By Richard Varr
Tel Aviv reminds me of a modern American city. It’s hard to imagine how this town, with its skyscraper-studded skyline, was born atop sand dunes just over 100 years ago outside the walls of the old Arab Jaffa port.
I walk along the city’s popular beachfront promenade, passing a string of resort hotels and benches offering breezy views of the Mediterranean Sea. My journey leads me to popular pedestrian-filled spots including Dizengoff Street with its many shops, and central Rothschild Avenue lined with palm trees and buildings in Bauhaus architectural style.
I pass through the Carmel Market, the city’s largest open-air bazaar, where lamb kabobs sizzle on grills and vendor stalls overflow with plums, bananas and olives. I stop at Rabin Square, adjacent to the block-like City Hall, where I visit the memorial to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
When I reach 4,000-year-old Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest seaports, I see pedestrians poking their heads into art galleries, meeting friends in cafes and walking up to a few vantage points for excellent views of the city skyline and shoreline. “On a clear day, you can see the buildings of Jerusalem and the chimneys of Caesarea,” says tour guide Yaniv Bar. Old Jaffa includes flea markets, an archeological museum, Napoleonic cannons and a 17thcentury monastery that now serves Jaffa’s Armenian community.
Because of its Bauhaus architecture, Tel Aviv has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and nicknamed the “White City.” Bauhaus is a modern architectural style which includes rounded balconies, asymmetrical facades with windows running horizontally, and even porthole-style windows which are reminders of the ships that brought Jewish immigrants to the Holy Land. Many facades are white in color.
“Straight lines, simplicity, clean, clear, very easy and fast,” says Bar of this architectural style that originated in Germany. “There are no decorations, but instead something simple and clean.”
“In the 1930s when a lot of German Jews during the Nazi rise fled the country, some of them came to Tel Aviv and brought this style,” he adds.
“They started to build our buildings, but only here, the weather is much nicer. Here you can add balconies, because there are nice sunny days. So the Israeli international style is a bit different then what is known as Bauhaus.”