Sunday, July 11, 2010

Neve Tzedek – the Pioneers’ Preserve

Twenty-two years before the founding of Tel Aviv, Jews left the walls of Jaffa and built in nearby Neve Tzedek. These beautifully restored houses and streets preserve the romance of the early days of Jewish urban settlement.

Jews lived outside the crowded confines of Jaffa even before the founding of Tel Aviv – 22 years before, to be exact, in a neighborhood called Neve Tzedek. Today this picturesque area is bursting with boutiques, galleries, stylish cafes and restaurants; known for its culture and lifestyle, Neve Tzedek commands some of the highest housing prices in the city.

A walking tour of Neve Tzedek is a must for romantics, history lovers and fans of small winding alleys. This is where the city’s first cinema was built in 1914. The Nahum Gutman Museum is located here in the home of the artist who immortalized the early days of Tel Aviv and Jaffa landscapes in his colorful paintings. Here you can also find the unusual Rokach House, now a private museum of sculpture and family history established by sculptor Lea Majaro-Mintz, the granddaughter of the home’s builder and the first head of the Neve Tzedek community, Shimon Rokach.

In the early 20th century, Neve Tzedek was home to many famous writers, artists and spiritual leaders, including the Nobel Prize laureate, writer S.Y. Agnon, and Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Kook. Founded by wealthy Jewish families that came from North Africa, the neighborhood was nicknamed “Little Paris” because of its eye-opening architectural innovations. Today, the most outstanding site is the Suzanne Dellal Centre, a bustling dance and theater complex. How romantic to sit in the cafes and browse in the boutiques and designers’ shops, to see how a charming historic neighborhood survives surrounded by the skyscrapers of progress enveloping a preserve of Jewish pioneering.

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