Tel Aviv

Bialik House, interior. The inside was colorful and inviting because Bialik was constantly hosting artists, politicians, and citizens of Tel Aviv.

Our guide to the Bialik museum, reading us Bialik's love poems.

Next door to Bialik’s house is a city museum in a building that was built in the 1920’s to be a luxury hotel. When the economy crashed and tourists were not coming to Tel Aviv, the building was turned over to the city. Tel Aviv just celebrated its 100th anniversary, so the exhibits focused on the city’s history: how it was established, built, and grew.

Beit Haifa, Tel Aviv City Museum

An exhibit of a collection of tiles used throughout Tel Aviv.

View of Tel Aviv from the roof of the city museum

The tour continued at the former home, now museum, of the artist Ruven Rubin. The collection is very special because it is primarily the work that was not for sale during his life – romantic paintings of his wife, self-portraits documenting his aliyah to Israel from Romania, and paintings of life in Israel. Before moving to Tel Aviv he studied in Paris and hung out with other Jewish artists: Soutine, Chagall, Modigliani, plus Picasso

Rubin's studio, as it was was when he died, including unfinished painting.

The first day of touring concluded with a Fulbright dinner at a French restaurant in Yaffo.

Noah, Adam, & Ella at the Fulbright dinner in Yaffo