Key Attractions of Tel Aviv
Eretz Israel Museum
The name of this important museum on the northern edge of the city means ‘Land of Israel’ and it aims to trace 3000 years of material culture through the artefacts found on this very site, as well as examples brought in from other Israeli locations. Constructed around the extensive archaeological site of Tel Kasile, the museum resembles a park and is housed in a dozen separate pavilions, each of which could be viewed as a museum in its own right dealing with a separate aspect of Israel’s material culture and ethnography.
The Glass Pavilion traces the history of glass making from the earliest examples through to the Middle Ages. The Kadman Numismatic Pavilion, tracing the history of various currencies, has an extensive display of coins, while the Ceramics Pavilion has an extensive collection of ancient and traditional pottery.
The Nechustan Pavilion displays exhibits sourced from the Timna copper mines, more famously known as King Solomon’s Mines. There is also a planetarium and an extensive research library open to the public. Visitors are advised to buy a site map upon arrival at the museum, to help navigate their way around the different pavilions.
2 Haim Levanon Street, Ramat Aviv
Transport: Bus 24, 27, 45, 75 or 86.
Opening hours: Sun- Thurs 0900-1500, Fri and Sat 1000-1400.
Tel Aviv Museum
Featuring works from around the world, the Tel Aviv Museum has been the nation’s principal showcase of modern art since the 1930s and was originally housed in the home of the city’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff.
Today, the main part of the museum occupies a large purpose-built structure adjacent to its separate wing, The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art. Another wing was opened last year, along with a Sculpture Garden. In addition to hosting a succession of exhibitions brought from the world’s leading modern art museums, the museum maintains a distinguished permanent collection of European and American art of the 20th century, notably Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali and especially Marc Chagall. The Tel Aviv Museum also serves as a venue for a wide variety of artistic exhibitions and concerts, as well as discussions and debate on a range of cultural topics.
27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, city centre
Transport: Bus 9, 18, 28, 70, 90 or 11.
Opening hours: Mon and Wed 1000-1600, Tues and Thurs 1000-2200, Fri 1000-1400, Sat 1000-1600.
Bet Hatefutsot (Museum of the Jewish Diaspora)
Devoted to the record of Jewish history and migration, particularly since the Jews were expelled by the Romans from Israel (or Judea, as it then was) in AD70, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora provides a unique look into the development and cultural heritage of the Jewish people up until the return to Israel.
On six floors, the museum displays the astonishing diversity of different Jewish communities, also highlighting the common cultural and religious threads that enabled the Jewish people to cling on to their ethnicity and identity for almost 2000 years. Especially enjoyable are the musical sections, in which one can listen to Jewish music from Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities and the rousing songs of Zionist pioneer days.
The museum regularly hosts special exhibits related to the migration and cultural contributions of immigrants. Recent special exhibitions have dealt with the island of Malta, Lithuanian Jewry and the cultural influences on the work of Sigmund Freud.
Tel Aviv University Campus, Klausner Street, Ramat Aviv
Transport: Bus 74, 86, 270, 274, 454, 464, 572, 575, 576 or 604.
Opening hours: Sun-Tues 1000-1600, Wed 1000-1800.
The building that houses Independence Hall is one of Tel Aviv’s original structures, formerly the home of Meir Dizengoff, the city’s first mayor. On 14 May 1948, it served as the venue for the historic declaration that brought the State of Israel into being. The house has since become a museum recalling that momentous day and the events that led up to it.
The building also serves as a museum giving a rousing and patriotic history of Zionism. Among extraordinary displays in the museum are several fascinating historic photographs, showing such moments as the barren sand dunes north of Jaffa being awarded by lot to Jewish settlers. Others record the United Nations in session in November 1947 voting to partition Palestine and the meeting at which David Ben-Gurion announced the creation of the State of Israel.
16 Rothschild Boulevard, south Tel Aviv
Opening hours: Sun-Tues and Thu 0900-1400, Wed 0900-1700, Fri 0900-1300.
Admission: NIS12 (concessions available).
The most enjoyable way to and from Jaffa is on the waterfront walkway from Tel Aviv. Some attractive cafes are set beside the walk as it approaches Jaffa, the tables on their large outdoor terraces positioned for the best views along the coast. For those arriving by car, the entrance to the Old Town is marked by the Ottoman Clock Tower, a small landmark built in 1906 in honour of Palestine’s Turkish ruler, Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Identical towers were built elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire, including the other two most important towns in Ottoman Palestine, Akko and Hebron.
The clock tower serves as one of Jaffa’s main focal points for weekend crowds, who gather around it to socialise in the balmy air or meet up before eating at the many nearby restaurants. Around the corner from the clock tower rise the minaret and domes of Mahmoudiyeh Mosque, constructed by the Turks in 1809 and renovated three years later – with stonework taken from the Roman ruins of Ashkelon and Caesarea.
Across the street, housed in the former 17th-century Turkish Government building, is the Jaffa Museum, with a remarkable collection of artefacts illuminating Jaffa’s long history. A few paces uphill is the pretty Abrasha Park and Kedumim Square, Old Jaffa’s main plaza, dominated by St Peter’s Monastery.
Narrow steps and lanes – named after signs of the Zodiac – zigzag down from here to the historic harbour, busy with traders and mariners for thousands of years but now strangely empty except for tourists sitting at fish restaurants.