I am shifting into serious study mode now, and the Jewish holidays are also affecting my schedule, so please bear with me if my posting is slow! Still, I am trying to get some posts out, and view them as review for my studies as well.
I thought that since the last Mystery Photo was of a somewhat famous building in Tel Aviv, that more people would’ve guessed right. But alas not. I guess most of my Tel Aviv friends don’t make it into some of the quieter parts of the city, preferring to focus on the hustle and bustle of the party life there! But there is a lot to see in Tel Aviv when exploring this country’s modern development.
So I hope that you’ll at least know that I am trying to make these somewhat less challenging! I think that the current photo should be recognizable to those who have been there, and also might be something that people could figure out due to contextual details.
Anyway, the last Israel Mystery Photo was correctly identified by my classmate, Daniel, as the former home of Israel’s national poet, Hayim Nahman Bialik. A Zionist and immigrant to Israel, Bialik was at the center of the burgeoning literary scene in early 20th Century Tel Aviv. That culture was part of an extended class of Jewish literary figures in Europe and Palestine, and many of the individuals moved back and forth between the two areas. Other members of this group included Ahad Ha’am and Israel’s first Nobel laureate, S.Y. Agnon.
As a person who comes from a writing background, I must admit that I’m somewhat embarrassed by my lack of familiarity with Israel’s literary luminaries. But I am making an effort to fill in these gaps in my knowledge, because their works form an important segment of this country’s cultural heritage. And the more familiar I am with this cultural heritage, the better a guide I will be. This portion of our country’s past is no less important than its religious, archaeological or historical legacies.
Perhaps Bialik’s most famous poem was “In the City of Slaughter.” It was written in response to the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, spelling out the horrors of the antisemitic riot. (I recommend clicking that link and reading the poem.) It could be seen as a precursor to the later complaints in connection to the Holocaust, claiming that Jews too frequently went “like lambs to the slaughter.” And it was this very attitude of “the old Jew” that many of the early Zionist pioneers railed against, forming such paramilitary precursors to the IDF as the Hagana, Irgun and Lechi.
We, however, went to see the house not in the context of Bialik himself, but rather as a part of a tour that in large measure focused on the architecture of Tel Aviv buildings from the 1920s and 1930s. In particular, Tel Aviv is most famous for its Bauhaus-style buildings, more accurately referred to as International Style buildings. (Bauhaus was a specific school, but the practitioners of the architectural style, even if they did not study at the Bauhaus itself, are described together as building in the International Style.) It is for this famous collection of buildings, dating to the 1930s, that Tel Aviv has received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “White City.”
But built in 1927, the Bialik house is more in the Eclectic Style that was prevalent in Tel Aviv from around 1924 to 1929, prior to the emergence of the International Style. As Benny — who admittedly cheated and should be ashamed of himself 😉 — noticed, the building is heavily influenced by Islamic architecture. But it also clearly marries the style with more western architectural elements.
It now holds a museum dedicated to Bialik’s life and work.