Tel Aviv, Antiquities Authority Join Forces to Display Archaeological Artifacts Across City

The Tel Aviv municipality may soon launch a broad initiative to restore and display archaeological artifacts across the city, deputy-mayor Meital Lehavi told Haaretz.

Archaeological artifacts in a north Tel Aviv park.
Nir Kafri

The plan, to be done in close cooperation with the Antiquities Authority, intends for large local artifacts to be presented in parks, squares and other public areas. The pilot for the program will be launched in 10 parks around the city already located close to archaeological sites.

While the plan has not been finalized and has yet to be confirmed by the municipal administration, Lehavi said a delegation from the municipality will visit the state archaeological storehouses in two months to select exhibits for display.

"When people hear 'archaeology' they automatically think of cities like Jerusalem, Megiddo or Akko," Yossi Levi, the central district archaeologist for the Antiquities Authority said. "But Tel Aviv-Jaffo alone has about 128 archaeological sites, which is a lot. Fifty of them are even visible to the naked eye. As these are sites people travel through anyway, the idea is that they can be turned into public exhibits at a minimal cost.

"People will be able to walk past the exhibits and understand the history," he continued, stressing that exhibits will be lent to the municipality for free, but that the city will be required to cover the project's other expenses, such as transportation and preservation.

The project, said Levi, will aim to present artifacts that can't be easily stolen, either because they are too large to be carried away or large enough that they can be easily located.

From Jaffa to the Yarkon

Levi has already prepared a list of 14 archaeological sites situated close to parks or open grounds in the city suitable for mounting exhibitions. The locations include Independence Park by the Hilton Hotel in the northwest part of the city, where findings dating as far back as the Neolithic period were discovered when the park was being built in 1949. The park also contains a Muslim cemetery where the tomb of Muslim saint Abd El Nabi can be found.

The city's Ayalon Park near Mesubim junction contains the remains of the Arab village of Al Khiriya, also known as Ibn Ebrek, which some historians believe to be the site of biblical Bnei Brak. The site's archaeological layers include artifacts from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic periods.

Also on Levi's list is Hanevi'im Park in the old north of the city, which is the site of a cemetery from the second millennium B.C. Other potential sites include the Tel Baruch cave near the Glilot interchange, Tel Kudari on the northern bank of the mouth of the Yarkon River, Tel Hashah in the Bavli neighborhood, Haget Park near Hamedina Square, the Kirya, Napoleon Hill on the border between Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, Jaffa Port, Kfar Shalem, a hill located on Kibbutz Galuyot Road, a site between the Sea & Sun compound and Sde Dov airport, and Hill Square in Tel Aviv's old north.

Levi said that although the exhibits are already visible in most of these locations, anyone without a background in archaeology is likely to overlook them. "We want to set up some related architectural element that would attract people's attention to the artifacts that are already there. We want to emphasize these elements and improve the sites," he said.

Lehavi believes that if the program gets the go-ahead, the first exhibits could be launched as early as 2011. She told Haaretz the initiative is part of a wide range of programs being considered by the municipality in a bid to link residents to the city's ancient history. Other ideas include having schools "adopt" nearby sites and employing teenagers at archaeological digs as early as this summer.