Explore the Old and New Tel Aviv
By: Brennan Caruthers Photos: Aaron Hoffman
Puzzle’s interns spent a day in Tel Aviv, visiting historically rich locations such as the home of Israel’s deceased national poet, Tel Aviv’s old town hall building, one of the most active outdoor markets, and a small coffee shop with a very interesting owner.
The sun warmed our exposed necks as we admired the gorgeous architectural styles displayed in Bialik Square, Tel Aviv. Home to edifices such as Beit Bialik and Beit Ha’ir, the Bialik Complex was designated a World Heritage Site and is a leading center for Israeli and Hebrew culture. The name “Bialik” refers to Israel’s now deceased national poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik. History, Poetry, and Culture enthusiasts must visit Beit Bialik, the beloved poet’s old home which was restored in the spirit of the building during Bialik’s lifetime. Beit Bialik now serves as a museum, archive, and cultural center, brilliantly showcasing Bialik’s writings and authentic artifacts.
For those who are more intrigued by modern rarities, political history, and urban culture, Beit Ha’ir, the old Town Hall building, is definitely worth your while. Keeping with the city’s name “Tel Aviv” (old-new land), this Urban Culture Museum was renovated with the goal of combining the old and the new to reflect a city on the move, successfully navigating the border between preservation and innovation. We were lucky enough to visit during the Video Game Culture and History display, which boasted interactive retro throwbacks alongside modern gaming, screened on the walls, ceilings, and floors using projectors and colossal flat-screen TVs. Phenomenal. The building’s historical significance, however, is never left in the shadows. Step upstairs as we did and experience firsthand a day in the life of Tel Aviv’s first leader, Mayor Meir Dizengoff (pronounced “Mayor!”).
The exhibition represents the famous author Theodor Herzl’s book Altneuland, which means old to new. “Tel Aviv” is actually the Hebrew translation for the name of the book. A fascinating way of exploring Tel Aviv is to do as we did and keep with the theme of the book, beginning in some of the most ancient locations and moving through the city to more newer locations. Our next stop was Shuk Ha’Carmel, Tel Aviv’s large open-air market, and my personal favorite spot to hang out in Tel Aviv. The atmosphere is by far the most enticing aspect of the Shuk, that is if you enjoy active and lively surroundings. All the food is authentic and fresh (and need I say DE-LICIOUS), take for example the Burekas – a warm Turkish puff pastry filled with salty cheese/meat/potatoes. Aside from the food, you can find anything here, from touristy trinkets to fresh groceries and household necessities. The prices are cheap, but if you’re American or look American, go ahead and try your hand at haggling: chances are that the 50 shekel item you’re purchasing is actually sold to Israelis for around 30 shekels.
While you’re at Shuk Ha’Carmel, stop by Cafe Cohen, a small coffee shop located on Yishkon street in between YichYeh Kapach Street and Yom Tov Street. Sure, the coffee’s great, but ask the owner to sing for you and that’s where you’ll get your treat. Shlomo Cohen, the store owner, is a Hazzan (a Jewish musician who leads the congregation in songful prayer). His rich, creamy voice mirrors the taste of his freshly brewed coffee, epitomizing Israeli culture in an experience unparalleled.
Undoubtedly there is so much more to see and do in Tel Aviv, but if you have some free time and are looking to enjoy something a bit more unique, you should definitely add these sites to your itineraries.
About the Author:
Brennan Caruthers, Puzzle Israel’s intern from San Diego, explored Tel Aviv with his fellow interns and came back with new recommendations on what to see and do in Tel Aviv.