Ronit Bergman on Simta Plonit
The singer Ronit Bergman cuddles up to the lion on Simta Plonit, one of two curious alleyways in the heart of Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Tchetchik
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Smack in the center of Tel Aviv, just off of hectic King George St. – with its honking traffic, harried pedestrians and myriad cheap clothing stores – are two dead-end streets that tell an interesting tale.

Their story can be traced back to 1922, when a wealthy American businessman named Meir Shapira was buying up chunks of real estate in the relatively new city of Tel Aviv. He purchased the two alleyways with the intention of naming them after himself and his wife Sonia, even going so far as to put up temporary shingles with the streets’ new names.

But his plan had a fatal flaw. He had christened the streets without official permission from the city council.

When word got back to Meir Dizengoff, the then-mayor of Tel Aviv, he was so incensed by Shapira’s chutzpah that he decided to temporarily name the alleyways – or “simtaot” in Hebrew – Simta Almonit (meaning “anonymous”), and Simta Plonit (meaning “unidentified”).

The names stuck, and to this day the streets are named as unnamed – a small, slightly mysterious twist in the tale of a city where so many roads are named after people.

The alleyways are very small – especially considering the amount of fuss they caused in the past – but despite their diminutive size they still manage to evoke a tranquil, romantic atmosphere.

If you take a stroll down them today, you can still see the imposing stone lion that Shapira bought for his wife, guarding the end of Simta Plonit – which is also home to one of the city’s most distinct structures – a continental style building with huge curved doorways, and a partially orange and yellow façade. A few funky shops have sprung up along the streets, including a trendy vintage clothing store, and a café named after Shapira’s wife. In the end, it seems that history has its own funny way of remembering the couple after all.

Simta Almonit and Simta Plonit, entrance near 14 King George St., Tel Aviv