Taking A Stroll Along Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Street
The jaunt, which also follows the Shlomo Lahat beachside promenade, includes historic buildings, unusual and touching monuments, and even a voice from the not-so-distant past.
Every city has its white elephants. In Tel Aviv, the most obvious would definitely be Kikar Atarim. Completed in 1975, and planned as a combination parking lot and shopping mall right on the beach, the project turned out to be a disaster. Architecturally, it belongs to the “School of Brutalism,” and it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why. Indeed, former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat is often quoted as saying that during the Gulf War he hoped that a Scud rocket would fall on Kikar Atarim — and that the whole enterprise would collapse.
True, in the beginning, nearly 200 shops and restaurants opened up in the four-storied complex, and suddenly there was parking galore for the hotels that appeared along the beach. But after “criminal elements” took over, and honest citizens stopped frequenting the area, Kikar Atarim was abandoned. Even after the inauguration of the Coliseum Night Club, things didn’t really improve. And although every once in a while someone holds an event in the former Coliseum, Kikar Atarim remains a sad, and empty, and not very clean sight. Or, as the internet site Wikimapia succinctly reports: Kikar Atarim “used to be a well-known hangout spot for foreign tourists in summer. Now mostly empty.”
There is one bright star on the horizon, however. The Marina Hotel, which was constructed as part of the complex, recently underwent major renovations. And the result is astonishing, for not only is the little boutique hotel now both elegant and charming, but it has also become a mini art museum that encourages people to view over 600 original paintings. Indeed, soon there will be gallery talks about the different pieces of art and the men and women who created them.
It’s fun to stroll along HaYarkon Street, so include it in your itinerary on a return trip to Israel. And if you live here, enjoy the walk along a byway named for the river that runs into the sea at its northern end. The jaunt, which also follows the Shlomo Lahat beachside promenade, includes historic buildings, unusual and touching monuments, and even a voice from the not-so-distant past.