sand dunes to the biggest city in Israel in less than four
decades" aptly describes the unparalleled development of Tel
Tel Aviv itself, the "first all-Jewish city
in modern times," was founded in 1909; built on the sand dunes
that stretched northward from the Arab city of Jaffa, it has
developed since then into a kind of "megalopolis" (complex
of cities) extending from Herzaliyah in the north to Rehovot in the
south, and merging in the east with such towns as Givatayim, Ramat
Gan, Bene Berak and Petah Tikvah.
In 1995 Tel Aviv-Jaffa contained close to 355,200
inhabitants and ever since the establishment of the State of Israel,
has served as the finance, entertainment, press and publication
center of the country. Like most large cities, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a
city of contrasts. In its southern districts, it embodies some of
Israel's worst slums, while in the north and east there are
attractive suburbs such as Ramat Aviv, the location of Tel Aviv's
These residential sections have a somewhat
"Americanized" character. Tel Aviv's commercial center is
Dizengoff Street and the city's bohemian center is Sheinkin Street.
At the heart of the southern end of the city rises Migdal Shalom,
the highest skyscraper in Israel, and along the coast, a whole chain
of hotels has been built, most with their own beaches which serve as
recreation and entertainment spots for tourists and residents alike.
Tel Aviv's beginnings actually date back to the
early 19th century, when a Jewish community was reestablished in the
all-Arab city of Jaffa. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jaffa's port had
served as the "gateway to Zion" for Jewish pilgrims coming
to Erez Israel, but no Jewish residents had been allowed to settle
there. In 1820, however, a Jewish traveler from Constantinople named
Yeshaya Adjima, bought a house there (it was called Dar al-Yahud,
the house of the Jew, by the local Arabs) and laid the foundations
for a revived Jewish community. Merchants and artisans from North
Africa followed him as settlers in Jaffa, and in the latter part of
the century European Jews began to arrive as well.
The First Aliyah swelled Jaffa's Jewish population
and in 1887 the building of Jaffa's first Jewish quarter, Neveh
Zedek, was initiated. This set the pattern for later Jewish
settlements structured in tightly-knit, fraternal quarters within
the midst of the Arab population. In the 1990s, Neve Zedek is
experiencing a bit of an architectural revival as young and old
Israeli artists of all types are renovating its turn of the century
buildings and recapturing some of its lost magic.
The Second Aliyah further enlarged Jaffa's Jewish
population, increasing it to 8,000 out of a total population of
17,000 in 1906. In 1909 it was decided to create a new suburb
outside of Jaffa's boundaries which would constitute the "first
all-Jewish city." The result was the city of Tel Aviv, whose
foundations were then laid.
Tel Aviv grew steadily until World War I when the
Jews were expelled from both Jaffa and Tel Aviv by the Turks. When
the British took over, the Jews returned and Tel Aviv continued to
expand. On May 12, 1934, Tel Aviv was officially given municipal
status. In the same year, the Philharmonic Orchestra was founded,
the Tel Aviv Museum was opened in the home of the city's long-time
mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and the cornerstone was laid for the Habimah
Theater building. After World War II, the city played a prominent
role and suffered much in the struggle with the British authorities,
for the Haganah and the Irgun had their headquarters there, and
during the War of Independence, Tel Aviv was incessantly shelled
from Jaffa's Arab quarters. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was
proclaimed in Tel Aviv's museum building.
On April 24, 1949, Tel Aviv and Jaffa were united
and the city's official name became Tel Aviv-Jaffa; one of the
world's youngest cities had thus incorporated one of the oldest.