A neighborhood’s secrets

A new lecture series invites local history lovers to delve into the untold stories of Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek quarter and its surrounding areas.

Neveh Tzedek 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Neveh Tzedek 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On Friday afternoon, the first of three meetings and the beginning of a new initiative took place at the Suzanne Dellal Center.
The Yaron Yerushalmi Theater, usually reserved for intimate performances, took on a new persona as a lecture hall, inviting history lovers to delve into the untold stories of Neveh Tzedek and the surrounding areas. All three of the planned lectures are the result of the research and discoveries of well-known Tel Aviv tour guide Shula Widrich.
Yair Vardi, director of the Suzanne Dellal Center, approached Widrich about bringing this new flavor into the thriving locale’s programming.
“Vardi contacted me about taking on this project,” explained Widrich in a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post. “Then we sat and brainstormed about how to hold these meetings in an interesting fashion. In recent years the Neveh Tzedek neighborhood has become so touristy. There aren’t people who haven’t walked around in Neveh Tzedek and Neveh Shalom. Because everyone knows the neighborhood, it was vital to me to give a slightly different perspective because there are lots of things that the public doesn’t know about this area. In recent years, we have discovered new details that are fascinating.”
Widrich’s first lecture was entitled The Yaffe Nof Neighborhood and the Bella Vista Hotel. In this meeting, Widrich broke away from widely accepted notions about the history of the neighborhood.
“The neighborhood, where Park Charles Clore is today, was once known as Manshie, which is an Arab word meaning suburb. For a long time people believed that this neighborhood was exclusively Arab, however it was actually a mixed quarter. Under that neighborhood is buried a rich, beautiful, Jewish quarter including a hotel called Bella Vista. We have learned that there was a whole culture of leisure in the 1800’s along the beachfront in that area. There was a spa with amazing facilities that offered massages and all kinds of cutting-edge treatments for the period. There were two hospitals there, Hadassah and Sha’ar Zion. All these facts are usually left out of the regular Neveh Tzedek tours,” she said.
In her lecture, Widrich not only shed light on the demographics of the area, she also gave exact locations of the buildings that once existed and presented rarely seen photographs and advertisements from the time.
Widrich’s next lecture, which will take place at the beginning of April, will focus on the Neveh Tzedek neighborhood.
“At some point, the British separated the border between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Neveh Tzedek was part of the Tel Aviv side. Of course, everyone knows about the writers that inhabited the area such as Agnon and Nachum Gutman. Today there is a museum dedicated to Nachum Gutman. The lesserknown fact is that it is in the building that once held the press of the Hapoel Hatzair newspaper. This newspaper described the reality of the first Hebrew settlements. Last year, a French tourist called Michael Shulman came to Israel to look for his roots. It turns out that he is the grandson of the man who built that building, Pesach Eliahu Shulman. With that discovery, we were able to uncover new details.”
For her third and final lecture in this series, Widrich will focus on “what’s right under our noses,” she said. “The last lecture will be about the girl’s school, which was actually the exact spot where the lecture takes place, it’s part of Suzanne Dellal,” she said. “There are a lot of known facts about the school, that they taught in Hebrew and that they were groundbreaking in their educational practice. There are amazing photos from its first days.
The school existed in a private home. We have amazing records from the school that have brought to light some amazing stories, like how to handle disciplinary problems. For example, how they preferred to let the fathers know when there was trouble, not the mothers. And yet, they didn’t want to tell the fathers because they would hit the girls.”
“There are all kinds of methods on record that helped them to deal with discipline.
The girls that were problematic were listed as stupid. They didn’t have the language to describe attention disorders or other similar issues. Reading through the annals of the school is like watching a soap opera. There are consistent characters and intrigues between them. It’s incredible. That’s what I will discuss in the last lecture.”
Widrich has painstakingly planned all three of these meetings. For her, the reliability and authenticity of each piece of information is critical. “I want always to focus on reliable, authentic sources. The idea was to give a sense of the past with some treats from the era, to go into details that perhaps aren’t exposed in the regular tours that we received from personal sources and not books that have been written.”
Shula Widrich’s lecture series will take place on April 5 and May 3 at 11 a.m. For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.