“The Arabs” (not) in the museum \ Eitan Bronstein Aparicio

Jews in Tel Aviv dressed as Arabs Jews in Tel Aviv dressed as Arabs

"Here's a painting by Nahum Gutman. It shows the founders of Tel Aviv drawing for the building lots on which they'll construct their homes. He painted the seashore in the background. There's only sand between the people and the sea. For some reason he didn't include Manshiyya, the Jaffa neighborhood with tens of thousands of inhabitants, most of them Arabs, even though it would have been impossible to overlook it from where he stood. By ignoring it he helped create the myth that the first Hebrew city was built on sand dunes." With these words, Umar al-Ghubari concluded his tour of the destroyed Palestinian localities within Tel Aviv's borders.

After a short break for lunch we reached the original municipality building. "Beit Ha'Ir" was established there a few years ago, displaying an exhibit of Tel Aviv history. Michal, the guide, charmingly told the story of how Tel Aviv was established and noted twice (!) that it had been built on the sand dunes. She said it had been established in 1909; only in response to a question did she add (apparently unwillingly) that it had been, in fact, one of Jaffa's neighborhoods. Tel Aviv was established as the first Zionist neighborhood – that is, for Jews only. Only in 1921 did it become an independent town.

She made no mention of the seven Arab localities that were found within Tel Aviv's boundaries. They appear three times in the exhibit: once in the short historical film about Tel Aviv, which briefly shows Arabs walking in the city. The second time is a photograph of Jews being photographed dressed as Arabs, adopting oriental folklore. The third is on a huge, original map from the office of Meyer Dizengoff, the city's first mayor. It shows the city's earliest neighborhoods; the words "the Arabs" appear next to the Neve Shalom neighborhood. When we asked Michal what they meant she explained that was how the first Jewish inhabitants viewed their Arab neighbors. By ignoring the neighborhood's name – Manshiyya – they stressed the separation between the Jews and the Arabs which they so carefully maintained from the moment the town was born.

This insulting attitude toward the local population led to an emotional response by one of the tour's participants as soon as the visit ended: "They found room in the museum for photographs of the animals in the zoo near the municipal building – but not for the Arabs!" 



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