Dizengoff and the City

Tel Aviv Urbanist Critic Tamar Berger Shines

By Benjamin Ivry

Published December 17, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

An urbanist discourse is alive and well in Israel, as evidenced by the cultural critic Tamar Berger, who studies Israeli — especially Tel Aviv — space in her acclaimed book “Dionysus at Dizengoff Center” (1998), newly translated into French as “Place Dizengoff” by Actes Sud Publishers by the remarkable Turkish-born writer Rosie Pinhas-Delpuech and long overdue for English translation.

Fully aware of the precedents of Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire as evocative observers of modern city life, Berger, who teaches at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, opened a landmark arts bookstore, “Twentieth Century” decades ago, giving a lift to the trendy, artsy Tel Aviv neighborhood of Sheinkin Street.

She analyzes historical documents relating to a parcel of land containing vineyards and orange groves, belonging to Adib Mahmad Hinawi, an Arab who was mysteriously assassinated in 1939, possibly for being too friendly with Jewish settlers. In 1948 the land was confiscated after Israel’s statehood was proclaimed, becoming the Nordia Quarter, a center for Polish émigrés, as evoked in Yaakov Shabtai’s “Past Continuous” (Zikhron Devarim) and poems by Avoth Yeshurun, the pen name of Ukrainian-born Yehiel Perlmutter.

Addressing the construction of the Dizengoff Center, Berger does not shy away from the heart-wrenching subject of the 1996 suicide bombing there, displaying a stout-heartedness one might expect, since she is married to Israeli documentary filmmaker Avi Mograbi a doughty analyst of local violence and its effects on the population.

“Dionysus at Dizengoff Center” is a key text complementing more formal academic studies like “A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv, and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space” (Stanford University Press, 2006) by Barbara E. Mann, Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In what the translator Pinhas-Delpuech aptly terms a “fascinating psychoanalysis of a highly sensitive terrain,” Berger blends philosophy and political observations and has since produced a second book, equally ripe for English translation, “In the Space Between World and Playing: The Model in Israeli Culture” (2007).

Watch a moment of consumer ecstasy at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center at the opening of a new Apple computer store.

For a more sedate, but charming, pause for coffee at the Dizengoff Center, watch below.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.