On the Coast of Tel Aviv - מוזיאון ארץ ישראל

On the Coast of Tel Aviv

Fourteen kilometers of a strip of sand, 13 beaches and two ports epitomize Tel Aviv from its early days until it developed into a trademark. Tel Aviv turned the sand dunes, the waves, the pulsating beaches, into a lifeforce that identifies the city: freedom, daring, a vivacious and vibrant spirit, and openness to the world. the narrow strip of shore joins both parts of the city: the first Jewish city, new and modern, and ancient Yafo, Arus El Bachar ((عروس البحر , bride of the sea), an older and very different city.
In honor of Tel Aviv’s 110th anniversary, MUSA, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, will show a special photography exhibition – the Tel Aviv Sea. Photographs of the city commence with Yafo and its photographers – the pilgrims, Arabs, Armenians and Jews, before Ahuzat Bayit was founded. The exhibition shows the visual and historical fluctuations as they were captured in the lenses of photographers and artists from the beginning of photography in Palestine, laying the foundations of the documentary, political and unique artistic angles of the language of photography. Iconic photos were selected for the exhibition alongside video clips, offering a variety of multi-layered aspects and cultural languages. Visitors are invited to look, listen, and speak the Tel Avivian “beach language.”

In the late 19th century, when the visionary of the Jewish State, Theodor Herzl, visited Palestine, he came through Yafo – the main gate to the country. In 1909 Ahuzat Bayit was built on the sand dunes north of Yafo, where the city of Tel Aviv grew. Despite the official division between the Jewish and Arab cities at the time, the center of first city emblem, designed by Nahum Guttman, is the lighthouse of the Yafo port.

The first urban plan for Tel Aviv, consolidated during the British Mandate, regarded the sea as an asset. The plan designed commercial streets stretching from north to south, crisscrossed by wide boulevards, beginning at the sea. In 1936, following the riots of the Arab Revolt, the Tel Aviv port was built, and from then on two ports and two lighthouses stood at the two extremes of the strip of shore that separated the two cities. When the War of Independence broke out in 1948 most of the residents of Yafo fled their city by sea, sailing for Beirut and Gaza. After the establishment of the State of Israel, Tel Aviv and Yafo were united and became one city with one sea.

Tel Aviv, the city that emerged from the sands, turned its back to the sea, and then reversed direction: in the 1970s the strip of shore was blocked by a line of hotels and a boardwalk. Kikar Atarim and the Charles Clore Park were built on the ruins of the Arab-Jewish Manshiya neighborhood. In the early 2000s, the return to the sea was put into action by constructing a park on the Yafo slope, which was built on a swamp – an island of garbage and ruined buildings that piled up west of the Ajami Neighborhood – an area whose streets are still spread out like a fish skeleton on the Tel Aviv shore.

From the early days of Tel Aviv, the city’s seashore was a location for spending leisure time and a place for swimming in the summer months. The sea is a significant component in the lives of the city’s residents, and Tel Aviv’s international image is that of a city on the sea. Over the years the seashore turned into a touristic trademark and attraction. Recently Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai called Tel-Aviv-Yafo “the lighthouse city,” due to its liberal atmosphere and an ideological mark which serves as a guideline for the State of Israel.

participant photographers

Stills: The American Colony, Zvi Oron, Ronen Idelman, Victor Enrich, Ephraim Erde, Felix Bonfils, Peter Bergheim, Deganit Berest, Vincent Junior, Gadi Danon, Lior Hershkovitz, Rudy Visenstein, Hila Zahavi, Oren Ziv, Yad Ben Zvi, Yanai Yechiel, Vardi Kahana, Shimon Lev, Felix Lupa, Alex Levac, Asaf Molcho, Merav Marudi, Orna Naor, Michal Neeman, Liora Neiman, Shlomo Narinsky, Avraham Suskin, Asaf Evron, Hans Pinn, the Pardesia Group, Barry Friedlander, Dana Freidlander, Alex Farfuri, Alexandra Kurbatov, Shimon Korbman, Margot Sadeh, Yigal Shem Tov, Tamir Sher.

Video and computer images: Anat Even, Yael Bartana, Meirav Heiman and Yosi Ben Shushan, Hila Lulu Lin, Hen Leopold, Sheli Federman