You may recall from an earlier post that my Grandma Frances visited Israel in 1935. She was 19 at the time, and she sailed with her mother from New York to Tel Aviv-Yaffo to visit her Aunt Jean, who had married a Palestinian Jew (Jean and her family later left Pre-State Israel and settled permanently in the United States). Here again (at right), is the photo of my grandmother posing with her aunt and nephew in front of their home on Yehuda Halevi Street in Tel Aviv.
I had always wondered what Tel Aviv was like back in 1935 when my grandmother first laid eyes on it. I had seen photographs of Tel Aviv in its earliest years (the city was founded in 1909 and is celebrating its centennial this year) and in the 1940’s and 1950’s (Robert Capa took some really good ones in 1948-1949 during and right after the War of Independence). I had also seen pictures my father and his parents had taken on their trips to visit relatives in Givatayim (a town just to the East of Tel Aviv and which today is part of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area) in the early 1960’s. What I was missing was more images of the Tel Aviv that my grandmother visited as a young woman not yet out of her teens.
Thanks to increased interest in Tel Aviv history in this, its centennial year, there are short films of archival footage available on YouTube. The scenes in the first film below are exclusively from the 1930’s (and in color yet!), and the footage in the second one appears to cover a broader span of time. Tel Aviv truly was a beautiful, orderly and clean European-style city of Bauhaus architecture, genuinely deserving of its nickname: The White City. I am still an admirer of the first Hebrew city and enjoy spending time in it, but like anyone who has been there in recent decades, I have noticed that Tel Aviv ain’t what it used to be. Sure, many of the crumbling concrete structures and soot-stained facades are being refurbished and gentrified, and there is a boom in new construction going on. Nonetheless, I can’t help but echo the sentiments of the guy who asked in the comment he posted on YouTube after watching the 1930’s film: “What the hell happened?”
And for those of you sufficiently intrigued so as to want to see more films from the early days of Tel Aviv, here are two more films for your viewing pleasure. Both were produced by the Tel Aviv Municipality and have a newsreel/public service (and dare I say propaganda?) feel to them. The first is from the 1930’s and stars the city’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff. The second was produced for the city’s Jubilee year and showcases the various municipal services offered to residents.
Tzfi’ah ne’ima (pleasant viewing)!
© 2009 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.