Children follow the new Independence Trail in Tel Aviv. (photo by Ricky Rachman)
In honour of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, the city of Tel Aviv has introduced a new interactive walking route that takes visitors past 10 of the city’s heritage sites. All of the sites are connected in some way with the Declaration of Independence and the beginnings of Tel Aviv itself.
The trail is just under a kilometre long and features a golden track that illuminates at night. The route begins at the first kiosk of Tel Aviv, at the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street. The walking route brings two stories to life that are central to the story of modern Israel: the birth of Tel Aviv, the first Jewish, self-governed, Hebrew-speaking city, in 1909; and how, in 1948, Tel Aviv would make way for the birth of the state of Israel, fulfilling a millennia-old dream.
Visitors can follow the route with a mobile app, or can guide themselves using a map that features information in eight different languages.
The building of the trail demanded extensive infrastructure work, including the implementation of a unique lighting system that allows visitors to walk along the trail at night. The Independence Trail was inspired by the Freedom Trail in Boston, one of the most popular heritage sites in the United States.
The Independence Trail’s 10 sites are:
The first kiosk was established in 1910, and quickly became a central meeting place. During the 1920s, about 100 kiosks operated in the city under the Association of the Kiosk and Soft Drink Store Owners.
Nahum Gutman Fountain: Nahum Gutman was an Israeli artist who grew up in Tel Aviv along with the new city, and whose work reflected the simplicity of the early days of “the First Hebrew City.” An illustrator, photographer and writer, Gutman was awarded the Israel Prize in 1978. His mosaics around the fountain tell us the history of Jaffa, the ancient port city from which Tel Aviv was born.
Akiva Aryeh Weiss’s house: Weiss was the founder of the Ahuzat Bayit neighbourhood, which evolved into Tel Aviv. As president of the then newly established building society, Weiss presided over the 1909 lottery in which 66 Jewish families drew numbers written on seashells to determine the allocation of lots in the about-to-be established city.
Shalom Meir Tower: former site of the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, the first Hebrew-language high school. The building on Herzl Street was a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962, when it was razed for the construction of the tower. Its destruction sparked widespread recognition of the importance of conserving historical landmarks. Today, Shalom Meir Tower is home to a visitors centre about the history of Tel Aviv, which is open, free to the public, on weekdays.
The Great Synagogue was the spiritual centre of Tel Aviv, located in the heart of the city’s business centre. The building features a huge dome, elaborate lighting fixtures and magnificent stained glass windows.
The Haganah Museum is located in what was the home of Eliyahu Golomb, the founder and de facto commander of the Haganah. From 1930 to 1945, the Haganah’s secret headquarters were located in this house. Golomb’s residential room, his office on the ground floor, as well as the exterior of the house, were fully preserved. The museum will be open to the public free of charge during 2018, to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Bank of Israel’s Visitors Centre, at the historical headquarters of Israel’s national bank, presents the history of the financial system in Israel. It features an extensive exhibit of banknotes and coins issued from pre-state days to the present. The centre also will be open to the public free of charge until the end of the year.
Tel Aviv Founders Monument is dedicated to the men and women who established Tel Aviv in the first half of the 19th century. It is a quiet spot, dotted with benches and centred around a small pool and fountain.
Statue of Meir Dizengoff, honouring the first mayor of Tel Aviv, who was known for riding his horse from his home – which is now Independence Hall – to City Hall, which was then located on Bialik Street. The statue of Dizengoff on his horse was created by artist David Zondolovitz.
Independence Hall: Dizengoff dedicated his home for the establishment of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In the home, on May 14, 1948, the ceremony of the Declaration of Independence took place.
In addition to the Independence Trail, visitors will be able to enjoy, until the end of December, the Israeli Democracy Pavilion, which features a presentation about the story of the Declaration of Independence. The project, which is a collaboration between the Israel Democracy Institute and the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, takes place in a majestic pavilion on Rothschild Boulevard, in which visitors are shown a film in 360 degrees, highlighting important moments of Israeli democracy. The pavilion is surrounded by arcades reflecting the diversity of Israeli society. Selected quotes from the Declaration of Independence are showcased on the pavilion’s arches and visitors are invited to sign a pledge to uphold the core values of the declaration. Entry to the film is free of charge, and the pavilion is expected to travel to other cities in Israel next year.