Tel Aviv History

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The One Hundredth Birthday of Tel Aviv


     In 1909, sixty Jewish families founded the city of Tel Aviv at the outskirts of Jaffa, an ancient city already named in the Torah. Tel is the Hebrew word for a hill containing archeological, ancient remnants of earlier civilizations. Aviv means spring. Therefore the name of the city connects the ancient to the present.

     The name Tel Aviv is found in the book of Ezekiel 3:15. “Then I came to the exiles in Tel Aviv who lived by the river Kebar and I remained where they lived and I remained there in a state of confusion for seven days.”

       Eleven years after its founding, Tel Aviv had a population of 2,000. That increased to 200,000 in 1948, the year Israel gained its independence. Now, in 2009, the population is 391,300. Jerusalem is far larger, with a population of 747,600.

     Jaffa, directly joined with Tel Aviv, was incorporated into Tel Aviv in 1950. It is very old. Archeologists estimate that Jaffa has been inhabited for 4,500 years. Remnants of dwellings from the iron age (1200-550 BCE) and the bronze age (17th century BCE) were discovered in Jaffa.  Jaffa is mentioned several times in the Bible and is the port from which the prophet Jonah sailed for Tarshish. Jaffa was occupied by numerous conquerors over the centuries. It was destroyed and rebuilt. Until the 19th century Jaffa was quite small. Then European Jews increased the population from 2,500 in 1806 to 17,000 in 1886. 

     Tel Aviv is the home of the Israeli stock exchange as well as numerous scientific research centers. Tel Aviv, unlike Jerusalem, is mostly secular and includes bars, nightclubs, cafés and theaters. Tel Aviv is expensive compared to other Israeli cities.

     In 1931 the Habima theater made Tel Aviv its permanent home. Because Jaffa was the main port of entry for many immigrants to Israel in the early 20th century, Tel Aviv grew considerably during the 1930’s. German Jewish architects,  kicked out of Germany, came to Tel Aviv and built a large number of buildings according to the “Bauhaus” style.

      When the United Nations sought to partition the Holy Land into Jewish and Arab states in 1947, the Arabs rejected that plan because they believed they could kill the entire Jewish population and seize the entire Holy Land. That plan failed.

      Prior to 1949 Tel Aviv was the temporary capital of Israel. Then, in 1949, Jerusalem once more occupied that position. In 1993 Tel Aviv was categorized a world city.

       Arabs, always ready to kill at random, launched suicide attacks on Tel Aviv in 1994, hitting a bus and killing 21 innocent civilians. Another 21 were killed and 100 wounded when Arabs shot into the Dolphin Night Club. In 2006 nine people were murdered by Arabs at a Tel Aviv bus station.

     Tel Aviv has a moderate climate. In the summer months the average temperature is 82 degrees and in the winter 63 degrees.

      The population of Tel Aviv is almost entirely Jewish, although this does not deter the Arabs from claiming that the city ought to be turned over to them.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Women & Social Change in America (2009).

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