by David Jonas Bardin
Tel Aviv is a Mediterranean city which my wife Livia and I rarely visited when we lived in Jerusalem 40 years ago, and only briefly since then, in the course of multi-venue tours. We remedied that in August, when we spent a week’s vacation there, staying a block away from Tel Aviv’s sea-front promenade – the Tayelet – at a modern, family-style hotel with a balcony view of the sea.
We watched the sun set from the Tayelet or adjacent restaurants where we dined – usually outdoors in a sea breeze once the blazing sun sank low.
Livia, who grew up in San Francisco, can’t get enough of the sea. We strolled south and north on the Tayelet, sharing broad, patterned paving with bikers, joggers, and walkers of diverse age, physical condition, size, shape, speech, ethnicity, and dress (for land, sand, or sea). We saw parents and children, other groups, individuals. Most were secular, some religious. They were talking, playing, singing and dancing. Tel Aviv’s Tayelet promenade is not to be missed.
My brother Hillel Bardin and his wife Anita, who live in Jerusalem, introduced us to the redeveloped Namal Tel Aviv (“Port of Tel Aviv”) farther north. There, the promenade turns into a boardwalk of curving planks – imitating sand dunes on which Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 as a northern suburb of Jaffa. Here we dined where the promenade narrowed and the beach gave way to boulders pounded by surf.
We so liked the Namal that we returned early next morning, before the crowds, enjoying sunlit surf and the carousel.
It reminded me of family connections to Palestine seafaring. My father, Shlomo Bardin, founded the Haifa Nautical School (which became Israel’s Merchant Marine Academy) in 1938. My mother, Ruth Jonas Bardin, designed the Palestine Maritime League’s logo – shaping its 3-letter acronym in Hebrew (ח-י-ל) to resemble an ancient ship – in 1937.
Tel Aviv’s port – the Namal – was built in the 1930s after a Palestinian Arab uprising and general strike demanding an end to immigration of Jewish refugees from Europe closed the Port of Jaffa. It operated commercially until the 1960s and was recently developed as a recreation, shopping, nightlife venue.
As a boy in the 1940s, I had heard about the building of that port, but had not seen it. Seeing its revival with my brother was a high point of our trip.
We also enjoyed serene islands in the midst of Tel Aviv’s bustling commercial, cultural, financial, governmental, recreational and tourism areas. I especially liked (and photographed) Bialik Street and nearby Meir Park.
Bialik House exterior (center, with palm trees in front). In the background is TA City Museum on Kikar Bialik (Bialik Square).
Well inland, we visited restored Sarona, originally a western suburb of Jaffa established by German Knights Templars in 1870s.
Tel Avivians proved helpful and friendly – not just hospitality professionals but also strangers, like a lady at an ATM outside a bank closed for the day and a man using a laundromat.
Four times during our Tel Aviv stay we heard “Code Red” sirens (which sounded like WWII sirens of my boyhood). We joined others in shelters. “Iron Dome” is an amazing military interception technology designed to protect Israel from most rocket attacks intended to kill people and destroy structures. Its success allowed us to enjoy our vacation despite attempts by Hamas to disrupt it. Communities to the south, nearer Gaza, were attacked many times more often and sustained some hits. We felt safe in Tel Aviv.