Our 2nd day of touring Tel Aviv started at David Ben Gurion’s – you guessed it – house-turned-museum. The home is noteworthy for a couple of reasons, besides just for being Ben Gurion’s home. First, it is surprisingly modest. In the collectivist spirit, it fits in with the rest of the homes on the quiet street. His wife did get special permission from the city to add a 2nd floor because so many people visited the home, she argued, that Ben Gurion needed an office.

Ben Gurion's home/musuem

The second thing is the number of books in Ben Gurion’s library – 20,000! And he had 5000 more at his home on a kibbutz in the Negev where he moved when he was 67. He had a photographic memory and knew where each book in the collection was located – and what page in the book the quote he was thinking of was found. The library is free and open to the public. It was dark, but through the doorway, you can make out the 5 rooms of the library. He learned 11 languages so that he could meet with foreign leaders in their own language and read original writings firsthand. Amazing what you can accomplish without the distractions of TV.

Ben Gurion's library. The catalogue system was put in place after he died.

We also visited Independence Hall where Ben Gurion and the other leaders of Israel declared the country’s independence on May 14, 1948. The British mandate was scheduled to end on May 15, but until then, there was a coastal blockade of weaponry into the country. The founders knew that as soon as independence was declared, they would be attacked by their Arab neighbors, but they only had one rifle for every 4 soldiers. So the leaders strategically waited until the last possible minute to make the announcement live on the radio from this hall – 2 hrs. before shabbat started. Bombs started falling soon after.

Independence Hall, Tel Aviv

Following the political history lessons, we went to Neve Tzedek, the first suburb of Yaffo, now a neighborhood of Tel Aviv. It has a familiar gentrification story. It started as a neighborhood for the wealthy city fathers to escape the crowded port of Yaffo, where the new wave of immigrants were settling. Eventually, as Tel Aviv grew, they moved out and the neighborhood turned into slums. Enter the preservationists who saved the neighborhood when it was slated for demolition. Now it is one of the most expensive areas of the city.

Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, Israel

One of the first homes to be renovated was the Shimon Rokach house. Rokah was one of the founders of Tel Aviv. His granddaughter, artist Leah Mojaro-Mintz, was the first to renovate in Neve Tzedek. She is now in her 80’s, lives on the top floor of the house, and has opened up the bottom floor of the house to the public as a studio/gallery of her work and for other cultural events.

Sculpture of Leah Mojaro-Mintz, Rokach House, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, Israel

Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, Israel

Our tour ended in Yaffo, the ancient port city. Yaffo has been incorporated with Tel Aviv, so officially the city is Tel Aviv-Yaffo. Some of the city museums have logos incorporating the 2 places, but I’ve never heard it referred to that way. Did you know that American Christians from Maine settled in Yaffo in the 1860’s? They were restorationists who thought that they needed to settle in Israel to hasten the 2nd coming. Look at the houses they built – you would think you were on the New England coast. Unfortunately, things did not end well for this group of settlers, with starvation and disease wiping out most of the group.

American-German colony, Yaffo, Israel

American-German colony, Yaffo, Israel

American-German colony, Yaffo, Israel

Art installation in Old Yaffo

I missed photographing much of Yaffo when I handed over my camera to Noah. He did get some good shots of the other people on the tour. Interesting to see his point of view – he was stuck in the stroller with his cast. We are going to get him his own camera now.

Like I said, whirlwind, but we’ll be back in November for a more leisurely visit.

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