Few months ago, I was in a Bekol-organized tour in the Neve-Zedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Today I had a similar tour in Florentin neighborhood, which lies to the southeast of Neve-Zedek. This time, we had to pre-register for the tour. Apparently, the need to pre-register did not deter people from joining it, and the group counted about 40 people – significantly larger than usual.
We started today’s tour in Beit Immanuel and visited the Immanuel church (formerly German church) next to it. The area had an interesting history. It started by a group of American religious zealots, who figured out that Jesus would come again if Jews return to Palestine. So they immigrated to the sorry land to prepare it for the Jews. They were not successful in their venture, and returned back to USA. Some of them needed monetary assistance from none other than Mark Twain to return to USA. Their buildings were built of wood.
Their buildings were then inhabited by the German Templers. The Germans were very successful in settling in some places in Israel (there are German neighborhoods also in Jerusalem and Haifa). Their nemesis was their Nazi tendencies, which caused the British to eventually remove them from Palestine during World War II.
The Immanuel church is built differently from the usual buildings in Israel, and entering it makes you feel as if you left Tel Aviv and Israel and are now somewhere in Europe.
The tour guide then took us to two culinary delights of Florentin neighborhood. There is one place which she claimed makes the best sandwiches in Israel. We tasted samples of the sandwiches and they indeed were excellent. (This cleared the mystery why preregistration and prepayment for the tour were asked for, contrary to usual practice. The organizers needed to make sure that the locations prepare for us the food samples.)
We next visited a restaurant, whose name is that of Jesus Christ and the ADMO”R Melubevitch. Officially its name was “Messiah ben David”. It, too, was a culinary delight. The third tasting place, where we were at end of our tour, was Conditoria Slonicky, where the sweets were prepared according to the tradition of the Jewish inhabitants of the Greek town of Slonicky.
In middle, we visited the museum in memory of Avraham “Yair” Stern. He was the leader of LEHI, the third and smallest group of freedom fighters, who fought the British Mandate. He was captured in the house where the museum is now, and was brutally murdered by the British police officer who caught him.
One leaflet caught my eye. The leaflet announced that LEHI is disbanding as the State of Israel has been founded. They declared that they do not recognize the authority of the British Mandate, the Jewish Agency, the Hagana, etc. etc. But the recognize and accept the authority of the State of Israel. This explains why they were not a troublesome political factor after the War of Independence. Several of the LEHI members enlisted in the IDF and other Israeli defense organizations. Several years later, one of their leaders became Prime Minister of Israel. I find it amazing that before founding of the State of Israel, there were three freedom fighting organizations, which were not always at peace with each other. Yet, in the years since then, the leaders of all three organizations had their turns at being Prime Ministers of Israel (first, David Ben-Gurion, then Menachem Begin and finally Itzhak Shamir). And this was accomplished solely through the ballot box, without bloody or bloodless revolutions. I feel this is amazing.
Another interesting tidbit is about the Jewish suicide bombers. Two freedom fighters were captured by the British and were sentenced to death by hanging. They and their compatriots decided to smuggle a bomb into their cell. Then, a moment before getting hanged, they are to explode the bomb in the execution chamber, thus dying from it and taking with them several British officers and soldiers.
The plan was foiled because a Rabbi insisted upon being with them when they are executed. They did not want to hurt him, so they hugged each other in the cell two hours before being brought to the execution chamber and exploded the bomb between them.
The tour lasted four hours, rather than the two hours which are customary length of Bekol-organized tours to interesting places in Tel Aviv.