• LOCATION 12 | The Trail of Independence: Tracing the origins of modern Tel Aviv

    The Great Synagogue

    The Great Synagogue on Tel Aviv audio tour The Trail of Independence: Tracing the origins of modern Tel Aviv

    Look left to see a wide staircase. Go up the stairs to see the entrance to the Great Synagogue.


    The first houses of Tel Aviv were built, the school started to operate, the kiosk was selling beverages, but one thing was still missing in the first Jewish city in the world - a synagogue!

    Akiva Arye Weiss planned a magnificent building, but Meir Dizengoff interfered with the planning process and the synagogue construction was postponed. In the 1920s the city grew rapidly and the architects needed to revisit the plans to facilitate a larger crowd.

    In the 1940s, when the Jewish settlement rose up against the British rule, the basement of the synagogue was used to hide weapons. The men who hid the weapons were members of a faction that separated from the Hagana since they wanted to be more stern towards the British. This proves that, in the fight for Jewish independence, there was from time to time disharmony. Eventually, the more calculated ways of the Hagana prevailed.

    In the meantime, religious services were held in an unattractive shack. This is quite symbolic for the city that later became known for its secular ethos, on the backdrop of a mostly religious country. Only in the 1930s was the synagogue inaugurated. In the 1960’s it was remodelled in the brutalist style, that incorporates loads of raw concrete - béton brut, in French, that’s the source of the name. The brutalist style lost its glory, and currently, there are plans to remove the concrete additions in order to reveal the former looks of the buildings.

    Today, this place is an example of the coexistence unique to Tel Aviv. On Friday night, when prayers are sung in the synagogue, the pub located across from it is running as usual. Religious people living their lives along secular people is still not common enough in Israel, but Tel Aviv does offer this special blend.

    You probably saw how rich this area is, filled with galleries and museums, as well as cafes, restaurants and pubs. There's lots to do around here. I especially recommend walking back to Rothschild Boulevard and continue to the part you haven’t yet visited - that will give you a little more of the urban nature experience that the boulevard has to offer, plus all of the attractions mentioned above.

    This concludes our tour of the Trail of Independence - the place where Tel Aviv started, as well as where Israel started. I hope you enjoyed the history, the culture and the architecture.

    I would greatly appreciate it if you took a moment to rate the tour and leave a comment. If you're keen to check out the other tours I have on offer, just tap my author profile or select Tel Aviv from the list of cities. My name is Tomer Chelouche. Thanks for listening!

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The Trail of Independence: Tracing the origins of modern Tel Aviv