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New Tel Aviv-Yafo Museum seeks to preserve complicated and sometimes contradictory stories of cities’ history

Museum blends old and new stories and memories of iconic Israeli city

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Museum (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tel Aviv is one of Israel’s most iconic cities. As one of the first Israeli cities created after the arrival of early Zionist pioneers, it is also the inaugural city to be constructed around their evolving and sometimes conflicting ideas. 

The brand new Tel Aviv-Yafo City Museum, which opened this weekend, aims to tell the various narratives surrounding the birth of Tel Aviv and its older sister city, Jaffa (Yafo), along with the people involved in shaping their modern history. 

Michal Baharav Uzrad, the museum director, says the decision to avoid telling just one version of Tel Aviv's history was deliberate.

“Our vision for this place is that it should tell the many stories of Tel Aviv-Jaffa,” Uzrad stated. “The museum is the city’s storyteller, not in the sense of a single tale but, rather, a story that comprises numerous voices, and many narratives that sometimes overlap and complement each other, but sometimes contradict each other.” 

The main exhibition in the museum presents the important events in the history of Tel Aviv-Yaffa but also expresses the values, diversity, complexity and tensions that characterize the city both in the past and the present. 

A distinctive feature of the museum is its welcoming attitude to receiving new stories from the public. 

“There is, of course, the online platform, which is an open platform,” Uzrad told the Jerusalem Post. “The museum is, in effect, a listening museum which constantly takes in new stories. That is the creative engine behind the museum.”

“It is a collection of experiences, remembrances, and testimonies of people who once lived in Tel Aviv, and those living here today.” 

Tel Aviv is the first modern Hebrew city and it is a mere 114 years old. Its neighboring sister city of Jaffa ranks as one of the oldest port cities in the world, with archaeological findings indicating a settlement dating back 10,000 years.

Tel Aviv began as a small neighborhood of 66 mostly-observant Jewish families who founded the Ahuzat Bayit (Homestead) on the northern edge of the city of Jaffa. The settlement rapidly grew into the modern city of Tel Aviv as more immigrants arrived.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Tel Aviv surpassed Jaffa in size and eventually annexed its older sister, becoming the joint municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. 

The Tel Aviv-Yafo Museum exhibition is arranged thematically, as opposed to chronologically, and allows visitors to explore the city by areas or themes in its ten stations. 

Stories linked to a specific area of the city are presented together, blending old and new narratives about the location.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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