Israel's Good Name

Open House Tel Aviv

In Central Israel, Israel on June 4, 2017 at 10:39 AM

Some Fridays ago my friend Adam and I took part in the annual Open House event in the sprawling metropolis of Tel Aviv. The concept of Open House is to make available houses and buildings that are generally closed to the public, and I knew I had to seize the opportunity. And so, I mapped out a feasible day-trip incorporating a handful of interesting sites all located in the Yafo (Jaffa) area, more or less. Leaving Givat Shmuel early in the morning, we arrived by bus at Jaffa Port for the first item on our list – a guided tour of the port. Having arrived early we were free to explore the area before the tour began, so we watched a night heron fiddle with a fish he had caught while a jealous little egret and an opportunistic hooded crow attempted to steal his catch.

Night heron with fish

After some exploring, we joined the tour gathered together beside Hangar 2 and we began the day in its official capacity. The guide proceeded to give us explanations of the port, its location and its historical importance – being one of the oldest cities in the world. Unfortunately, I had already visited and researched Jaffa Port, as seen HERE, so there wasn’t too much insight for me.

Jaffa Port

But I still found great interest in wooden downers built on the flat-faced seaside buildings, something that makes me think of 18th century Commonwealth towns and pirates. Also, when peering over the edge of the seawall I managed to get a nasty fishing hook embedded in the sole of my shoe – which was removed by the deft hand of Adam. The final thing that intrigued me was the old British national height point, from which they measured elevation for the rest of the country when engaging in cartography and other sciences involving such specifications.

Tour at the port

Leaving the tour shortly before it ended, Adam and I headed for a nearby street in the neighbourhood of Ajami to catch a bus to a location somewhat further south within Yafo. We were headed for the French Ambassador’s Residence, however, when we approached the walled villa we were dismayed to see that there was a ridiculously long line waiting to gain entrance. The patrolling gendarmerie did not seem to wish to slip us inside so we gave up and headed for the next site on our list – even further south within Yafo.

Overlooking the Mediterranean

Disembarking from the bus we popped into a curious Arab mini-market with an array of interesting imported products, such as Fayrouz Pineapple, a non-alcoholic fruit beer from Saudi Arabia and Sultan Cola from Austria, with a special halal certification mark on the bottle. Continuing along, we arrived at the old house of General Yitzhak Sadeh, the old commander of the Palmach and one of the founders of the IDF.

The Sadeh living room

There was a small crowd forming outside the house’s gate and after some drama the homeowners flung open the gate and gave us a special tour of the house and grounds. We began with an introductory speech by son Yoram Sadeh in the front garden and then moved inside to see select rooms in the carefully preserved house. Outside again we toured the cliff garden overlooking the beach and the Mediterranean Sea, and visited Gen Sadeh’s old wartime caravan which served as his mobile headquarters.

General Sadeh’s mobile HQ

Bidding farewell to the Sadehs, we headed back for the bus and made our way back to the northern part of Yafo where there were still several locations to visit. First up was the Saraya, the Ottoman house of government – of which there are several scattered throughout the Holy Land. The Saraya was built in 1880, blown up by Lehi operatives in 1948, restored and now open to the public thanks to Turkish government who reclaimed ownership in recent years. It was enjoyable to sit in the luxuriously appointed great room with the Turkish flag hanging limply beside the wall.

Saraya great room

Leaving the Saraya we paused to admire the famous clocktower (of which there are several scattered throughout the Holy Land), the main post office (built in 1934) and then found a nice Tripolitan restaurant by the name of Gueta where we had delicious plates of savoury Libyan food for lunch. Sated and ready for more adventure, we then headed for the next sites in the American-German Colony. First up was the Maine Friendship House, one of the original pre-fab wooden houses brought over from Maine in 1866 by a group of Christian would-be colonist settlers.

Jean Holmes of the Maine Friendship House

Heading first downstairs, we watched a short video about the trials and tribulations that this group had once disembarking off the Nellie Chapin on the coast of Tel Aviv. What was left of the American colony was eventually sold to a wave of German Templers who added new houses and public buildings to create the German colony. The British deported most of the German colonists with the events of the First and Second World Wars and the colony fell to disrepair. The house we were visiting was purchased, restored and renamed by Jean Holmes and her late husband, Dr Reed. It was Jean herself who took us on the tour of the house and gave us a glimpse of a history that few know.

Jaffa German Colony as seen inside the Immanuel House

From the Maine Friendship House we walked across the street to examine the archives room in the Immanuel House, a building that was once a luxury hotel, a hospital and now a missionary guest house. From there we passed the neo-gothic Immanuel Church and other historical buildings from the American and German colony periods.

House in the American-German Colony

Despite being in the heart of the city, these few streets were charmingly hushed and seemingly detached from the urban symphony of the big city. Leaving the area we boarded a bus to take us back to Givat Shmuel, bringing an end to our Open House adventure.

  1. Shemtov’s! I am mostly so pleased to be reading your tales of the faraway lands. your descriptions are most fascinated. May you be clearly blessed and with a good Woman!!
    Kim Ji-mee
    Baeksang People’s Art Committee,
    Republic of Korea

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