The tables have turned more than once on this once impoverished and now stylish neighborhood. It was the first Jewish neighborhood built outside of Jaffa, and marks the beginnings of Tel Aviv, that went on to grow around it. Though it’s been renovated, rebuilt and refurbished, it hasn’t failed to retain its old charm. And so, between gorgeous villas you can still find families that have been living here forever in crumbling homes, and are still refusing to sell no matter what. This is what keeps Neve Tsedek grounded firmly in the past even as parts of it is racing towards the future.
At the beginning of the 20th century, many Jewish artists and writers moved here from Arab dominated Jaffa, most notably future Nobel Prize laureate in literature Shmuel Yosef Agnon. Years of neglect and disrepair followed Neve Tsedek’s first years, and the special artsy flair was gone.
But by the end of the 20th century, its old houses where the city’s neglected and rejected had once lived became fashionable as the love for modern and high tech-like structures came and went. The neighborhood was appreciated again for its unique combination of picturesque architecture and morden urban life, and as several buildings went on conservation lists, things started changing for the better.
Tel Aviv’s yuppies started buying property and soon enough the entire population changed as the land prices shot through the roof. What was not that long ago a slum was now being renovated, cleaned and dressed to impress. If you happen to be looking to buy property there, you won’t find anything for less than 40,000 NIS per square meter, but you might be asked to part with more than twice that sum for something truly special.
This neighborhood is quiet and has a rural feel to it. The cultural center of Neve Tsedek is the Susan Dalal Center, where Israelis come to watch world class contemporary dance, and It is surrounded by historical structures. The architecture is quite delightful as are the narrow streets, the gardens, piazzas, cafés and restaurants. What’s not so delightful is the humongous Neve Tsedek Tower which stands half empty and feels at odds with the village vibe, sticking out like a sore thumb among one-story houses. It’s been controversial from day one, and as those opposed to it were proven right, no one seems to want to live in this giant white elephant.
Fridays is when Neve Tsedek is filled with local and foreign tourists, many of them on tours that highlight the neighborhood’s charm and follow its rich and vibrant history, as an integral part of Tel Aviv. The homes of the neighborhood’s founders feature prominently on these tours, and if you go on one you won’t be disappointed.
Geographically, Neve Tsedek starts south of the Yemenite Quarter, west of Allenby. Some small adjacent neighborhoods are not officially part of Neve Tsedek, but have the same historical and cultural lineage, and the same well-to-do population that bought the land – Shabazi, Neve Shalom, Ahva and Mahne Yossef.