Tel Aviv: More Than Just Nightclubs

Tel Aviv is more than just about restaurants and nightclubs. It also has a rich Jewish religious history.

Tags: Tel Aviv
Elad Benari ,

A Tel Aviv building
A Tel Aviv building

The city of Tel Aviv, well-known for its restaurants, nightclubs, and other such attractions which make it “the city that never sleeps,” can also be a tourist attraction from a Jewish point of view. Tel Aviv has about 500 synagogues, 350 of which are still active and which hold daily prayer services.

The streets of the first Hebrew city, Tel Aviv, are too narrow to contain everything that is woven in the city, both above and below ground. It is only when one takes a quiet tour of the city’s streets that one can learn about its holy Jewish history.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, zts"l, Israel's first Chief Rabbi, began his many years as the leader of religious Zionism as the rabbi of Yafo, Tel Aviv.

According to Chaim Galis, who conducts tours of the religious aspect of Tel Aviv, “A lot of famous Hassidic leaders preferred to come to Tel Aviv.”

Galis’ tours take one to the homes of intellectuals such as Bialik, Tchernichovsky and Bezalel, as well as to synagogues and Hassidic courtyards which still function in Tel Aviv.

Galis, who leads the tour into one such Hassidic courtyard, talks about one of the city’s chief rabbis, to whom a statement was attributed that Tel Aviv is holier than Jerusalem.  “In Tel Aviv you will not find a mosque or [buildings with] crucifixes on the street, so it is holier than Jerusalem,” the rabbi said.

The tour takes one to the resting place of Tel Aviv’s first chief rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Hacohen Aronson zts”l, who is buried in the historic cemetery on Trumpeldor Street. As a cohen [descendant of Moses' brother, Aaron,  a cohen is not allowed to be in the presence of the dead which makes him unable to perform rituals according to halakha], the rabbi was buried near the fence and a narrow dug is opened once a year to allow his family to visit his resting place.

Of course, the city of Tel Aviv is also important to Israel’s history as a state. Thus for example, on 16 Rothschild Boulevard one can visit the very hall where the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948.

The building is now a museum with a permanent exhibit which surveys the historical background of the establishment of the State of Israel. The exhibit includes photographs, maps, newspapers and audiovisual means, all of which reconstruct the struggle for independence: from the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, the UN decision from November 29, 1947, the preparations for Israel’s new self-government , the attitude of the United States to the declaration of the Jewish State, the day on which Israel’s independence was proclaimed and the subsequent War of Independence.

A visit to the museum includes: viewing a documentary that tells the events of the period before the proclamation of the state, hearing stories from behind the scenes which depict the events surrounding the announcement of statehood, listening to an audio recording of the declaration speech by David Ben Gurion, and listening to a recording of the national anthem Hatikvah as it was sung following the declaration.