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Tel Aviv, Historic City, Historic preservation, Town planning

Herzl Street, Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv: The Birth of a city Act 2

I present you with Tel Aviv: The birth of a city – acts 2 and 3. In a previous blog post called “The Birth of a City” I wrote about some of the history that led to the founding of cities in Israel with the emphasis on Tel Aviv.  Here is the rest of the story.

We see that the settlement of Jews in Palestine during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century was born out of dire necessity. However, there was also great hope in the belief that the Jewish people would return to their homeland.  A land they were forced to flee many years before but had never forgotten.

While in the diaspora, Jews learned to adapt themselves to harsh conditions and rules set out by the various rulers in the land in which they lived. In this manner they survived. There were good times and bad times.  However, they had mostly bad times. The same was true in Palestine under Turkish rule.

New Neighborhoods Near Jaffa

When a group of Jews  from Jaffa decided to build a neighborhood outside of Jaffa they were not the first to do this.  In the late 19th century, a group of Egyptian farmers had emigrated to Palestine during the decade where the land was under Egyptian rule (1831 – 1840).  They established a neighborhood just north of Jaffa called “Manshiya”. Christian Arabs established a neighborhood south of Jaffa: Ajami.

A group of Americans attempted to settle in Jaffa and they did so by purchasing lands adjacent to Manshiya.  This settlement, called “The American Colony” did not last more than two years and their lands were sold to a group of German Christian settlers.  This group established a colony called “Wallhalla”.  The same group established another colony called “Sarona”.

In addition to this, Jews had also ventured North of Jaffa and established the neighborhoods of Neve Zedek, Neve Shalom, Yefe Nof, Shaarei Achva, Machane Yosef, Machane Yehuda, Machane Yisrael, Ohel Moshe, Kerem Hateimanim and Batei Warsaw. At the time of the establishment of the organization for the construction of houses called “Ahuzat Bayit” in 1904 there were already approximately 5000 Jews living in these small neighborhoods.

Today, all those neighborhoods still stand, with the exception of Manshiya.  These neighborhoods form part of Tel Aviv’s historic city.

Tel Aviv, historic city, town planning

Jaffa and its Environs

These small neighborhoods were for the most part replicas of badly planned neighborhoods of Jaffa or Shtetls of Eastern Europe.  The founders of Ahuzat Bayit wanted so much more.

Achuzat Bayit: The Birth of a city: Tel Aviv

At a meeting of Jewish families in Jaffa it was decided to form a company to purchase land for a new neighborhood. They chose Akiva Arye Weiss to lead the effort to purchase the land and building the neighborhood.

Tel Aviv, historic city, historic preservation, town planning

Akiva Arye Weiss

The first decision they made was to purchase land a little far off from Jaffa.  They didn’t mind the commute to their work and businesses in Jaffa. By distancing themselves from the dirt and grime of Jaffa they could live a healthier life. In addition to this, being further away from Jaffa meant that they could have some autonomy in the running of their neighborhood.

They had to overcome what seemed like insurmountable obstacles. The purchase of the land took several years and ended up costing more than they had bargained for due to the “bakshish” and “compensation” they had to pay government officials and so called “claimants” to the ownership of the land.

Due to restrictions of Turkish Land Law the lands were registered in the name of one person with Ottoman citizenship.  The group raised the capital to purchase the land but needed to apply to the World Zionist Organization for loans to help construct the houses. This loan was given through the Anglo Palestine Bank (later to become Bank Leumi).

Moving Sand to Make Way for Tel Aviv

The next problem was leveling the land.  The land was basically sand dunes.  The sand had to be cleared and the land leveled.  This was done by a group of Jewish workers hired to do just that.  Instead of building the neighborhood to suit the topography of the land, the land was changed to suit the neighborhood. Tel Aviv, the historic city, stems from this.

Tel Aviv, Historic City, historic preservation, town planning

Moving The Sand

Water for Tel Aviv

The next problem was water. You could not have a neighborhood without water. The settlers surveyed the land, found the water source, dug a well and installed  electric pumps that could bring up the water to pipes that would bring the water to the houses.  Indeed, this became the source of water for the other Jewish settlements that existed already.

Tel Aviv, historic city, historic preservation, town planning

The Water Tower and Municipal Offices

These three things, the distance from Jaffa, the clearing of the land and the water source were the foundations that made the neighborhood of Ahuzat Bayit such a success.

Tel Aviv: The Birth of a City – Act 3

66 families settled in Ahuzat Bayit. Of these 66 families 60 of them took the loan offered by the World Zionist Organization. They then set their minds to planning the neighborhood. They consulted with several known town planners and engineers who submitted several sets of plans.

Tel Aviv, Historic city, historic preservation, town planning

The Sixty Six

At that time the world witnessed the birth of the Garden City movement in Europe. The ideas of the Garden City movement were based on utopian ideas of how large cities should be and how the planning of cities could improve the quality of people’s lives.  This would be done by zoning and inserting parks and gardens into cities. One of the founders of this movement was Ebenezer Howard, author of the book “Garden Cities of Tomorrow”.

The historic city of Tel Aviv is based on these principles of the Garden City.

The settlers of Ahuzat Bayit had a wish list for the plan of their town. They wanted wide streets not narrow, dirty winding streets.  They wanted parks and fresh air. They wanted electricity, sewage and running water.

The Town Plan of Tel Aviv

After looking at all the plans they came up with a town plan that was a compromise of all the above. Each house was built on plots of 500 to 1000 sq. meters. Houses could be only two floors, no more. Each house was built several meters away from the sidewalk and had to have a garden around the house with a certain amount of trees facing the road.

The main street, Herzl Street, ran down the center of the neighborhood from the beautiful building of the “Gymnasia Herzlia” high school to the train tracks of the Jaffa – Jerusalem rail way line. Herzl Street is crossed by the lesser roads, Yehuda Halevi, Lilienblum and Ahad Ha’am Streets. Rothchild Blvd. which also crosses Herzl Street was made into the neighborhood’s park. Below is a map of the historic city of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv, historic city, historic preservation, town planning

Achuzay Bayit Town Plan

 

Of the first 66 houses built in Achuzat Bayit over 30 of them were built by Yoseph Eliyahu Chelouche, who was also one of the 66. Chelouche was also responsible for the construction of the beautiful “Gymnasia Herzliya” the first Jewish High School in the city .

Tel Aviv, historic city, istoric preservation town planning

Yoseph Eliyahu Chelouche

 

Tel Aviv, historic city, historic preservation, town planning

Gymnasia Herzliya

Commercial Activity in Tel Aviv

No commercial activity was allowed in the houses. The historic city of Tel Aviv was to be a residential neighborhood only. The above rules were the precursor to the zoning laws of the city that would be enacted in the future during the British Mandate.

The houses were finished within a few months. A year later the name of the neighborhood was changed to “Tel Aviv” the Hebrew translation of the title of Herzl’s utopian book “Altnoyland” (Old new land).

The Growth of Tel Aviv

The success of Tel Aviv spread to the neighboring lands. More land was purchased and settled. The settlers formed companies whose sole purpose was to buy up land around Jaffa for future neighborhoods. This meant that from a town planning perspective, Tel Aviv did not, indeed it could not, always adhere to basic town planning rules. Land was bought where it was available and then settled.  Not always did the streets and buildings jive with the neighborhood of Tel Aviv, although they merged with Tel Aviv eventually and were governed by the same committee.

In order to have a beautifully planned out city one needs to have a large supply of land.  In that manner, streets, houses and public buildings can be mapped out in a thoughtful and well planned manner. Tel Aviv did not have that luxury. Its first neighborhoods were built wherever they could be built and under a Turkish Regime that had no town planning on its mind.

Tel Aviv: The Township

It was not until the early 1920’s, during the time of the British Mandate that good town planning rules were put into effect and laws were enacted to ensure this. At this time Tel Aviv was recognized as a township and was able to govern itself. The first person to serve as mayor of Tel Aviv was Meir Dizengoff.

Tel Aviv, historic city, historic preservation, town planning

Meir Dizengoff

This also meant that since Tel Aviv was a legal entity it could take loans, purchase land and do some real town planning. This is exactly what happened in the 1920’s and afterwards when Tel Aviv acquired more land and hired the services of a town planner (Patrick Geddes) to prepare a town plan for the northern part of the city.

At this time, the development of Tel Aviv was still governed by events around it. In 1921, Arab rioters attacked Jews in Jaffa. Many Jewish businesses and dwelling in Jaffa were looted and destroyed. This brought the Jews of Tel Aviv and Jaffa to a realization that they can no longer continue to work in Jaffa and that they must separate themselves from Jaffa. This brought on the development of industrial and commercial zones in Tel Aviv. One such zone was “The New Commercial Center”.

Tel Aviv was called the first Hebrew city.  Indeed it was run by Jews and was inhabited only by Jews and the official language was Hebrew.  This was a unique phenomenon in the  beginning of the 20th century . It was this sense of security that brought many more Jews to its shores and made Tel Aviv one of the most important cities in Land of Israel at that time and today.

 

 

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