Tel Aviv is located on the cost and the second largest city in Israel – right after Jerusalem.
Israeli’s often like to tell me that it is like Manhattan since it is very vibrant and metropolitan.
I never let them finish their sentence because Tel Aviv is nothing like Manhattan. If anything, it’s like San Francisco.
Often titled, as the Gay Capital and the Vegan Capital of the world, and the Nonstop City, it really is a place all it’s own.
Tel Aviv was originally founded in 1909 as a Zionist suburb where the community members could live an independent Hebrew life.
This is where it got the nickname of “First Hebrew City.”
The Jews who started the city wished to leave Jews ancient port city Jaffa with dreams to have houses surrounded by gardens.
In April of that year, 66 Jewish families gathered on a desolate sand dune to parcel out the land by lottery using seashells.
Akiva Aryeh Weiss collected 120 sea shells on the beach, half of them white and half of them grey.
The members’ names were written on the white shells and the plot numbers on the grey shells.
Then, a boy drew names from one box of shells and a girl drew plot numbers from the second box.
This gathering is considered the official date of the establishment of Tel Aviv.
The city was at first called Ahuzat Bayit, named after the association because they couldn’t decide on a name.
So, a committee was elected to come up with a new name.
Some of the names proposed were: New Jaffa, Neve Jaffa, Aviva, Yaffiafia, Ivria and “Herzliya” after Benjamin Zeev Herzl.
Tel Aviv was brought up because it was the name Nahum Sokolow chose for his Hebrew translation of Theodor Herzl‘s book Old New Land.
Old New Land was published seven years earlier, and in it, Herzl described what he thought the Jewish state would look like when it was established.
Sokolow had adopted the name Tel Abib which is mentioned in Ezekiel as a place where the exiles to Babylon sat by a river.
What they didn’t know, is that a neighborhood in Ness Tziona was already named Tel Aviv.
However, city council members were divided over the name.
David Ben-Gurion, who later became Israel’s first prime minister, desperately wanted the name “Jaffa” to strengthen the city’s connection to biblical sources.
In the end, it was finally decided as a compromise to call the united city “Tel Aviv-Jaffa.”
Although it was a small settlement on the sand dunes north of Jaffa, Tel Aviv was envisaged as a future city from the start.
Within a year, Herzl, Ahad Ha’am, Yehuda Halevi, Lilienblum, and Rothschild streets were built, a water system was installed, and 66 houses with running water were completed.
According to censuses, in 1915 it had a population 2,679, in 1922 there were 15,185 inhabitant, and by 1931 there were 46,101 residence in 12,545 houses.
The Jewish population rose dramatically during the Fifth Aliyah after the Nazis came to power in Germany.
By 1937 the Jewish population of Tel Aviv had risen to 150,000.
Many German Jewish architects trained at the Bauhaus, the Modernist school of architecture in Germany, and left Germany during the 1930s.
They created what is recognized as the largest concentration of buildings in the this style in White City, which has became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
When Israel declared Independence on 14 May 1948, the population of Tel Aviv was over 200,000 and Tel Aviv was the temporary government center of the State of Israel.
This was until the Knesset could be established in Jerusalem in December 1949.
Today, Tel Aviv is Israel’s second to largest city and known for it’s lively and vibrant metropolitan energy and lifestyle.
Things to in Tel Aviv
Museum of the Jewish People
The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot is located at Tel Aviv University.
It tells the unique and ongoing story of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad.
It was founded in 1978 as the Diaspora Museum, whose main goal was to tell the story of Jewish communities in the diaspora and connect Israelis to their past.
However, as part of the museum’s renewal, it was decided that there would no longer be a a separation between different groups of Jews.
Instead, the museum would emphasizing identity and culture, depicting Jewish people as "a rich mosaic with many pieces, each piece stands alone yet contributes to the understanding of the great picture."
This process also led to replacing the institute’s name from The Diaspora Museum to The Museum of the Jewish People.
Eretz Israel Museum
The Eretz Israel Museum is the third third largest museum in Israel and it exhibits Israeli culture, past, and present.
In addition to the 10 permanent exhibitions and ancient sites, the museum displays about 20 temporary exhibits every year.
In the center of the museum, adjacent to the buildings and exhibit spaces, stands Tell Qasile – an ancient archeological mound dating from the 12th century BCE.
Additional ancient relics, such as mosaics, oil presses, an ancient wine press, flour mills, etc. can be found in the gardens surrounding the site.
In addition to the permanent exhibits are sites worth visiting including the Flour Mill, Yael Garden, Olive Oil Plant, Mosaic Square, and Old Fire Engine.
Independence hall is the site of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and where David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel.
Once the home of Zionist leader and first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff and later, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, today it is a museum dedicated to that historic day.
There is a tour which discuss the history of the building, the founding of Tel-Aviv, the story of the declaration of independence ceremony, and the dramatic events that led to it.
Today, it features the 4,000-year-old story of the Jewish people and the 2,500-year history of the Jewish diaspora, exhibiting Jewish communities around the world which established and grew uniquely.
As part of the tour you can listen to rare recordings from the day of declaration ceremony, including Ben Gurion’s speech, Rabbi Fishman’s greetings, and the Philharmonic Orchestra’s playing of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem.
I've toured this museum when I was a little girl, as a young woman, and again recently.
I never stop being moved and when I close my eyes and listen to the recording, I feel like I've been transported back in time to be a part of one of the greatest moments in history.
The Etzel Museum, or the Museum of Jaffa’s Liberators, was founded to tell the story of the Ezel. It is also a memorial for the 41 Etzel fighters who fell at the Battle of Jaffa.
Located in restored ruins of is housed in a restored 19th century Jewish home overlooking the beach, it tells the history of the Etzel who believed in Ze’ev Jabotinsky philosophies.
The Etzel was an underground organization which fought for the realization of the idea of establishing a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
It also, retaliated against the anti-Jewish terrorist attacks by the Arabs and rebelled again the British’s policy that prevented Jewish immigration.
The museum focuses on the Etzel’s acts for the establishment of a Jewish state and the battle for Jaffa in April 1948 where 41 Etzel fighters who fell in battle.
The museum also exhibits photographs of Etzel members, historic documents, films, newspaper clippings, maps, models, weapons, and information on the many Etzel missions.
The Lehi Museum, or Beit Yair, tells the life story of Avraham Stern and the history Lehi Organization he founded.
It is located in Tel Aviv, in the house where the Lehi commander Avraham Stern, also known as Yari, was killed by a British officer.
The apartment is frozen in time just as it was 1942 including all the furniture left exactly where it was.
The museum shares the story of the mostly anonymous members of the Lehi, who fought to liberate the State of Israel before 1948.
It also tells the history of the Lehi organization in chronological order and their operations against the British – most of which was carried out after Sturn was killed.
In addition, on display is propaganda carried out by the organization and activities they was carried out overseas.
The Jabotinsky Museum tells the story of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, illustrates life in the underground, and the Af Al Pi Aliyah by Betar and the Irgun.
It also exhibits documentary films about Zionist leader Jabotinsky, the Irgun, clandestine immigration, and more.
Jabotinsky became known mostly for his called to establish a Jewish state and the creation of a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel, and the political struggle which he conducted for its realization.
The exhibition at the museum includes documents, press clippings, photographs and films, weapons and audio-visual models illustrating the organization’s activities.
The Haganah Museum tells the story of the Haganah that defended the Jewish Yishuv during the British Mandate.
The museum is located in the house of Eliyahu Golomb, founder and leader of the Haganah, and what was once the Haganah’s secret headquarters.
The museum includes two rooms that have been preserved as they were when they were used for meetings.
These rooms are where critical decisions for the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel were made.
The first floor tells the history of the Jewish Yishuv and the Haganah from the establishment of the earliest defense organizations – Bar Giora (1907) and Hashomer (1909).
The second floor features exhibits from the period of the illegal immigration, events during WWII such as Haganah soldiers volunteered in the British Army and the establishment of the Palmach, and the struggle they faced following the second world war.
The third and final floor features the events leading up to and during Israel's War of Independence.
The Palmach Museum tells the story of the Palmach, the Haganah‘s strike forces, which played a crucial role in the Israeli War of Independence.
The exhibits are very modern with three-dimensional scenery, films, and various effects incorporating first hand accounts and personal stories.
The tours begin and end in the memorial hall which is dedicated to Palmach soldier who died fighting for establishment of the state of Israel.
You can take two optional tours per visit, Palmach Journey and Gachal Memorial.
The Palmach Journey exhibit begins with the establishment of the Palmach and follows the story of ten friends during the battles of the Palmach, the settlements established by it, and its spirit and heritage.
The Gachal (overseas recruits) tells the moving story of Holocaust survivors and new immigrants, who took part in the battles and the part played in the War of Independence.
In addition, there are two collection rooms:
The Palmach Photo Gallery which exhibits 120 albums with photos taken by Palmach in the 1940’s.
Room of the Fallen Soldiers gives a glance to the world of the fallen among the Palmach through their letters, and life stories.
The Ben-Gurion House was the home of David Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula that they built in Tel Aviv.
It was here that the Declaration of Independence was given the final touches and its final version was written.
This was also from where he left to the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art to declare the establishment of the State of Israel, on the 5th of the month of Iyar 5708, 14th may 1948.
Upon his death, he bequeathed the house to the State of Israel requesting the house to become a public institution for reading, study, and research.
The house was kept exactly as it was in the same condition and with their belongings in exactly the same place they'd been left.
It became open to the public in 1974, and then in 1976, the Knesset unanimously voted in the “David Ben-Gurion Law ” which declared the house as a national site.
The visit of the Ben-Gurion house allows you to step back in time and connect to the Ben-Gurion and his life style.
The exhibits at the house include documentary-historical (photographs and documents) material.
The Bialik House was the home of Israel’s national poet, Haim Nahman Bialik, and is now a museum dedicated to him.
Located in Bialik Square, near Beit Ha’ir, it been declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO and as part of the “White City.”
Here you can see impressive architecture, works of art from the poet’s private collection, a rich library, and an exhibition which notes Bialik’s many accomplishments.
The house was built in 1924, upon Bialik’s arrival at the Land of Israel, and is still today one of Tel Aviv’s most authentic and beautiful houses.
The goal of the museum was not only to show Bialik’s spirit but also to note the aesthetics of the early 20th century in Israel.
The unique eclectic construction combining eastern and western elements, oriental and European decorations: arches, tower, dome, fireplace, painted floors and more.
The archive combines Bialik’s entire cultural and national work: rare manuscripts, poems, stories, articles, speeches, documents and more.
The Rokach House, or Beit Rokach, has been restored and reconstructed just the way it was in 1887 to give visitors a sense of the beginning of Tel Aviv.
The house is located in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood which was the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the ancient city of Jaffa.
This was the home of Shimon Rokach, the neighborhood’s founder, and today is a museum which tells the story of the life at the time of the beginning of the First Hebrew City.
After Rokach’s passing, his sons donated the house to the city, however, over the years the house was abandoned and became dilapidated.
Rokach’s granddaughter, Leah Majaro-Mintzrestored, restored the house with public financial support.
She preserved the house’s original character and appearance and today it also displays her artwork.
The museum displays of furniture, accessories, clothing, photography and shares historical background and short film screening.
Beit Ha'ir - Museum of History of Tel Aviv-Yafo
Bait Ha’ir sits in the historical Town Hall of Tel Aviv and is today the Museum of History of Tel Aviv-Yafo.
It is located in Bialik Square, near the Bialik House, it has been declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO as part of the “White City.”
The build was constructed in 1924 as a hotel called Hotel Sakura, belonging to an Englishman named Abraham Sakura.
However, it became the City Hall that same year, since the city was in desperate need for a larger building.
It was originally only meant to be a temporary location for the town hall, but the city ended up purchasing the building in 1928.
For forty years City Hall was located here. Celebrations held were held at the buildings entrance and the speeches given from its curved balcony.
Today it is a museum dedicated to the history of Tel Aviv and displays a meticulously reconstruction of Mayor Dizengoff’s office.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art was Israel’s first art museum.
It has has a prominent collection of both Israeli and international art.
The Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Israeli art, is internationally acclaimed, and is in the top hundred most-visited museums in the world.
It also holds extensive collections of modern and contemporary art, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, and collection of European art from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.
The Museum’s Old Masters Collection comprises some 150 works.
The collection focuses on three major areas: Italian art in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries; Flemish and Dutch art in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and nineteenth-century Jewish art.
the collection includes works by Peter Paul Rubens, Antony van Dyck, Jan van Goyen, and others.
The Museum’s Modern Art collection features Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, van Gogh, Pissarro, and others.
Also on display are works by Picasso, Klimt, Kandinsky, Dali, Pollock, and O’Keeffe.
Alexander Museum of Postal History & Philately
The Alexander Museum of Postal History & Philately tells the postal history of the Land of Israel within the context of historical, social, and political changes in the region.
The museum was founded by the Israel Postal Authority, the Tel Aviv Foundation, and the Eretz Israel Museum - where it is located.
The displays includes elements that relate to the postal services in general and to the postal services in Israel in particular.
The exhibits display postal history in general, and local postal history in particular, begin with a chronicle of the post in the Land of Israel from the mid-19th century though the establishment of the State of Israel.
The story is told through envelopes and letters, photographs and posters, mailboxes and telephones, and a 1949 mail truck from the early days of the country.
One of the exhibits includes a large-scale stamp album, where a chronological selection of Israeli stamps illustrates the changes in design and subject over the years.
Bank of Israel Visitors Center
The Bank of Israel Visitors Center is located in a historic building and has on display different currencies from the pre-coin periods, the invention of the first coins in the 600’s BCE, and up to the present day.
Many of the 400 items in the exhibition are exclusive to the Bank of Israel collection.
The exhibition mostly focuses on coins in circulation in the Land of Israel down the centuries.
The exhibition also displays all of Israel’s banknotes and coins from the British Mandate period to the present day.
All Israeli coins, from the very first mintage in 1948, are modeled after ancient Jewish coins or other Jewish archaeological artifacts.
Next to each modern coin is a photo of an ancient coin on which its design is based.
Aden Jewish Heritage Museum
The Aden Jewish Heritage Museum commemorates the unique story of Jews in Aden who’s history goes back as the second or third century.
Aden, located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula of what is now modern-day Yemen, had a Jewish culture that was distinct, with its own way of life and unique customs.
Letters discovered in the Cairo Geniza attest to a Jewish community in Aden as far back as the eleventh century.
While digs at Beit She’arim in Israel provide proof that Jews were settled in Aden, Yemen in the second and third centuries.
Adenite culture became distinct from other Yemenite Jewish culture due to British control of the city and from Indian-Iraqi, Persia, and Egypt immigrants.
As of 2004, there were 6,000 Adenites in Israel and the museum was established to record memories before they are forgotten.
Joseph Bau House Museum
Joseph Bau House Museum is an authentic artist workshop where Joseph Bau worked for 40 years and is now a museum.
After surviving the Plaszow concentration camp, Bau immigrated to Israel in 1950 with a dream to make animated movies in the Holy Land.
Only after his death it was revealed that he worked in the Mossad as a graphic artist who forged documents for Israeli spies, including Eli Cohen.
He opened a graphics studio in which he designed movie posters, color advertisements, paintings, and graphics.
He also built a small cinema and filming equipment by himself, which he used to make cartoons.
Museum tells the life story of Joseph Bau reflected in his wide range of creativity works.
It also displays Bau's animated movies, the original equipment he built to create them, his paintings, and graphic art, prose, and study of the Hebrew language.
Steinhardt Museum of Natural History
The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History is the home of the natural history collections of Tel Aviv University of five and a half million items.
The universities Zoological Museum, National Herbarium, National Anthropological Collections, and Collections of Biological Archeology have joined together to establish the museums collection.
The collections document the flora and fauna of Israel and the Middle East for thousands of years, as well as human development and the history of humankind.
The Father Schmitz Collection is also on display here.
It includes some of the museum’s rarest and most ‘precious’ items:
The last leopard hunted in the Jerusalem Hills, a Nile crocodile that was one of the last crocodiles living in Taninim River, the last cheetah hunted near the Dead Sea, and purebred wildcats that aren’t seen any more in nature in Israel.
Schmitz was one of the only collectors and recorders in the Land of Israel in the early 20th century.
Living Nature Museums
While most people would probably disagree with me, I believe zoos and botanical gardens are living museums that display nature.
Botanical Garden at Tel Aviv University
The Botanical Garden at Tel Aviv University is home to about 3,800 species of plants from Israel and around the world.
The garden takes various steps to conserve rare plants in danger of extinction and be a sanctuary for Israel’s diverse floral.
Different sections show the main plant species of Israel landscapes, from the humid woodlands to the dry desert.
It also holds one of the largest collections of succulent plants in Israel, from the strange-looking cactus species to the giant Agave.
The Zoological Garden
The Zoological Garden at Tel Aviv University leads zoological research and scientific education in the State of Israel.
Established in 1931, it is home to a collection of 40 species of mammals, 100 species of birds and 80 species of reptiles and amphibians from Israel and the surrounding region.
This includes gazelles, fallow deer, wolves, jackals, storks, pelicans, vultures, eagles, chameleons, skinks, and a range of snakes, frogs, and toads.