Exhibit visits the history of Tel Aviv's cafes

Israeli writers Bialik and Alterman made reference to the city's cafes in their work.

old photo tel aviv cafe (photo credit: Archive)
old photo tel aviv cafe
(photo credit: Archive)
A stroll through the streets of Tel Aviv leaves one in little doubt about the city's thriving cafe culture. Like many urban metropolises, its thoroughfares are dotted with a multitude of caf s and coffee shops occupied by students typing diligently on laptops, professionals poring over the day's news, or businessmen conducting casual work meetings. But few are aware of the origins of this phenomenon in Tel Aviv and its role in shaping the city's identity. Opening last week and running through May, the Coffee Shops of Tel Aviv 1920-1980 exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum captures this aspect of the city's character. It extends back to the first coffee shops in the 1920s, when Tel Aviv was an expanding Jewish city establishing itself as a business and cultural center. The opening of a selection of stylishly decorated caf s reflected its changing status. Not unlike the coffee shops of today, these caf s offered an impressive selection of beverages, including iced coffee, mocha and espresso, as well as freshly baked cakes and pastries. They were frequented by the city's emerging bourgeoisie, many of whom were recent emigrants from Europe. Writers, artists, lawyers, newspaper reporters and judges were among those who patronized the coffee shops, which were often the scenes of lively debates or the source of creative inspiration. Israeli writers Bialik and Alterman made reference to the caf s in their work. In the 1930s, coffee shops began opening on the beachfront, in response to Tel Aviv's growing beach culture, and by the 1940s many were springing up on Dizengoff, Allenby, and Ben-Yehuda streets, which made up the city's trendy new northern district. In the Fifties, these caf s were frequented by literary and theatrical types and became synonymous with bohemian culture. This fascinating history, along with the actual coffee cups featuring caf logos, the poetry inspired by them, paintings and decorations displayed on the caf walls, guest books signed by customers and much more are on exhibit at the Eretz Yisrael Museum. For more information, call (03) 641 5244