Tel Aviv is a mixture of old-world charm and modern leisure. Outside the city center and the fantastic beaches, Neve Tzedek neighborhood and the Old Station compound are a lovely change of pace, perfect for a stroll down history lane
Neve Tzedek is full of surprises, from history to art and anything in between. All you have to do is keep your eyes open, set aside at least half a day to explore this charming neighborhood and enjoy a different side of Tel Aviv.
Neve Tzedek was the first Jewish neighborhood outside Jaffa, established in 1887. Shortly after, a train station was built nearby, connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem, and as a result bringing in a boost of commerce and culture to the area. Over the years, the city expanded and stretched further north, and modern architecture skipped the old neighborhood.
Modern Neve Tzedek has embraced the narrow stone-cobbled alleyways and low houses. Soon enough, young artists recognized the potential of this enchanting setting, and boutiques, quaint cafes, galleries and small shops began popping up every which way. Today, Neve Tzedek is a bustling artistic center with so much to offer.
Start your independent tour at the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater (5 Yehieli St.). In 1986, three 19th century school buildings were renovated and converted into what soon became Israel’s premier center for contemporary dance. The center is home to the Inbal Dance Theater and the internationally renowned Bat Sheva Dance Company. Casual visitors can come inside and ask to visit the studios. The courtyard is adorned with beautiful artwork by David Tartakover, depicting the history of the neighborhood. Stop for a bite and coffee around before you move on.
Head Northeast on Neve Shalom St. towards the beautifully preserved Writers’ House (21 Rokach St.). Famous Israeli writers Brenner, Aharonovitz and Baron had lived here while running the weekly magazine Hapoel Hatzair. Today the building houses the Nahum Gutman Museum of Art (open Mon-Sat), featuring works by the award-winning Israeli painter, as well as rotating exhibitions by other local artists.
On your way to the Writers’ House, you will pass by a shabby, rundown building. This humble abode is Rabbi Kook House (21 Achva St.), the past dwelling of the founding father of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Rabbi Kook was an avid Zionist who came to Israel in the first decade of the 20th century; his home in Neve Tzedek was a site of pilgrimage for students and scholars.
Further down is Rokach House (36 Shimon Rokach St.), another one of the 48 original houses of Neve Tzedek. This was the home of Shimon Rokach, one of the neighborhood’s founders and initiator of the Ezrat Zion organization, which helped countless Jews immigrate to Israel. The house is now a museum (open Thu-Sat) dedicated to his life and work, featuring period clothing, furniture, household items and photography.
Rokach Street converges with Chelouche Street, where you will find Beit Abulafia (Chelouche 23-30), also known as Chelouche House. Mrs. Abulafia had rented her home to a young man by the name Shmuel Czaczkes, an aspiring writer. Later known by his adopted Hebrew name, Shai Agnon, he became one of the most celebrated authors of the Hebrew language and a Nobel Prize winner. The house is now a private residence.
If Israeli military history is your cup of tea, head towards the beach to the IDF History Museum (Yehezkel Kaufmann St., open Sun-Thu). The museum unravels the history of Israel from the days of the British Mandate, with a collection of authentic weaponry used throughout the years accompanied by comprehensive explanations, creating an informative narrative of the state’s history.
By now you will definitely be craving some rest for your aching feet, and rightfully so. It’s time to end your tour, and what better place than the First Station Compound? The first train station in the Jerusalem-Jaffa line was opened in 1892. The compound included a terminal for ticket purchasing and waiting, and the freight terminal located beside it. On the other side of the track is Vila Viland, a Templar residence built by the German Wieland family in 1890. Shortly thereafter, the family opened a building materials factory, strategically utilizing the adjacent railway. In 2004, all of buildings were carefully renovated, true to their original form. They now house cafés, restaurants, bars and various shops, as well as a multisensory exhibit in a historic train carriage.