Can Sheinkin Street Survive a Spiff-Up?

Tel Aviv's Bohemian Redoubt Fears Urban Renewal

Bohemian Haunt: Tel Aviv’s Sheinkin Street has long been a home to colorful hole-in-the-wall spots. The municipal authorities want to spruce it up, but old-timers smell a rat.
gil shefler
Bohemian Haunt: Tel Aviv’s Sheinkin Street has long been a home to colorful hole-in-the-wall spots. The municipal authorities want to spruce it up, but old-timers smell a rat.

By Gil Shefler

Published April 15, 2012, issue of April 20, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Sara Stern recently sat outside Sheinkin Street’s storied Cafe Tamar, which has been serving poppy seed rugelach and creamy cappuccinos to Tel Aviv’s local literati since 1941, and braced for the battle ahead.

“The mayor was here earlier this week,” the blue-haired, 87-year-old proprietor said. “He asked for my approval to renovate the street. I told him, ‘Over my dead body.’”

An old-timer with a handlebar mustache sitting at an adjacent table, part of a colorful group of Cafe Tamar devotees, chimed in to the conversation.

“We’ll all lie down in front of the tractors before we let that happen,” he said.

The two were referring to a plan by City Hall to begin the second phase of a renovation, just after Passover, of a street that has been the heart of hip Tel Aviv for decades. They feared that the expected disruption of business might force establishments like Cafe Tamar, which contribute to Sheinkin’s unique character, to close. With over a dozen shops shuttered along the once prime location, the fears are not without justification.

“It’s 17:16 [5:16 p.m.] right now, and we’re almost empty,” Stern complained. “It never used to be that way.”

Sheinkin is to Tel Aviv what St. Marks Place is to New York City’s East Village: a bohemian playground where poets, posers, fashionistas and Rastas have met and mingled for years. But recently the area has undergone considerable changes. It’s not quite gentrified; small businesses — designer boutiques, cozy cafes, falafel joints and crowded kiosks — still outnumber international outlets, like Nike and Diesel, that have set up shop. But almost all agree it has lost some of its luster because of high rents and the rise of other trendy neighborhoods, like nearby Florentine.

“It’s just not what it used to be 15 years ago,” said Ido Nuri, owner of The Bold and the Fruitful, a juice store on Sheinkin. “It needs a new shtick.”

Enter Tel Aviv’s municipality.

Last November, it tore up the lower section of Sheinkin between Allenby and Melchett streets and gave the street a badly needed facelift.

When the street reopened on April 2 — just in time for Passover — it sported a new look. Gone is much of the grit that was also part of its old glory. The car lane is paved with neat gray cobblestones imported from China; the pavement is wider and can accommodate more pedestrians; spaced LED lights line the sidewalks, and there is even a bike lane.

In addition, on Tuesdays and Fridays, Sheinkin will close to vehicular traffic and turn into an open market.

The renovation marks a welcome change for some, including Tomer Yaron, owner of eyewear store Mishkafei Sheinkin, who was full of praise for the municipality’s initiative.

“It looks very European,” he said. “Hopefully this will bring in more shoppers and tourists.”

But not everyone is as enthusiastic, despite a municipality representative’s claim that the renovation will bolster business once it’s completed in early 2013. Chaim, the ultra-Orthodox owner of a Judaica store who asked not to give his full name, predicted that the renovations will do little to rejuvenate the neighborhood or to bring customers to his store.


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!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • 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.