Gems in Israel
Specializing in Custom Private Tours of Israel and Israel's Lesser Known Tourist Attractions, the Gems.

December 2001 /January 2002  
ISSN: 1527-9812  
The Open Museum - Tefen
Archie Granot - Master Paper Cutter
Jewish Italian Heritage Lives On in Jerusalem
Rokach House
Nachalat Benyamin - Art & Craft Fair
On the Side - Tmol Shilshom & Nachalat Shiv'a
Jubilee Plaza
Dani Karavan's Kikar Levana
Nachalat Benyamin - Art & Craft Fair
A Neighborhood Undergoing Change

If you visit this street on any day other than Tuesday or Friday and return on either of these two days you’ll be hard pressed to recognize it as the same place. Tel Aviv’s Nachalat Benjamin Street comes alive with an Art & Craft Fair that features the works of roughly 220 artists, twice a week. Called Nachalat Benyamin in Hebrew, it is adjacent to shuk Ha’Carmel. In Tel Aviv’s early days this was the longest street in the city. It is named after Benyamin Ze’ev Herzl, who is considered the father of Political Zionism.

The setting is one of Tel Aviv’s oldest neighborhoods.  First established as the Nachalat Benyamin Association, it initially comprised 40 members. Unlike the residents of Achuzat Bait, most of whom were from the upper classes, most of the new association’s members were tradesmen, clerks and shopkeepers who wanted to create a neighborhood similar to Achuzat Bait.

They managed to purchase 5 acres/20 dunams, which were divided into 35 plots (smaller than those of Achuzat Bait). The houses that were erected consisted of two rooms, a kitchen and a porch. Construction began in 1911 and by 1912 there were 23 houses. When construction was completed the new residents realized that they did not have the means to establish the necessary infrastructure for their new neighborhood. Therefore, a partial consolidation of Nachalat Benyamin and Tel Aviv took place in 1911; the full consolidation was completed in 1912.

Since 1987 the street (which has many textile shops) has been home to the Art & Craft Fair. The artists, who exhibit and sell their creations each have a regular stall, which corresponds to one of the street’s numbers. Artists are accepted by a public committee, which must approve not only the artist, but also the actual items that will be exhibited and sold.  Daniel Joffe is the spokesperson for the Art & Craft Fair of Nachlat Binyamin. In a recent conversation Joffe said that there are a number of criteria for artists to be accepted into the fair:

1)The work must be original.

2)The work must be handmade. Although, in the last year, the guidelines have been changed a bit. The artists view themselves as students of the Bauhaus, which allows for replication of original work. As long as items are produced under the supervision of the artist (rather than mass produced) – they may be exhibited in the fair.

3)The artist must be present at his/her stall and may not send a representative.

Joffe noted that the artists view the interaction with the public on a regular basis as extremely important and added that the fair is a regular Tower of Babel, where tourists are bound to find artists that speak, Spanish, Italian, Russian, English, Dutch as well as many other languages.

For some artists the Art & Craft Fair is the primary means of selling their works, while others also sell through galleries. From talking to a number of the artists I learned that in many instances it is also possible to visit the artist’s own studios, by prior arrangement.

The variety and range of works is broad and varied. The following is just a sampling of some of the artists and the type of work, which they create:

* Neomy Selman, of Moshav Ramot Hashavim grows gourds and then makes wonderful creations by painting on them. The process is quite a long one, she told me. The growing season is three months. Then the gourds must be dried for another three months and finally hollowed out, before she begins the artistic process. You can find her at # 9 Nachalat Benyamin. If you are interested in visiting her studio, near Kfar Saba, call ahead to schedule, 054/408-053.
(please click on the photo to view a larger sample)

* Klara Mnoly, whose works can found at # 10 Nachalat Benyamin, makes simple but appealing serving platters from fused glass.
(please click on the photo to view a larger sample)

* Ayelet & Vladimir Karabukov’s stall is located at # 18 Nachalat Benyamin. They make a variety of items including custom-made metal door signs (which you can have etched with your family name either in Hebrew or English), lampshades that incorporate use of glass (see photo), metal bookmarks, and quite a few other items. You may arrange a visit to their studio, Studio Kav, in Pardes Hana, by calling, 04/637-6054.
(please click on the photo to view a larger sample)

* Yaella, is a jewelry designer whose works feature pins, earnings, rings etc. She is located at # 7 Nachalat Benyamin.
(please click on the photo to view a larger sample)

Whether you’re looking to treat yourself to a gift, need one for your hosts in Israel, or friends back home, this is great place to shop. Prices are extremely reasonable and the variety is such that there is literally ‘something for everyone’.

Nachalat Benyamin and the surrounding streets, feature some of the greatest examples of eclectic architecture in the city. Ruth Speiser of The Redland Group Inc. has been leading a 12-year campaign to change the look and feel of the Nachalat Benyamin area. The private initiative includes the restoration of many of the buildings to their former splendor. If the ambitious plan succeeds the area will resemble a Parisian quarter that will include a boutique hotel, 600 upscale apartments and a new breed of merchants in the commercial areas.

Some view this initiative in a positive light, while others are strongly against it. The idea does not focus just on the one street, but rather aims to treat the area as a whole distinct quarter. For Speiser, it all started when she wanted to save the building (known as Beit Ha’amudim – or Pillar House). In this building, at the corner of Rambam and Hatavor Streets, her father, a Hungarian immigrant who came to Israel in 1949 had a factory that employed 170 people. An interior designer by trade, Speiser said she simply ’caught the bug’ and together with other investors started buying property in the area.

About a month ago, a new restaurant, named Carmela (which has received good reviews), opened in the Pillar House. At the end of January, a new gallery is scheduled to open in the Pillar House as well. Shira Dollar heads up the (as yet to be named) gallery. The four small rooms of the gallery (which is located just above the restaurant) will focus to a large extent on the architectural restoration project of the quarter and will serve as a means for the developers to obtain feedback from the public about the project. In the future the gallery will feature both well-known and unknown Israeli artists. Some of the planned exhibits include a photography exhibit whose focus will be the nearby shuk Ha’Carmel. In addition, special workshops will be held on site on alternate Saturday’s and plans are underway to hold tours of Nachalat Benyamin, which will be conducted by some of the city’s best tour guides.

Also on the drawing boards is a takeout delicatessen, as well as a unique wine bar that will feature a different high-priced wine each night. People will be able to order wine by the glass. These are just the first initiatives in what Speiser and her partners hope will bring about a change to an area in the heart of the city. To date $16 million in private funds have been poured into the project, whose total cost is expected to reach $200 million.

Hours: The Art & Craft Fair at Nachalat Benyamin is held on Tuesday and Friday – from 10:00 AM – to 5:00 PM, year round. The Fair does not take place in cases of heavy rain or winds.

03/516-2037 TEL

Art & Craft Fair at Nachalat Benyamin Street, Every Tuesday and Friday
Art & Craft Fair at Nachalat Benyamin Street, Every Tuesday and Friday
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