The return of Bialik

Bialik House had undergone a massive restoration.

bialik house 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
bialik house 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For two years, I have lived next to the Bialik House while the building has undergone a massive restoration. The towered structure has stood as a sealed monument to Tel Aviv's past - a crucial piece of the young city's development buried under years of neglect. Reemerging onto the public scene, the museum opens a portal back to the early days of the city. I could not contain my curiosity to gain perspective on how this mysterious, adopted city of mine came into being. Centennial preparations are in full swing in Tel Aviv, and the municipality is sparing no expense on Tel Aviv's facelift. The Bialik House, named for Israel's national poet and the dominant force of early Hebrew culture, is among the major beneficiaries. It overlooks Bialik Circle and is intended to be the focal point of a grand open-air museum, consisting of several smaller museums and numerous examples of Tel Aviv's architectural history. In pre-state days, Bialik's home was the epicenter of a budding Hebrew culture. Early Zionist authors, poets, painters and actors would gather regularly in his salon. His draw was significant enough that the city's first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, moved city hall right next door. The former city hall building is also undergoing renovations destined to be the Tel Aviv history museum. Ayelet Bitan Shlonsky is the curator and the visionary behind the development of the entire Bialik Circle area. Her enthusiasm for the project manifests itself in the creativity with which she recreates the golden age of early Hebrew culture and paves the way for the cultural development of the future. The main floor of the Bialik House was a communal space for hosting and has been restored to its original décor. The wall decorations are representative of the poet's own ideals for a prospective Jewish state. Islamic arches and European columns are complemented with Bezalel tiles depicting the twelve tribes of Israel and the Hebrew months. Two tiles that face each other across the central foyer define Bialik's vision of his historical moment: one is a depiction of the Judea Capta coin minted by the Romans celebrating the destruction of the Second Temple and the other a medallion of Jews being released from captivity. Upstairs, Bialik's bedroom is bereft of anything original; the barren room is dedicated to the childless Bialik's devotion to children. His manifesto on children's education hangs on the wall near cupboards depicting Nachum Gutman's drawings of scenes from Bialik's poetry. Colorful stools line the room for parents to read poetry to their children. The room is the very nursery Bialik never used. Upon leaving the museum, something small and colorful in the trees catches the eye. Upon closer inspection, it is a bird perched on a branch by a nest filled with three eggs. This scene is recognizable from his famous poem found in the children's room, "Among the trees/_Is a bird's nest/ And in the nest/_Her three eggs rest." The museum is full of subtle surprises. After hours, the Bialik House serves as a cultural center. Literary readings by up-and-coming Hebrew authors as well as established ones will take place every Thursday night (NIS 35 entry). Also, for the first three months of 2009, a children's play about Bialik and his works will show every Saturday. The Bialik House is located at 22 Bialik St, Tel Aviv, (03) 525-4530. The museum is free to the public for its opening weekend, Jan. 8 - 10. Please call for hours of operation.