The name Tel Aviv is Hebrew for "Hill of Spring"; literally, tel is an archaeological site, and aviv means spring renewal or rebirth, so the name that the Zionists gave to this city symbolized their dream for a reborn Jewish homeland--a dream that eventually came true with the granting of Israeli statehood in 1948.
Tel Aviv is also home to the White City, a collection of 4,000 Bauhaus buildings, the largest of any city worldwide. When the Nazis closed the Bauhaus school in Germany in 1933, many Jewish architects fled to Palestine to join their compatriots who had already immigrated to Tel Aviv in the 1920s. These architects took advantage of the absence of established building conventions to begin building in the Bauhaus tradition, which emphasized functionality and inexpensive building materials. Of course, the style required adaptation to the extremes of the Mediterranean and desert climate: white and light colors to reflect the heat; walls to protect against the sun; small recessed windows to limit the glare; long narrow balconies, shaded by the balcony just above, to catch the sea breeze; flat roofs to provide a common area where residents could gather and cool off in the evenings; pillars to elevate the buildings and allow wind to blow beneath and cool the apartments; garden plots among the structures to encourage self-sufficient agriculture. Despite these innovations, the concrete buildings still become extremely hot during the summers, so the residents of Tel Aviv adopted the Mediterranean custom of strolling in the parks in the evenings, a custom that continues to this day. UNESCO proclaimed the White City a World Cultural Heritage site in 2003, "an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century."
These two photos show the view of the beach from our hotel--it was a relaxing way to begin our visit to Israel and to rest from our flight before heading out on foot to tour the environs.
Tel Aviv's importance to modern Zionism cannot be understated. As a political secular movement, Zionism really began with the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in the late 19th century, who encouraged Jews to migrate to Palestine. Zionism has two pillars: religious tradition, which provides a link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, or the Promised Land; and secular nationalism, which seeks a homeland where Jews can be safe from antisemitism. Zionism was but one of many Jewish political movements in Europe but became the dominant one after the Holocaust. Since the 1st century C.E., most Jews have lived in exile (having been forced out of Jerusalem/Judea by the Romans)--an event known as the Diaspora. In 1800 only 6,700 Jews lived in Palestine--about 2.4% of the total population. Jewish immigration to Palestine really started in earnest in 1882, with several aliyahs, or waves, occurring until the largest influx in the 1930s and 1940s, despite Britain's efforts to control the numbers of Jews allowed into the British mandate. By 1947 the Jewish population of Palestine was 630,000--about 32.5% of the total population. A remarkable change in just 150 years.
Like much of Israel, Tel Aviv has not escaped political violence. In recent years, suicide bombers have attacked buses and nightclubs in Tel Aviv; here is one of the memorials to the civilians killed in one of the suicide bombings:
Israeli politicians have not been immune from violence either, and Tel Aviv is the site of one of the saddest events in Israeli history.
Upon the stone marker, one can see that a passerby has placed a smaller stone, in remembrance of the deceased peacemaker.