Discovering Israel's Not-So-Old History

A Second Look at Forgotten Colonial-Era Architecture

Amenable Almshouse: Montefiore’s Almshouse is a good example of colonial-era architecture, which is often overlooked among Israel’s cultural treasures.
almog/wikicommons
Amenable Almshouse: Montefiore’s Almshouse is a good example of colonial-era architecture, which is often overlooked among Israel’s cultural treasures.

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Published December 13, 2011, issue of December 16, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

For nearly 50 years, from its debut in 1892 until 1948, the Jaffa terminus, at the other end of the line, was the centerpiece of international trade, its campus of customhouses filled to the rafters with all manner of goods. But then it languished for nearly as long, the victim of an altered landscape and newer modes of transportation. In 2010, the facility, renamed HaTachana, the Station, reopened as a public space of shops, eateries and cultural outlets. Think of it as the equivalent of New York City’s South Street Seaport or Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, only better and livelier.

When I visited in November, HaTachana was host to a series of fashion events. Amid the restored stone buildings and remnants of railroad track dating back 100-plus years, a huge outdoor video screen projected oversized images of a runway on which models paraded the latest sartorial trends. Incongruity and wonder: boon companions, once again.

Coming full circle, I stayed at a beautifully appointed hotel in Tel Aviv that also bore the name of Montefiore. Like the revitalized Mishkenot Sha’ananim, it grew out of a brand-new way of thinking, a reassessment of the city’s patrimony. Not too far from Sderot Rothschild, the expansive, tree-lined boulevard in the heart of Tel Aviv where last summer’s protests took place, this establishment is housed in an elaborately styled building whose rounded turrets and fanciful iron balconies conjure up visions of an orientalized Paris.

When first built in the early 1920s, 36 Montefiore Street was probably the dernier cri in architectural stylishness. But over the years, as modernism took hold of the Tel Aviv street, it stuck out like a sore thumb. Soon enough, the building and others like it came to be shunned as unwanted and unwelcome reminders of the old-fashioned and the diasporic.

But happily, that’s no longer the case. A new generation of Israelis now recognizes, makes use of and even celebrates the built environment it has inherited. Rescuing almshouses, railroad stations and urban apartment buildings from the dustbin of history, these Israelis have given them — and us — a second chance.


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!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.