By Tom Brennan
This is a tale of two Israeli cities, one is very old and the other comparatively new. Both teach us important things about Israel’s history and what has given The Land its resilience and stability. Joppa (Jaffa) is an ancient seaport. It was a Canaanite city when Israel returned after 400 years in captivity in Egypt. This was the port through which King Hiram sent the cedars and other building materials for the Temple in Jerusalem. But before that time, the prophet Jonah began his journey to Nineveh here ;in Joppa Peter raised the good benefactor, Tabitha from death, and here Peter saw that G-d had declared the non-Jews to be worthy of His Word in a vision of kosher and not kosher creatures on a sheet.
Joppa was the scene of many Biblical events, it was a valuable port for trade and commerce and saw a constant movement of people, goods and ideas. The architecture and archaeological sites connect us with so many persons from Scripture that a visit is absolutely essential to understanding how people traded, traveled and moved about the Mediterranean. Israel was no isolated backwater. Israel has been a key location and crossroads to almost anywhere in the ancient world and often a prize to be desired and taken by ambitious kings and rulers from Egyptian Pharaohs to Roman Emperors. You can see the handiwork of conquerors in the stones of Jaffa.
Nearby this historic city is a newer one. At one time it was an open piece of ground but one that was to be filled by vision and energy. In 1909 a group of the first Zionists, idealists and intellectuals gathered together to look at this open ground near the ancient city and began to fill it with their dreams of what a new city would look like.
The new city wold be called Ahuzat Bayit, and would be a modern suburb of ancient Joppa. But this would be more than just a modern suburb, a bedroom community. It would be planned and thought out as a place to use modern city building techniques for a livable community. Ancient cities in Israel are usually a mix of periods from ruins to 20th century, in many cases they are open museums where shopping centers ad apartment houses are next door to churches, Ottoman fortress walls and Roman pavements. The new city would use the most up to date theories of how to live and work in a an environment hat was intended to be used for life, work and recreation. It would be fresh and new, intellectually and socially inviting and still have close by the inspirational heritage of Israel’s past. The roots were spreading and growing.
Sir Patrick Geddes, a noted Scottish city planner and architect was invited in 1925 to advise on how the new city should be designed from the ground up. The contemporary ideas of city design in the 1920’s promoted the garden city. The layout had defined zones for functions such as work, commerce and living was considered the best choice for a balanced lifestyle. Easy access to planted areas where relaxation and gatherings could take place, open space between structures and a walk-able lifestyle were considered the best environment to encourage ideas and creativity. In fact, the walk-able community is making a comeback in many places.
In 1932 the growth of Tel Aviv became accelerated as Jews fled the Fascist oppression in Europe. The popular Bau Haus, “white city” style began to grow in the city’s architecture. The modernistic white and geometric forms of apartments and structures gave a unique appearance to the city, one that endures today. Tel Aviv drew the population that had skills and influence in economics and culture and it became The Land’s intellectual capital.
By 1950 The ancient city of Joppa had merged administratively with the new city of Tel Aviv. There was a lull in development and intellectual life as the Nation went through the growth process. By the 1980’s a return to Tel Aviv was in progress as a gradual migration back to the re-discovered city began. Today Tel-Aviv is once again enjoying its role as a cultural and artistic capital just as Jerusalem holds to its role as the historic and religious heart of the Nation.
A visit to Tel Aviv-Yafo would help travelers see another chapter of Israel’s history. Joppa (Yafo) has been the scene of miracles and the port of entry for the materials to build the Temple. Tel-Aviv has become an open air museum of a part of art and architectural history to which the refugees of the 1930’s gave their intellectual talents instead of wasting them on a Europe that was descending into Fascism and eventual defeat. Israel has so many places with unique lifestyles, often right next door to each other. Tel Aviv is one of the most vibrant and exciting.Share this page with your friends
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