Disturbing Yom Kippur prayers at Dizengoff Square
Disturbing Yom Kippur prayers at Dizengoff Squaretomer Naumberg\ Flash 90

Meir Dizengoff was a Zionist leader and politician and the iconic founder and first mayor of Tel Aviv. Dizengoff's actions in the Holy Land were instrumental in the creation of the State of Israel. Born in Russia, he met various Zionist figures and eventually made his way to what was to become the Jewish State after studying engineering at the Sorbonne.

Dizengoff opposed the Uganda Plan for a Jewish state in Africa and became actively involved in land purchases and the establishment of settlement in what was then called Palestine (a geographic term), most notably the city of Tel Aviv, which he founded in 1909.

Dizengoff died in 1936 and so did not live to see the establishment of the Jewish State, but on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel at the Dizengoff residence which he had donated to the city. The building is now a history museum and known as Independence Hall.

There is a monument at Dizengoff House honoring both the 66 original families of Tel Aviv (who drew lots for portions of Achuzat Bayit company's purchased land) of which his was one, as well as a statue of Dizengoff riding his famous horse.

Dizengoff came from a hassidic home and was deeply conscious of the Jewish heritage that gave the Jewish State its raison d'etre and the justification for its establishment as a homeland for the Jews by the League of Nations.

He is memorialized at the famous square named in his honor. A perusal of the proclamation brought below which he issued in 1933, makes it easy to imagine his reaction to the terrible desecration of the 2023 Yom Kippur prayers in his beloved city - with the most shocking one occurring in the square named for him.

The proclamation, issued by the Tel Aviv Municipality under his mayoralty, exhorts citizens to respect the Sabbath(translation follows Hebrew):

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Translation from the Hebrew:

Tel Aviv Municipality, Proclamation no 36:

AGAINST PUBLIC SABBATH DESECRATION

Speakers on public forums, among them the City Council, have turned to Tel Aviv residents, requesting and strongly demanding they refrain from acts of public Sabbath desecration, an activity which insults the feelings of the haredi (at the time a word synonymous with religious, ed.) public in the city and damages the good name of Tel Aviv as a pure Hebrew city as well.

To our sorrow, these words have accomplished very little. We are witnessing intentional public Sabbath desecration. Especially by our youth. Most infuriating is the driving with much noise and blasts of horns on the city streets on bicycles, motorcycles, and the like, sometimes close to synagogues during prayer hours. Some of the city’s cafes – especially those near the beach – ignore the limits placed on them by the city and give commerce free rein, as they do on weekdays.

The situation is both painful and humiliating not only for haredim, but for anyone who wishes to consider Tel Aviv a founding city in Israel, and the continuation of those Jewish centers in the Diaspora which have been stripped of their Jewish content and heritage.

The Tel Aviv Municipality therefore once again turns to citizens and recent newcomers who perhaps are unfamiliar with the city’s customs – and requests that they honor the Sabbath and preserve it from desecration, even without police supervision.


And these are our demands from the public:

1. Public buses, including those belonging to other towns, are requested to refrain from driving on Tel Aviv streets on the Sabbath and holidays.

2. All stores and places of entertainment must be closed from Friday evening to Saturday night. Restaurants and cafes may be open only during the hours set by the municipality in its agreement with the Chief Rabbinate, as clearly stated in the municipal bylaws on Sabbath observance which were passed unanimously by the City Council.

3. All private car and motorbike owners are requested to refrain from riding in the city on the Sabbath and holidays.

4. Non-Jewish wagon drivers and car owners are requested not to drive past synagogues during prayer hours on the Sabbath and holidays.

Remember that the Sabbath has served as the most wonderful unifying national symbol through the generations, and anyone who harms it is harming the unity of Israel.

We hope that the adult and cultured citizenry of our city will understand and take our request to heart, and refrain from causing the disputes and unending resentment between brothers brought on by public Sabbath desecration.

GUARD THE SABBATH AND IT WILL WATCH OVER US!

21 Av 5693, August 11, 1933

M. Dizengoff,

Council Head

Tel Aviv-Municipality

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Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city, was home to many hassidic rabbis when they first came to Israel. In its article in honor of the city's centennial, Jewish Action magazine writes::

"Tel Aviv is the sole large city in Israel that has only Jewish places of worship within its city limits. This factor has drawn many hassidic rebbes to the city throughout its history. Indeed, in the 1950s and ‘60s, there were close to fifty hassidic courts in Tel Aviv.

"Some of the notable hassidic rebbes included the Abir Yaakov of Sadigura, the Rebbe of Boyan-Leipzig and the Tchortkover Rebbe, elder rebbe of the Ruzhiner dynasty. The Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, who arrived in Israel in 1944, shocked his followers by refusing to live in Jerusalem. He is quoted as saying with pride, 'Der heilige Yerushalayim! Der lichtige Tel Aviv!' (The holy Jerusalem! The shining Tel Aviv!) His followers say he opted for Tel Aviv because it did not have any churches, and even in his later years, when he moved to Jerusalem to find more affordable housing for his growing sect, he would sign his name as the 'Rebbe of Tel Aviv.'"

And today? Recently, some of Tel Aviv's residents held demonstrations against a local Religious Zionist Yeshiva's move to a larger building. Some violently desecrated Yom Kippur prayers in various places in the city. Tel Aviv's municipality has come a long way from Meir Dizengoff's respect for tradition to current mayor Ron Huldai's contempt for it. And an even longer way from the first mayor's love of all Jews to "liberal" mayoral candidate Orna Barbivai's recent threat, referring to Orthodox Jews, that "whoever does not toe the line, will be forced out of the city."