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Tel Aviv History, Israel

Tel Aviv-jaffa or Tel-Aviv-Yafo, like the other Levantine cities of Amman, Byblos, Damascus, Jericho, Jerusalem and Sidon, etc. is among the oldest inhabited regions in the world. Evidences from archeological excavations indicate that Tel Aviv-jaffa history can be dated back between 7500 BC and 2000 BC (while the initial human-occupations started around 7500 BC, a Canaanite port-city had developed by 2000 BC). The Tel-Aviv part came into existence only in the 20th century and it is all about Jaffa before that.

Tel Aviv-jaffa History – 1500 BC to 1099 CE

Around 1500 BC the Canaanite port-city of Jaffa was conquered by the Egyptian general Thuti and was incorporated into the Egyptian New Kingdom as a provincial capital. The city was an important part of the first Kingdom of Israel (under David and Solomon). Later, like the rest of Israel (then known as Palestine), Jaffa came under different rules including Persian, Greek, Roman and even Byzantine rule before falling to the Muslim armies in the 7th century. Jaffa remained under Islamic rule till 1099, when the Christian armies occupied Jaffa during the First Crusade.

Tel Aviv-jaffa History – 1099 CE To 1799 CE

Following the First Crusade peace prevailed over Jaffa for nearly a century – the city did well in this period, becoming the chief harbor close to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Between 1191 and 1197, Jaffa changed hands repeatedly, with the control sometimes going to the Crusaders and sometimes to the Islamic rulers. When the Mamluk Sultanate came to power in the mid-13th century and captured Jaffa, they ravaged the city totally to rule out future attacks. Plunder and looting continued till the 16th century, when the city became a part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman-rule meant good-times for Jaffa – the city was re-built and the early part of the 18th century saw Jaffa evolve as one of the important urban centers of the Ottoman Empire. The 18th century, however, ended on a bitter note for Jaffa – the city came under a siege by Napoleon’s army in 1799 and a great number of its population was killed. More lives were lost in the plague epidemic that followed and the population dwindled as a result.

Tel Aviv-jaffa History – 1800 CE To 1945 CE

The 19th century brought good tidings once again. The city showed signs of prosperity towards the 1850s as the Jaffa port became both a trade-hub (trading in silk and oranges) and a gateway for overseas pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem. The economic prosperity attracted new settlers and the population was once again on the rise. Most among these new arrivals, rather immigrants were Jews, who entered the region as part of a wave of the First Zionist Aliyah (in the 1880s). As more and more Jews migrated to the Jaffa part of Palestine, a number of Jewish neighborhoods came up – Kerem HaTeimanim (1881), Neve Tzedeq (1886), Neve Shalom (1890), Mahane Yehuda (1896) and Mahane Yossef (1904). Among these neighborhoods, Neve Tzedeq is identified as the precursor of modern-day Tel Aviv.

Stepping into the 20th century, the Jews formed a society, named Ahuzat Bayit, with the aim of setting up a Jewish city modeled on the European garden cities. 5 hectares of land (in the Neve Tzedeq neighborhood) were purchased in 1908. Land-allotment was undertaken in 1909 before a gathering of sixty-six Jewish families. The name Tel Aviv was adopted in 1910 and it marked the beginning of Tel Aviv-jaffa history.

Tel-Aviv began to expand rapidly as old neighborhoods joined in and new neighborhoods were established. In 1917, however, this growth was stalled temporarily when the Ottoman-rulers expelled the Jewish population of both Tel Aviv and Jaffa fearing that they had joined hands with the British army. The Jewish population re-entered the city in the same year after Tel Aviv-jaffa became a part of British administration.

The city did quite well under the British; although this phase of Tel Aviv-jaffa history was marked by increased animosity between the Arabs and the Jews (that resulted in a number of violent clashes), the Tel-Aviv part made immense progress as an urban center. Its improvement in cultural, economic and political spheres brought it recognition as a separate town in 1921. By the time that Tel-Aviv was accorded city-status in 1934, it not only became a full-fledged Jewish city that attracted Jewish immigrants moving here on account of the Aliyahs, it became the chief city of Palestine. (Most of the city’s important heritage structures like the Ben Gurion House, Habima Theater and White City belong to this period of Tel-Aviv’s history.) During the WWII days, Tel Aviv was often the target of bombing.

Tel Aviv-jaffa History – 1946 Onwards

The next major happening in Tel Aviv-jaffa history was the 1948-clash between the Jews of Tel-Aviv and the Jaffa-Arabs. The war ended in the defeat of the Arabs, who all fled from Jaffa, which in turn, was quickly settled by immigrant Jews. Jaffa merged with Tel Aviv in 1950 and the unified city was officially given the name, Tel-Aviv-Yafo. Tel-Aviv-Yafo continued to expand and grow all throughout the 1950s, annexing nearby neighborhoods. Growth suffered in the 1960s when there was no scope for further expansion. This, however, was temporary and the city hit back once again with its new development/expansion plans whereby old buildings were demolished to make place for high-rises.

Though Tel-Aviv’s recent history has been marked by incidents of terrorism and violence led by various militant-groups, the city has successfully emerged as an economically strong world city – a high-tech city that promises its inhabitants a good standard of living, a city that continually attracts immigrants, foreign workers and even investors.

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