Tel-Aviv, the First Cen­tu­ry. Visions, Designs, Actualities

Maoz Azaryahu and S. Ilan Troen, eds.

  • Review
By – July 30, 2012

A splen­did crit­i­cal cel­e­bra­tion of Tel-Aviv’s first hun­dred years, this col­lec­tion of essays reads like a spir­it­ed con­ver­sa­tion across aca­d­e­m­ic dis­ci­plines and across ide­olo­gies. While the pri­ma­ry focus is on the shap­ing of Tel-Aviv up until the found­ing of mod­ern Israel in 1948, there is also a sat­is­fy­ing amount of atten­tion paid to the changed con­di­tions after 1967 and even into the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry. Most peo­ple are not aware of the fact that an inde­pen­dent munic­i­pal­i­ty of Tel-Aviv exist­ed dur­ing the British Man­date peri­od. Like so much else in the Yishuv years, the Zion­ist enter­prise was in the busi­ness of insti­tu­tion-build­ing long before the dec­la­ra­tion of state­hood. The plan­ning and nur­tur­ing of the first new Hebrew-speak­ing city was an impor­tant part of that agen­da. 

The book is neat­ly divid­ed into three sec­tions, His­tor­i­cal Issues”; Lan­guage, Lit­er­a­ture, and Art,” and Plan­ning and Archi­tec­ture.” With­in each sec­tion, the top­ics are remark­ably var­ied. 

Among the issues most fre­quent­ly explored is the rela­tion­ship between the myth­ic or ide­al­ized Tel-Aviv and the actu­al city at dif­fer­ent peri­ods in its growth. Vital­ly con­nect­ed to this con­cern is that of Tel-Aviv’s rela­tion­ship to Jaf­fa. The attempt­ed era­sure of Arab iden­ti­ty in Jaf­fa dur­ing and after the war of inde­pen­dence, and the posi­tion­ing of Tel-Aviv as Jaffa’s north­ern sub­urb, gave way in time to a per­spec­tive from which quick­ly-grow­ing Tel-Aviv became the hub and for­lorn Jaf­fa the exot­ic com­pan­ion, as well as an emblem of the his­tor­i­cal root­ed­ness of the Israeli nation that Tel-Aviv could not be.

Equal­ly engag­ing are the dis­cus­sions of the gap between offi­cial plans for the new city and the actu­al out­comes, which are respon­sive to demo­graph­ic flow, chang­ing goals, and organ­ic socio-eco­nom­ic process­es.

Tight­ly-focused analy­ses, such as the one on Bal­conies of Tel Aviv,” pro­vide fresh per­spec­tives for under­stand­ing this unique and fas­ci­nat­ing city. After­word, illus­tra­tions, index, notes on contributors.

Philip K. Jason is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Eng­lish at the Unit­ed States Naval Acad­e­my. A for­mer edi­tor of Poet Lore, he is the author or edi­tor of twen­ty books, includ­ing Acts and Shad­ows: The Viet­nam War in Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Cul­ture and Don’t Wave Good­bye: The Chil­dren’s Flight from Nazi Per­se­cu­tion to Amer­i­can Free­dom.

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