Demolition Begins at Abandoned Dolphinarium on Tel Aviv Beachfront

High-rise towers and a sports and community center will rise on the abandoned site of a 2001 terror attack that killed 21 Israelis

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The Dolphinarium in 1981.
The Dolphinarium in 1981.Credit: SA'AR YA'ACOV/GPO
Naama Riba
Naama Riba
Naama Riba
Naama Riba

The demolition of the Tel Aviv beachfront’s abandoned Dolphinarium began on Wednesday, after a three-decade-long process involving the courts and urban planners.

The demolition, which will take two months, is being done by a group of real estate entrepreneurs who, in a land swap deal, will evacuate the Dolphinarium in exchange for rights to erect two high-rise towers across the road. A small sports and community center will also be built on the site.

The Dolphinarium, which opened in 1981, is most widely known for the suicide terror attack there on June 1, 2001, when it served as a discotheque. Twenty-one people, including 16 teenagers, were killed.

Demolition begins on the Dolphinarium, a beach-side building site best known for a terrorist attack that killed twenty-one people in 2001.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
The Dolphinarium brochure from 1981.

Over the years the place became home to several communities. Street artists turned its walls into the hottest canvas in town, surfers set up business there and some drummers also placed themselves along its western wall.

From above it looks like some marine creature or a figure 8. It spans almost 6,000 square meters which originally included an aquarium with fish on display, a dolphinarium for dolphin shows and room for 1,200 spectators.

The Movement for Quality Government is trying to cancel that deal even though demolition plans and the towers have been approved at all planning levels. The next High Court session will be held in July, after a judge refused to delay the demolition until the hearing is held.

During the 2015 court discussions debating the new plan, the claim was made that the place should not be demolished since it was part of the urban narrative. A group called ifsure, which included architects Yael Allweil, Tamara Levy and Tula Amir, as well as artists Mai Omer and Zion Avraham Hazan, proposed using parts of the building again in order to create a unique and open public space.

The Dolphinarium in 2013.Credit: May Omer

They claimed that their proposal fit the plan’s objective of creating a continuous urban continuous space along the seaside. They stressed that it was unnecessary to demolish the Dolphinarium or to conserve it and that it was possible to redefine its use.

“This building is laden with memories,” said Tula Amir on the eve of the demolition. She wrote a book about Nahum Zolotov, its designer. “Regardless of its value one should respect history associated with it and the events that took place in and around it. It’s the only public structure near the water, one which could be used for public events, in a closed and protected space.”

Yitzhak Lichteneld, who belongs to a group of drummers on the site, says that he’s been there since 1995. “It was like a no-man’s land. There was some rusty barbed wire and some people used to gather there.” He says they never operated within the dolphinarium’s area itself, only outside it or on the nearby rocks. Over the last 15 years they’ve been on a ramp west of the building. They meet every Friday, sometimes dozens of drummers playing African percussion instruments. “We do sort of a Shabbat-welcoming ceremony; it’s a hobby with no commercial aspects.”

Tel Aviv's Dolphinarium, the site of a 2001 suicide bombing, is being demolished. Sky-rises and a recreation center will take its place. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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