Israeli Historic Preservation as an Answer to Anti Semitism
Pansek's Passage, Tel Aviv, Historical building
Pansek’s Passage – The First Commercial Building in Tel Aviv.
The New Commercial Center Tel Aviv

Do you know where the New Commercial Center of Tel Aviv is?

I am not talking about a new mall or covered street.  I am talking about a whole neighborhood.

The New Commercial Center of Tel Aviv is a whole neighborhood and it is located in what is called today “North Florentine” or “Shuk Levinsky”.

The boundaries of the neighborhood are in the north – Yaffo-Tel Aviv St., in the south – Wolfson Street, to the west – Markolet Street and in the east – Ha’a’liya Street.

Map of New Commercial Center, Tel Aviv

The neighborhood was established in 1921 by a group of Jewish business owners. The driving force behind the establishment of the neighborhood was Menachem Gilutz, one of the founders of Tel Aviv.

At first Gilutz’s idea was rejected by the Tel Aviv committee. However, after a meeting of Jewish businessmen from Jaffa in Gilutz’s house in the beginning of 1921, a new request was made of the Tel Aviv committee to assist them in negotiating and purchasing lands south of the train tracks (which ran parallel to Yehuda Halevi Street). The Tel Aviv committee agreed to assist them in this endeavor.

The negotiations were completed in August of 1921 and construction on the new neighborhood began.

Uniqueness of the Neighborhood

The neighborhood was different from other Tel Aviv neighborhoods in several ways.  The plots of land were smaller, the buildings were taller and attached to the buildings adjacent to them, no space was left for trees or flowers around the buildings and the buildings were of mixed uses – commercial and residential. In the first neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, houses were no more than two floors, they were built on plots of 1000 sq. meters and no commercial activity was allowed in the buildings.  Up till that time Jewish businesses were conducted in Jaffa.  Tel Aviv was a suburb of Jaffa.

The streets of the new neighborhood were arranged octagonally just like most commercial districts are in other cities of the world. The Tel Aviv committee (which in the meantime was established by the British Mandate government as a township in May 1921) extended its water and sewage lines to the neighborhood.  In addition to this, the public transportation to and from Tel Aviv went alongside this neighborhood.

Pre restoration Tel Aviv

The growth of the New Commercial Center of Tel Aviv.

This neighborhood grew as the demand for more buildings grew, especially after the Arab riots of May 1921, in which many Jewish businesses in Jaffa were ravaged and destroyed and many Jews were killed or injured,  causing many Jewish businessmen to move their businesses from Jaffa to the new neighborhood. As time went on other neighborhoods sprang up next to it such as Neve Sha’anan and the Chelnov Neighborhood. A modern market for fruit, vegetables , meat and fish was built nearby called “Shuk ha’aliya. Soon Tel Aviv surrounded Jaffa from the south thereby cutting off it’s expansion. Jaffa became an island surrounded by Jewish settlements, including the town of Bat Yam, just south of Jaffa.

Despite the important role this neighborhood played in the development of Tel Aviv and the surrounding towns (such as Bat Yam ) the original name of the neighborhood has been replaced with such names as North Florentine, Shuk Levinski etc. The name of the New Commercial Center, as well as its history, has been forgotten.

Commercial Center Tel Aviv

This neighborhood houses many beautiful buildings built in the eclectic and international styles, yet many of these buildings are not slated for preservation.

Commercial Center North Florentine

No one remembers the story of the “New Commercial Center” of Tel Aviv. 

If something is not done to preserve this neighborhood in its entirety as a historic district, which is done with many historical districts all over the world, the unique story of this neighborhood , the sense of place and the spirit of the place will be forgotten and lost.

Menachem Gilutz’s was one of the first 66 families who established the neighborhood of Ahuzat Bayit which became Tel Aviv. His home on 24 Ehad Ha’am Street was demolished. Will the building he built in the “New Commercial Center” be demolished as well? Let’s hope not.



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