In the innocent year of 1909, a new Jewish neighborhood was established on the outskirts of Jaffa. A modest crossing of two streets, it was designed according to distinctly secular Jewish values. At its focal point, just north of the intersection stood not a synagogue but a high school. It was an elaborate, romantic structure. Its facade featured two columns representing Boaz and Yachin, the pillars of Solomon’s Temple.
Jewish culture had always centered around education, and the Zionist founders of Tel Aviv believed that so would the new Jewish society they were helping to establish. Fast forward 50 years, and the high school was torn down. The State of Israel, a decade old at the time, was priding itself on progress, and progress manifested as a skyscraper: 120 meters and 34 stories tall, the tallest tower in the Middle East, with the street was directly beneath it, forming a futuristic automotive underpass. The broader lower floors featured a wax museum, a public library and a department store. The roof over them bore an entire amusement park, while the tower’s top floor offered a popular observatory.
The Shalom Meir Tower was named after the father of its two developers, brothers Morderchai and Moshe Meir. Soon it is became commonly known simply as the Shalom Tower. I pass by it almost every day without thinking much about it. The sixties are over. Loftier towers rise over central Tel Aviv. The wax museum closed down years ago. No longer may visitors to the first Hebrew city witness its strangest exhibit: a wax reenactment of Charles Manson and the Family murdering Sharon Tate and her dinner company. “Meirland” was disassembled, ferris wheels and all.
Last night, for some reason, I mentioned that ferris wheel. I was passing underneath the tower with my girlfriend, Ruthie, and found myself looking up to where it once stood, all colorful and hopeful. “You got to see the Shalom Tower at its days of glory,” she said, “I was too young. Even the department store was gone when I first came to Tel Aviv from the South.”
She’s right, I thought, I was witness to history. We speak of the demolished high school as history. Its silhouette is today the...Read More