Last week I took a trip down to Tel Aviv to take some morning exams the following day in preparation for university. Leaving Ma’alot in the late morning, I arrived in bustling Tel Aviv by train and immediately headed towards my first destination, the IDF History Museum. Located just outside the newly renovated HaTachana (old train station) with its cafés, restaurants and boutique shops, the IDF museum has been on my map for quite some time. I had visited once before, while in basic training, but didn’t really get the chance to see everything (post HERE).
Inside the museum’s confines I started with the rifle and machine gun exhibit, a large collection of firearms from all over the world and spanning hundreds of years. Considering today’s political situation, I found irony in seeing an Israeli-made Uzi sub-machine gun displayed as a weapon used by the Iranian armed forces.
Next I browsed the captured anti-aircraft guns and the extensive armoured units collection, ranging from American Shermans and Pattons to British Centurions and Soviet T-54s/T-55s all the way to Israel’s first tank, the Merkava I.
Next was a large room filled with pistols from the last three hundred years or so and from all over the world, including a few “VIP” pistols owned by various Israeli generals. Moving along, I passed a collection of armoured vehicles and then entered a building dedicated towards the War for Independence in 1948. It was in this room that an elderly woman, a fellow visitor, stopped me and told me a story about a Jewish man who lived in Yafo (Jaffa) in 1947-1948 and was killed by his Arab neighbours when Israeli independence was announced. Leaving that room, I passed artillery guns and entered the exhibits of each of the successive Chiefs of General Staff. My museum visit continued on for another hour or so, giving me time to look at the many exhibitions including this one called the IDF Equipment Centre Pavilion:
My visit ended with a look at a number of vehicles that made history including official cars of Defence Ministers and some famous military vehicles. One, a Fargo pickup truck made in the US in 1942 boasted quite a rich history. This particular vehicle was used by three separate armies and had seen battle in four wars – quite the veteran! Leaving the museum at closing time I headed towards the chic neighbourhood of Neve Tzedek, not really sure where to go next as museums were all either closed or closing shortly.
As I walked through the well-kept streets I was surprised to mostly hear English and French being spoken. When I stopped into a Tunisian restaurant, the menu was in Hebrew and French only – no English. It was at this restaurant, Jasmine, that I had a late lunch of (off-menu) shakshuka with a variety of Tunisian salads and some beer.
Leaving Neve Tzedek I bused to the Tel Aviv Port to watch the sunset and explore the area for the first time. Crossing the Yarkon River, I walked along the water taking pictures of the various birds hanging about. I saw kingfishers, mynas, a spur-winged lapwing and more, but it was these colourful Egyptian geese that captivated me most:
Unfortunately, the water at the mouth of the Yarkon is heavily polluted by the Reading power plant among other industrial culprits. In the picture below you can see the river and the power plant beside it, with a tiny lighthouse on the left-hand side. This lighthouse was built in the mid 1930’s by the British and the ruins of two Assyrian fortresses were found at the base of it, known today as Tel Kudadi. The power plant was originally built in the late 1930’s, which made the lighthouse superfluous with its bright lighted chimney, and has been added to over the subsequent decades. Today the plant is only in partial use and the exterior was renovated to recreate its original 1930’s appearance.
I crossed over the Wauchope bridge, dodging the multitudes of pedestrians, bikers and rollerbladers to take pictures of the beautiful sunset.
Looping around Reading Park as the sun disappeared over the horizon, I then headed back to the Tel Aviv Port area to take in the sights. Surprising packed with visitors and locals alike, I jostled my way along the wooden deck overlooking the crashing waves as I paused here and there to take pictures. I then stumbled upon a concert waiting to start, but even when I left an hour or so later, the singer Avraham Tal had yet to show his presence.
I passed a wedding and an older couple who, upon seeing me with a camera hanging from my neck, asked me to take their picture. I dodged salty waves, saltier waiters (I jest) and the ever-present mob of people as I walked all the way down to the northernmost Tel Aviv beach and then back up to the Yarkon river where I found the buses and headed over to Ramat Gan to stay the night.
The next day proved to be just as adventurous, chock-full of museum visits…