Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Origins of the State in Tel Aviv

Some have called the city of Tel Aviv “a city that never sleeps.”  Although there are only 500,000 people within the city limits, the entire megalopolis that is Tel Aviv and surroundings is more than 60% of Israel’s population: The density here is among the highest in the world.

This morning we began our touring in earnest with our guide Tzvi, born and bred in Brooklyn, NY, and having immigrated to Israel in 1980.

After a very large tourist-style breakfast for which Israel is very well known, we left the hotel at 8:45 and headed for the start of our understanding of the independence era of Israel’s modern history.  We first arrived at the Ayalon Institute, the scene of a top-secret clandestine operation – in effect from 1945-1949 – to manufacture sufficient quantities of ammunition for Israel’s war of independence.  In an underground bunker 30 X 10 meters, a small and secretive staff worked to produce up to 6,000 bullets a day to supply the needs of Israel’s fledgling army.

Over this factory the Israeli authorities built a bakery and a laundry, which served the needs of the kibbutz where this was located.  The sights, sounds, smells, and supply chain of the ammunition factory were masked by the otherwise routine activities of the bakery and laundry, and the British authorities in charge of the land apparently never discovered this place.

From there we traveled to the old city of Jaffa, which today is part of the Tel-Aviv/Jaffa municipality.  From Jaffa you can see the entire Tel Aviv coastal and inland skyline!

One of the oldest cities in the region (mentioned in the prophetic book of Jonah), today it is a mixture of Jew and Arab, and seemingly able to get along with one another.  In the two stores we visited today, the (Arab) staff people were wearing t-shirts that read “Jews and Arabs Don’t Have to Hate Each Other,” perhaps a sign of some improvement of relations between members of the community.

We then visited Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.  

The center today serves as a historical remembrance of that day, as members help to re-enact the events of history leading up to that fateful moment.  The signing ceremony was very emotional for many, as a dream of 2,000 years was about to be fulfilled.  After the reading of the declaration and the singing of Hatikvah, Israel’s (then new) national anthem, with the accompaniment of an orchestra in black tie that had been assembled for the occasion, we could hear David Ben Gurion’s final words of that moment: “The state of Israel has been established.  This meeting is over.”

Finally we walked along Shenkin Avenue, the site of great fashion shopping (though frankly we did not find very much), along a pedestrian mall housing for this day’s arts and crafts show, then into the Carmel Market for Tel Aviv’s open air fresh fruit and vegetable, meats, sundries, snacks, and alcohol market.  We then retired and prepared for an earlier start for tomorrow’s day, when we leave central Israel and head for the north of the country.

We hope you have enjoyed the photos and the travelogue.

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