Tel Aviv/ White City, Black City

Rotbard Sharon. White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa.


The book well challenges historiography of Tel Aviv and traces its relationship with Jaffa. There are very few publications pointing out the dark side of the White City but his book offered another architectural and political perspective of looking at Tel Aviv.

Without any bias as a Tel Aviv-born architect, Rotbard looks back at the founding and construction of his hometown and ends up chipping away at some of the myths. In White City, Black City, he offers two intertwining narratives, that of colonized and colonizer. The heart of the book focuses on the architectural and cultural historical revision that cast Tel Aviv as a modernist “white city” emerging fully formed from the dunes while ignoring its real foundation, Jaffa.

In the book he specifically pointed out how the Bauhaus brand was used eagerly by the authority to build up the White City narrative. He researched that only four Bauaus students ever emigrated to Palestine, only one of whom left a major archietctural legacy: Aryeh Sharon. Most architects who built the International Style buildings came from France and Belgium. He was dismissive of Bauhaus which “is neither a concept nor a uniform institution but just a brand name.”

The book also talked about Jaffa after the “violence birth of Israel” in 1948, Tel Aviv has continued to push anything unwanted to Jaffa, titled as the Black City in the book. What worsen the situation was that military activities never stopped in Jaffa while White City was already hailed as one of the most hip, wealthy and democratic cities in the world.

The histories are “re-constructed by the victor and according to the victor’s record.” He wrote, “Whoever wants to change a city must first change its story.” The book is definitely an important historical and social documentation of the unexposed side of Tel Aviv.

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