Tel Aviv, named for David Florentin, a Greek Jew who purchased the land in the late 1920s. At the time anti-Semitism was on the rise in Greece and the Jewish quarter in Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, had been destroyed by fire, leaving over 53,000 Jews homeless. Due to Ottoman land laws, building in the area was held up until 1933, then development sped up due to its proximity to the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway. The Jaffa Municipality allowed shops and light industries to be opened on the ground floors of the new residential buildings, providing a source of income for the wave of immigrants settling in Palestine at the time.
As with much of Southern Tel Aviv, for many decades the area of Florentin then suffered from urban decay and poverty. Today it is a combination of industrial zone, garment district, marketplace and assembly point for foreign workers looking for jobs. Most of the residents are young and Florentin is now becoming known as a hip, "cool" place to be in Tel Aviv, with coffeehouses, markets, bars, galleries and parties. Street artists such as Dede, an artist from Holland, Klone and many others have made the neighbourhood their home, along with new immigrants from France and elsewhere.
Florentin was the setting for a popular TV series in the late 1990s called Florentin. The area's hip/trendy atmosphere has led to comparisons with SoHo and the Lower East Side in New York City.
Guy originally started the tours in the summer of 2011, during the Social Justice protest in Tel Aviv, as a way of explaining some of the political and social commentary that was perhaps beyond the grasp of the Hebrew beginner. Besides the graffiti course, he offers a tour of the city’s Levinsky market ("Wake up and smell the Zatar"); a tour of the historic Trumpeldor Cemetery; an "American Idol" Israeli-style tour; and a tour of Jaffa Port, located just south of Tel Aviv.
My son and I are both Hebrew speakers yet we learned a few new tweaks and nuances (me more than him!). Guy has spent time contacting the graffiti artists behind the art and provided details that you would never find out yourself - not just about the art, but about the area and the way it is changing as it goes through the drawn-out process of gentrification. New aspects of Tel Aviv ("the Viv") were revealed, social and political issues were raised, as well as interesting linguistic quirks. It was a great tour for visitors and veteran Israelis alike, and I now have more of an appreciation for even the littlest of graffiti work.
Guy has a series of "Streetwise Hebrew" podcasts. For those of you who aren't able to participate in a tour and would like to learn more, have a listen on itunes and android.
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