When Rothschild Boulevard Put Down Roots And Declared Independence
Zionist pioneers planned a Tel Aviv thoroughfare to match the boulevards of Paris. They wound up with something uniquely Israeli, and still evolving
n 1921, Winston Churchill decided to visit Tel Aviv. The city was still young, and its newly planted trees were not yet full grown. Anxious to impress, the mayor borrowed mature trees from neighboring areas and stuck them into the middle of Rothschild Boulevard – just beginning to take shape.
At first, they say, Churchill was amazed at the sight of such lush development having taken place in such a very short time. But he burst into laughter after local children climbed the trees for a look at the respected visitor – and the trees collapsed. Patting the embarrassed mayor on his shoulder, Churchill made a kindly remark about the importance of having roots.
Tel Aviv was founded on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on April 11, 1909. Determining where their houses would stand required the 66 founding families to participate in a lottery where each chose a grey and white shell with plot numbers etched inside.
Hard to imagine, but at the time there was nothing everywhere but sand; even the lottery took place along a dry gully surrounded on all sides by sand. Afterwards, engineers were called in to level the sand so that houses could be built on top. Dismayed, they told the founding fathers that it would cost more to clear the land than they had paid for the plots.
One of them – Akiva Arie Weiss – dismissed the engineers, designed special wheelbarrows, and hired 20 young men to push them. Most of the sand they removed was dumped into the gully. And since no one wanted to construct houses there, it was left empty.