Saturday, December 6, 2014

Old Jaffa and Tel Aviv............

I was up bright and early the following morning as this day was going to be spent delving into the history of Jaffa (Yafo) and Tel Aviv.

It was a beautiful day, and shone brightly with a lovely warm sun and wind if I remember. Shoshi dropped us off early and we made our way into the centre of Jaffa, starting at the square and then making our way to the Egyptian archway

This is actually a replica of the original. A lot of Old Jaffa was bulldozed by the British as they were trying to destroy the maze and warren of alleyways in Jaffa, if there were attacks against them, it wasn't always easy to find the perpetrators. As Moshe said, if you had no reason to be there, you didn't really need to have the streets named, this was borne out later in the week. I am glad to say that there are still some alleyways and streets that beg to be explored........

(I would add at this point, that if you feel I have something wrong, please do not hesitate to let me know and I will correct it, with every best intention, I tried to write many detailed notes, but it didn't always come out that way and Moshe told me so much that I am delving into my memory banks to remember it all and sometimes it doesn't make sense to me!!)

I had fun wandering through the winding streets and alleyways, it was a real experience. I showed some friends my photos recently and they were surprised/disappointed that there were so few people in my pictures, why was it so quiet? It was partly deliberate on my part, as I am thinking art so I tried hard not to get people in my pictures, I can tell you that there was no shortage of tour groups going around, sometimes we had places to ourselves, other times, we collided with more than one group, so trust me, there were lots of people in Israel!!

Moshe took me to St Peter's Cathedral, the start of our tour, and remember that this is Sunday, and we went into the cathedral it was lovely and the Kedumim square it was situated on was also very lovely. Just across from it was the museum with some of the excavated ruins from the Roman period, which was very interesting, looking down on what has been covered by later centuries, I think one would not have far to dig in Israel anywhere to find archaeology.

The museum had a very interesting history of Jaffa in English which was quite fun and told in a way to be entertaining explaining about the port and what would have landed there, and also the story of Andromeda's rock. This is where Perseus swept down on his horse, Pegasus, and killed the monster which was about to eat Andromeda who was tied to the rock to appease Poseidon. He marries her of course........ It also talked about Napoleon and his armies who never got here if I am correct, I know I could have sent him a postcard later in my trip saying "wish you were here......." because he never made it.

I looked up info on various websites about this, and thought that some of the reviews were sorely lacking, you really do need a good guide rather than just wandering on your own.

This is the view of Tel Aviv from Jaffa, we had walked down to the sea from the hills above to see this view, it was really beautiful. Having walked through the old town, we suddenly burst out into the hustle and bustle of Jaffa, still an old town, but full of life. Moshe wanted me to try almond milk, and I have to tell you that what we buy in the grocery store doesn't even come close to it..... It was delicious, cold, sweet and very refreshing, there were lots of interesting stores to explore, but that'll have to wait, and there was the wonderful clock tower that had been built in the Ottoman period,it was completed in 1906, but looked terribly European.

It was after this that we took a cab into Tel Aviv and got out on the tree lined Rothschild Boulevard. It was a lovely wide road with a tree lined centre with a walkway and very pleasant, the traffic roared about us either side, ( I haven't forgotten that I will talk about that). Moshe said we were heading for one particular place and he hoped it was open....... 

Luckily it was. We crossed the road and approached this rather odd looking building, squat and square, with very small windows almost across the top of the building and further down.

This had apparently been the home of the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, who left it to the city for a museum.and art gallery. His choice of art was derided, as he was buying mainly copies, but, as an artist myself, isn't that what we do, copy things? He used to ride his horse to his office just a little further up the boulevard, and was once given a ticket for "parking" his horse outside the building, and there is a statue of him on his horse outside here.

It is now known as Independence Hall as this is where David Ben-Gurion gave his speech the day they created the State of Israel. He sent a messenger out to all the Minister's homes, asking them to keep this secret, but there would be a meeting at 3.30pm at this building. Well, you can imagine how that went. It was a very interesting place, our guide there was a young man who did his best to explain, but I got a detailed description. They also played a short excerpt from his speech.It was interesting as the day after this speech creating the State of Israel, the armies of neighbouring countries converged on Israel. I state this as a fact, no other reason, but it also tied in with the film I saw before coming over, remember the documentary on the Israeli airforce?

After we left here, Moshe told me a bit of the history of the area. I was standing in what was originally the beginnings of Tel Aviv. It was nothing but sand outside the city of Jaffa, and Rothschild bought up great tracts of land in Israel, and so here, they held a raffle for building plots and then houses were built. They were very beautiful and there are still one or two there. The original city was based here, and was composed of two streets, at the end of one sat the school but that has since gone and now the Shalom Tower sits in its place. There are some very beautiful mosaics inside depicting scenes from Old Jaffa, a more modern one with interesting scenes and on the second floor, architectural models of some of the original houses which would have been beautiful. There was also a  large model of the city of Tel Aviv which was interesting.

We then left here and took a cab to Sarona. This was a former colony founded by the German Templars in 1871 for agriculture. The story was interesting, and the buildings had a distinct German feel to them. They have all been beautifully restored and now house boutiques, restaurants and specialist stores and the information centre.

 A short while ago, they wanted to widen the road at this point, so instead of pulling the buildings down, they dug underneath them, and put them on rollers, and moved them back about 12 feet. I was glad they had come up with such an innovative idea. To get here we had driven through some very interesting buildings which were designed by the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus was a German design group in which they all lived and worked together to design houses, furniture, ceramics and other items from what was known in Europe as the Art Deco period. Some of the designers fled to Israel at the start of the second world war and worked there. It was so interesting to see the Bauhaus style in all its glory. It was here that it struck me that most housing is apartment living. Land is very expensive, and there isn't that much of it, so they build up. Shoshi was telling me that if the owner of an apartment building wanted to they could, with permission, put another couple of stories on top of the existing building but they also had to build a shelter in as well.
Lunch in Sarona was lovely.

We had visited the olive press and had an interesting presentation on the growth of Sarona, but it was time to leave. So we hailed a cab and had a very entertaining ride to the last stop of the day which was the Reading Power station. Our taxi driver was great fun, and cam out with all sorts of interesting facts on which he quizzed Moshe.( If Cathy had been with us, she would have had the name of his firstborn, the names of the grandchildren,where they all lived, how long he had been married............ it's what she does on taxi rides, in fact, when we were in Birmingham last August, I thought the CEO of the QGBI was never going to stop laughing on our taxi ride one evening after Cathy had asked a question of our taxi driver). I at least answered a question correctly which I was rather pleased about. ( There was a diplomatic car ahead of us, how could he tell which country it belonged to? If you want to know, it was to do with the first two numbers).

We got out under the shadow of the power station at Reading, and it was there I found myself at the mouth of the Yarkon River which flows out into the Mediterranean. 

We looked at the memorial to the crossing of the Yarkon River by the British during WWI. The sun was beginning to go down at this point, but it was a very beautiful spot.

We watched small aircraft coming into the local airport there and then strolled into the Tel Aviv port area. This had been revived and now housed restaurants, cafes and shops. It was a very lively bustling area and we sat for a little enjoying ice cream, the best I ever had, and it was nice to just sit for a while watching people stroll by and enjoy the end of the day.......

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