This morning we walked around old Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, this historical district went to seed and very little effort has been made to gentrify this important piece of real estate. People just moved north, built new and beautiful neighborhoods there, and left the old Bauhaus and oriental buildings to crumble. They are in dire need of paint and basic patching up. Clearly, the residents are mostly poor and have no money for beautifying their dwellings. There are several construction sites and some of the dilapidated structures are undergoing major renovations, but there is a long way to go.
As to the Bauhaus architecture, it is imho, overrated. The houses are downright unattractive in its present condition, although the few freshly painted and bougainvillea-covered houses are rather pleasant-looking.
We went to the Nahalat Binyamin market which disappointed me this time around but the colorful characters made up for the lesser quality of the crafts.
Outside the market, an older crooner gathered a crowd of spectators. We were told that her name was Miri Aloni and in the 1960’s and 1970-‘s she was one of Israel’s leading performers. In fact, the day Itzhak Rabin was assassinated, she was next to him leading him in a song of peace. And now, having aged and accumulated a substantial extra weight, she is reduced to singing in a market with her guitar case open for collections.
Then we hit history museums, one – dedicated to the creation of the state, another – to Itzhak Rabin, and the third – to Palmach, the military branch of the Haganah, the pre-state voluntary Israeli defense force.
Dinner was with the group at Dr. Shakshuka restaurant in Jaffa which was unanimously dissed by the group.
The evening ended in a theater of deaf and blind actors. Even though the play itself had put many a soul to sleep, the sheer effort of the blind and deaf actors and their “translators” was tremendous and very touching.
The whole day was emotional: the sadness of the rundown part of the city, the emotional story of the birth of the state, the story of the valiant warrior turned head of state and assassinated by a zealot, the story of brave Palmach kids killed in the War of Independence, and then watching the deaf and blind.
But despite stirring up a storm of emotions, these stories are stories of defiance and ultimately triumph. And despite my seemingly dissing Tel Aviv, I feel strongly connected to this mostly Jewish and mostly secular and very Israeli city.