Glimpses of Israel - Tel Aviv

by Joseph Hunting

Seventy years ago the coast line between the ancient ports of Caesarea and Jaffa was a strip of desolate sandy waste land. The Turks had controlled the Holy Land for four centuries and in 1909 Jewish residents of Jaffa pegged out streets among the sand dunes about two miles north of Jaffa in an attempt to live their lives in a measure of freedom. With great imagination, courage and vision the pioneers called their dream city Tel Aviv, meaning Hill of Spring. Sand-dunes, privation and hardship were preferable to being second-class citizens under the harsh Turkish regime. And so was born the city that has become home to more than half a million Jews.

Visitors to Tel Aviv that escape Europe's harsh winter will find most shops shut on the Sabbath, but if the weather is warm Tel Avivians and tourists alike find the excellent beach a place to jog, play bat tennis or to just relax as Moses commanded. But if you think life is dull in Tel Aviv on the Sabbath I suggest you take a stroll along Dizengoff Street, when the Sabbath ends, after sundown. It is then the whole city suddenly comes to life. Life in Tel Aviv has been likened to Israel's pulse beat. It is certainly a strong beat that indicates robust health.

In ancient times nearby Jaffa was the port from which pilgrims and traders disembarked to begin the slow and often hazardous ascent to Jerusalem in the Judean hills. Today jet liners from every point of the compass streak across Tel Aviv to land at nearby Lod airport. Not even the most vivid imagination amongst those who settled this city seventy years ago would have envisaged the transformation that has taken place. Sky-scrapers, ultra-modern hotels, traffic jams and all the sophistication of a modern city seem quite out of place with the language that was spoken in this land 3,000 years ago, and excavations at Tel el Qasila on the outskirts of Tel Aviv that date back to the time when the Philistines occupied this strip of coast and warred against King David. But this is Israel, where the past and present are never far apart.