The corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street in Tel Aviv is one of the most central spots in Israel. The crossroads and its area are home to hundreds of tech companies, dozens of restaurants, cafés and bars, the Israeli Stock Market, global and national bank headquarters, art galleries and posh residences. Yet, the historic importance of this area far exceeds its current-day popularity, and in many ways is the reason for it: at this very spot two crucial events took place – the birth of Tel Aviv in 1909 and the birth of Israel itself in 1948.
1 kilometer of history
On Israel’s 70th Independence Day, these two stories came to life when Independence Trail was launched. The new permanent attraction on Rothschild Boulevard features an interactive walking route leading visitors past ten heritage sites connected by a golden path, telling the story of the Declaration of Independence and the beginnings of Tel Aviv.
The Trail is about one kilometer long and features a golden track which is illuminated at night and can be followed at all times of the day. Visitors are invited to experience the history with a unique mobile app. At each historical spot, interactive information pages appear on the visitor’s device, explaining the point of interest and providing rich historical content and background on the surrounding area. Alternatively, visitors can guide themselves using a map in any of eight languages (Hebrew, English, French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Chinese and Russian). Independence Trail is open free of charge 24/7, and is a joint project of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage.
The route begins at the First Kiosk of Tel Aviv at the junction of Rothschild Blvd. and Herzl St., and continues along Rothschild past the Nahum Gutman fountain, the Akiva Aryeh Weiss House, the Shalom Meir Tower (former site of the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium), the Great Synagogue, the Haganah Museum, the Bank of Israel’s Visitor Center, the Tel Aviv Founders Monument, the Meir Dizengoff statue and Independence Hall.
The First Kiosk: Tel Aviv’s First Kiosk was established in 1910 and quickly became a central meeting place. During the 1920’s, around 100 kiosks operated in the city under the association of the kiosk and soft drink store owners.
The Nahum Gutman Fountain: A famous mosaic made by Nachum Gutman, an Israeli artist who grew up in Tel Aviv along with the new city and reflected the simplicity of the early days of the First Hebrew City. He was an accomplished illustrator, photographer and writer and was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 1978. The mosaics around the fountain relate the history of Jaffa – the ancient port city from which Tel Aviv was born.
Akiva Arye Weiss’ House: The home of Akiva Arye Weiss, founder of the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood, which later evolved into the First Hebrew City – Tel Aviv. As President of the then newly established Building Society, Weiss presided over the 1909 lottery in which 66 Jewish families drew numbers written on seashells to determine the allocation of lots in the about-to-be established city of Tel Aviv.
The Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium: The site of the first Hebrew-speaking high school and the beating heart of the city. The building on Herzl Street was a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962, when the site was razed for the construction of the Shalom Meir Tower. The destruction of the building sparked widespread recognition of the importance of conserving historical landmarks. The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites was founded in the 1980s partly in response to the fate of the Herzliya Hebrew High School. Today, the Shalom Tower is home to a visitors’ center about the history of Tel Aviv, which is open free to the public on weekdays.
The Great Synagogue: The spiritual and religious center of the First Hebrew City, located in the heart of the business and financial center of the city. The building features a huge dome, elaborate lighting fixtures and magnificent stained-glass windows.
The Haganah Museum: The Haganah Museum is located in the home of Eliyahu Golomb – the founder and de facto commander of the Haganah. In 1930-1945, the Haganah’s secret headquarters were located in his house. Golomb’s residence and office on the ground floor as well as the exterior of the house were preserved in full. The Haganah Museum is open to the public free of charge during 2018, to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary.
The Bank of Israel’s Visitors Center: The historic headquarters of Israel’s national bank, which presents the history of Israel’s financial system. The center presents the historical development of money in Israel and displays an extensive exhibition of banknotes and coins issued from pre-State days to the present. The Visitors Center is open to the public free of charge during 2018, to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Tel Aviv Founders Monument: The Founder’s Monument and Fountain is dedicated to the men and women who established Tel Aviv in the first half of the 20th century. Nestled into a green space on Rothschild Boulevard, it is a serene spot, dotted with benches and centered around a small pool and fountain.
Statue of Meir Dizengoff: The first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, was known for riding his horse from his home (which is now Independence Hall) to City Hall, then located on Bialik Street. As a part of the tribute to the first mayor of Tel Aviv, a statue of Meir Dizengoff on his horse, created by the artist David Zondolovitz, was unveiled in front of his historic residence at 16 Rothschild Blvd.
Independence Hall: The home of the first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, which he dedicated to establish the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. On May 14, 1948, the house hosted the historic Declaration of Independence ceremony.
Democracy Pavilion: In addition to Independence Trail, during Israel’s 70th anniversary year (through December 2018), visitors can enjoy “The Israeli Democracy Pavilion” – a presentation about the story of the Declaration of Independence. The project, which is a collaboration between the Israel Democracy Institute and the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, takes place in a majestic structure on Rothschild Boulevard, in which visitors experience a unique film in 360 degrees that unveils important moments of Israeli democracy. Entry to the Israeli Democracy Pavilion is free of charge.
For more information, visit www.independencetrail.co.il