Tel Aviv - The first modern Jewish city


Tel Aviv view toward the sea

Tel Aviv, which literally means “Spring Mound”, was founded in 1909 on the outskirts of the ancient port city of Jaffa.   The growth of Tel Aviv soon outpaced Jaffa, which was largely Arab at the time. Tel Aviv and Jaffa were merged into a single municipality in 1950, two years after the establishment of the State of Israel. Tel Aviv's White City, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, comprises the world's largest concentration of Bauhaus, modernist style buildings.

Tel Aviv, is the second-largest city in Israel, with an estimated population of 393,900.  The city is situated on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline, with a land area of 51.8 square kilometers (20.0 sq mi). It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, home to 3.2 million people as of 2008.  

Tel Aviv is the country's financial capital and a major performing arts and business center.  It is also home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and many corporate offices and research and development centers.  Tel Aviv's urban area is the Middle East's second biggest city economy and is ranked 42nd among global cities by Foreign Policy's 2008 Global Cities Index.  It is also the most expensive city in the region and 17th most expensive city in the world.  New York-based writer and editor David Kaufman called it the "Mediterranean’s New Capital of Cool".

Tel Aviv’s beaches, bars, cafés, restaurants, upscale shopping, great weather, cosmopolitan lifestyle and famous 24-hour culture have led to it being a popular tourist destination for domestic and overseas visitors alike and has helped make its reputation as "a city that never sleeps".

By the time of Israel's Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, the population of Tel Aviv had risen to more than 200,000.  Tel Aviv was the temporary government center of the State of Israel until the government moved to Jerusalem in December 1949. However, due to the international dispute over the status of Jerusalem, most foreign embassies remained in or near Tel Aviv.  In the early 1980s, 13 embassies in Jerusalem moved to Tel Aviv as part of the UN's measures responding to Israel's 1980 Jerusalem Law.  Today, all but two of the national embassies are in Tel Aviv or the surrounding district.

Tel Aviv is divided into nine districts that have formed naturally over the city's short history. The most notable of these is Jaffa, the ancient port city out of which Tel Aviv grew. This area is traditionally made up demographically of a greater percentage of Arabs, but recent gentrification is replacing them with a young professional population. Similar processes are occurring in nearby Neve Tzedek, the original Jewish neighborhood outside of Jaffa. Ramat Aviv, a district in the northern part of the city largely made up of luxury apartments and including the Tel Aviv University, is currently undergoing extensive expansion and is set to absorb the beachfront property of Sde Dov Airport after its decommissioning.  The area known as HaKirya is the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) headquarters and a large military base.

Historically, there was a demographic split between the European northern side of the city, including the district of Ramat Aviv, and the southern, more Sephardi and Mizrahi neighborhoods including Neve Tzedek and Florentin.
Since the 1980s, however, restoration and gentrification have taken place on a large scale in the southern neighborhoods, making them some of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods for the more prosperous north Tel Avivis.  In north Tel Aviv, the old port area, which had become run-down since the port was decommissioned in 1965, also saw an urban revival, becoming an upper scale  area with shops and restaurants.

Like many cities in Israel, Tel Aviv is rich in history, which if written about here, would take pages and pages.  One of the most notable periods of Tel Aviv’s 20th Century history, is the 1920’s and 30’s, when Bauhaus architecture was introduced to the city by German Jewish architects who settled in Palestine after the rise of the Nazis. Tel Aviv's White City, around the city center, contains more than 5,000 Modernist-style buildings inspired by the Bauhaus school and Le Corbusier.  Construction of these buildings, later declared protected landmarks and, collectively, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, continued until the 1950s in the area around Rothschild Boulevard.  Some 3,000 buildings were created in this style between 1931 and 1939 alone.

Since the 1960’s the Bauhaus architecture has given way to office towers and a chain of waterfront hotels and commercial skyscrapers.  Some of the city's Modernist buildings were neglected to the point of ruin. Before legislation to preserve this landmark architecture, many of the old buildings were demolished. In recent years, efforts have been made to refurbish Bauhaus buildings and restore them to their original condition. 

Tel Aviv has become a hub of modern high-rise architecture due to the soaring price of real estate in the city. The Shalom Meir Tower, Israel's first skyscraper, was built in Tel Aviv in 1965 and remained the country's tallest building until 1999. The Azrieli Center, composed of three buildings— one square, one triangular, and one circular—usurped that title. Since 2001, Israel's tallest building is the City Gate Tower, which is located in the neighboring city of Ramat Gan, although the country's tallest wholly residential building, the Neve Tzedek Tower, is in Tel Aviv. New neighborhoods such as the Park Tzameret are being constructed to house luxury apartment towers including YOO Tel Aviv towers designed by Philippe Starck, while zones such as The southern Kirya are being developed with office towers.

Other recent additions to Tel Aviv's skyline are the 1 Rothschild Tower, Be'eri Nahardea Tower and First International Bank Tower.  As Tel Aviv celebrated its centennial in 2009, the city attracted a number of brand-name architects and developers, including I. M. Pei, Donald Trump, and Richard Meier, who have been flocking to this Bauhaus mecca to help create the next generation of iconic landmarks.

Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality


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