When we moved to נווה צדק (Neve Tzedek) two years ago it had already been under transformation for quite awhile. Founded in 1887 as the first Jewish settlement outside the walls of יפו (Yafo-Jaffe) the houses were built as private dwellings - small, one story with stucco exteriors. Over the years the neighborhood grew increasingly run down and by the 1980s was scheduled for demolition. Thankfully preservations argued successfully to reverse the demolition order and the original buildings and narrow streets were saved. Restoration of the houses and businesses and the the streets has been ongoing since then.
I imagine that נווה צדק has always been charming. It sits very close to the sea. The houses are low and the color of the stucco provides a beautiful backdrop for bougainvillea and laurel. There are small buildings and some mansions and a number of architecturally important edifices.
The Suzanne Dellal Center is located here. It was once a school with two pavillions - one for boys and one for girls. Now it is a world class venue for dance and performance art.
On visits to Tel Aviv we would always make time to cross Herzl Street and venture away from the White City to the cafes and sand colored house on רחוב שבזי (Shabazi Street) and dream about the near impossibility of living here.
Ah...but the impossible happened and we are here, and it is wonderful. As wonderful as we imagined it would be. What we didin't imagine and perhaps we should have given the recent trends in Europe - was that we were moving to the South of France.
Of course, it is not literally Provence or the Cote d'Azure but for many years the Jews of France have kept apartments in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for extended-family use and as vacation homes. נווה צדק has always been one of the most popular locations.
Children who are missing lessons in France or who move here permanenetly can attend the
LE COLLÈGE FRANÇAIS MARC CHAGALL DE TEL AVIV . The school provides lessons in French and Hebrew. The curriculum is approved by the French Government and the Israeli Government. The International Baccalaureate is awarded. The school is the preferred institution for dipolomats from Europe and abroad.
Recently, the vacation homes have become permanent homes and the French population has increased significantly. I understand from my friends from Paris that it is no longer safe to walk in the streets with a kippa, that any overt sign of Judaism can cause strangers to walk up and make verbal or physical threats. How frightening for those whose parents and grandparets survived the war or for those who were forced out of North Africa.
When Tel Aviv is safer than Paris, that is a sad state of affairs.
In any event, French Jews are moving here. They bring France with them. At one time they were content to eat Israeli food since they were going home. But now, that won't do.
Down Shabazi, the stores of have changed. Many of the brands are French. There is a stronger Algerian and Tunisian presence - two new restaurants. The market around the corner carries French staples and our newest edition - Epicerie - is out and out a transplant.
I can get a very good bagette. The cheese and the wine are French. The mustard is French. The ambience is French. When I go to pay at the register, I am addressed in French. They speak Hebrew but so many residents are French they presume we are too.
I am getting used to Hebrew in a French accent. Half of my Ulpan class is from France.
I am both delighted and dismayed. I welcome them, but I worry about what this means about Europe and the future of European Jewry.
In the meantime, the Lucques, the Camembert the wine keep me in a state of contentment. And of course, I am terribly found of mes nouveaux amis.
אילולא עליתי ארצה, לא הייתי מכירה אותם. אני ממש שמחה שאני נמצאת בישראל