Tel Aviv is a flat and easily walkable city, and one of the best ways to explore it is on foot. My long-time guide in this city recently retired, and I met a new one in 2014—Jonathan (Yonatan) Kohn. He is absolutely outstanding!—and now ranks with Madeleine Lavine in Jerusalem as one of my two favorite guides in the country. I suggest the tour that he showed me—start with Old Jaffa and explore Neve Tzedek, Ha-Tachana, and into the Bauhaus District, and other parts of early and current Tel Aviv, such as the renovated Ha-Bima Theater and magnificent, adjoining public square. This gives you the chance to see how this amazing city evolved in just over a hundred years from buildings started on sand dunes by just 66 families in 1909 to the thriving metropolis of today. We ended with a visit to the moving, evocative Rabin Square, where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995—and Jonathan was there that night.
While Jonathan offers Tel Aviv walking tours, he is also licensed to tour anywhere in the country, including driving tourists.
At the outset of the section of the guide, I called Tel Aviv “The White City,” and it takes this name from the Bauhaus and International architecture style that this city preserves more than any other in the world, leading to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This style was popular among German planners and architects who fled to Tel Aviv in the 1930s to escape Nazi persecution, and this was the period when much of the city was built. The design of the buildings and the city itself feels very European, with wide boulevards, horizontal designs, angular and curving lines, and white stucco surfaces, also reminiscent of the Art Deco style in Miami Beach.
What were once run down and dowdy neighborhoods have been restored beautifully in places, and you can walk through them and enjoy some amazing buildings.
the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Diaspora on the campus of Tel Aviv University. If you are interested in Jewish history in the Diaspora (exile), this is a must. It is one of the most interesting museums I have ever been in, not based on artifacts but on re-creations of Diaspora life throughout the world. The university is in the northern section of the city, either a bus, cab, or car ride from your hotel. While it is a tad run-down now, it is supposed to be undergoing renovation soon.
Tel Aviv University
The Yitzhak Rabin Center
This museum, which is near the Palmach Museum and not far from Bet Ha-t’fusot, tells the story of the State of Israel and its history through the life and times of Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister who led the effort to reach peace with the Palestinians until his assassination at the hands of a right-wing, Jewish extremist in Tel Aviv in November 1995. That murder seared Israelis, perhaps even more than the Kennedy assassination did Americans, and it no doubt changed the course of history in the region. But the museum does not focus on that terrible crime until the end; it mainly looks at the State’s formation and internal conflicts and divisions through the life of this remarkable man who was at the center of so much of its life. It is a must for those interested in modern Israeli history. When I visited this place, I was both fascinated and deeply moved. And the memorial to Rabin’s murder at the end, including excerpts from speeches at his funeral by President Clinton, King Hussein, and his granddaughter, left me in tears of loss and gratitude for Rabin’s life and work.