Tel Aviv is the cultural center of Israel, and much has been written about the must-see sites in the city. But as a long-term resident of Israel (24 years this summer…), my recent vacation to Tel Aviv focused on the little-known sites that often get overlooked by foreign and local tourists alike.
These five sites will enrich your knowledge and impress your friends back home (wherever that might be):
Bauhaus White City Tour — Tel Aviv is famous for its unique architecture, which has its origins in the Bauhaus School that was popular in the 1930s in Germany. Many of the buildings still standing today exhibit variations of this architectural style. The Bauhaus Center at Dizengoff 77 shows a short film about this style and sends you off with audio devices and a map. You follow the map from address to address and listen to a recorded explanation at each station. My friends and I were convinced that we were experts on the subject after the tour and tried to outdo each other in pointing out Bauhaus architecture everywhere we went.
Neve Tzedek — One of the quaintest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, you can enjoy it just by walking around and shopping in the many boutiques. But if you really want to learn the history of the area, an Israel ScaVenture is the way to go. We learned about the colorful personalities who inhabited the neighborhood when Jews first branched out from Old Jaffa, and saw the religious and cultural centers of the old Neve Tzedek. The thought-provoking questions and fun missions added another layer of enjoyment. And we couldn’t resist all the instructions requesting we take selfies!
Aden Jewish Heritage Museum — “Is that a shul?” my friend asked, as we stood on a street in Neve Tzedek. Investigation revealed that it was indeed a synagogue, but that its bottom floor was a museum dedicated to the Jewish community of the port city of Aden in Yemen. The guide at the museum is a descendant of Adeni Jews and provided a thorough explanation of the uniqueness of the community, its history, and its connection to the Neve Tzedek neighborhood. The museum is free, although donations are accepted.
Jabotinsky Museum — This small museum consists mostly of two films. The first film tells the story of Jabotinsky’s life and mission. The second film tells the story of illegal immigration to Palestine by ship and includes interactive elements like wind and spraying water. Both films are well-made and are supplemented by a small exhibit.
The Synagogue Exhibit at Beit Hatfutsot — Beit Hatfutsot (Museum of the Jewish People, formerly known as the “Diaspora Museum”) and its synagogue exhibit are fairly well-known. But if you haven’t been recently, you’ll find that the exhibit has been totally refurbished and some fascinating elements have been added. If you have a full hour, watch the film that shows footage from different types of synagogues around the world. The short film that compares Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions is entertaining as well. The museum is also currently hosting exhibits about Bob Dylan and the Ethiopian-Israeli community.
If you’re planning a trip to Tel Aviv, add some of these sites to your itinerary. I promise you won’t be sorry!