“Tel Aviv is a city of holiness,” declares Chaim Galis, a tour guide for the Tel Aviv religious council who took us on a tour in the footsteps of Tel Aviv’s Hassidic rabbis. “From the religious point of view too, Tel Aviv is the city that never stops.”
Holiness? Tel Aviv? Very strange indeed. Holiness, we tend to think, spends its time in Jerusalem, Bnai Brak, Safed, and other cities where religion is intertwined with the stones. But given that holiness already knows Israel’s Sin City, would it dare to get off the exits on the Ayalon Highway? Tel Aviv has cafes, beaches with scantily-clad women, and wild parties on Judaism’s holy days. The only god worshipped by Tel Avivians is the guy who prepares their coffee.
“Tel Aviv has about 500 synagogues, some 350 of them active, and prayers are held in them daily,” says Galis. “And there are yeshivas as well, and kollels (yeshivas for married students), and mikvehs (ritual baths). There is holiness in this city.”
“Many of the well-known Hassidic rabbis preferred to come here,” says Galis. And really, when he explains to me about Hassidism, which believes that one should not worship the Creator only through Torah study, but also through joy and through prayers full of happiness and song, it seems to me that nowhere is more appropriate than Tel Aviv for the stream of Judaism that espouses song and joy.
"The heavenly Tel Aviv” is what the Tel Aviv religious council called these tours, which are part of its new cooperative venture with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Association for Tourism . The tours take you to the homes of intellectuals, to ancient synagogues, and to Hassidic courts in Tel Aviv. According to Galis, who leads the Hassidic court tour, one of Tel Aviv’s chief rabbis is supposed to have said that Tel Aviv is holier than Jerusalem. “In Tel Aviv you won’t find a mosque, or crosses in the streets, and therefore it’s holier than Jerusalem,” said the rabbi.
There are three different tours. “In the footsteps of Rabbi Kook” takes you to the rabbi’s home, the home of Israeli writer Shai Agnon, the first synagogue in Tel Aviv, the first mikveh in Tel Aviv, the Nahum Gutman Museum , and more. “The Heavenly Tel Aviv” goes to the Tachkemoni school, where religious education in Tel Aviv began, to the home of the Kabbalist Rabbi Rabikove on Shabazi Street, and to the Tel Aviv Great Synagogue, Bet Hatanakh (Bible House), and the Museum of the History of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Independence Hall. “In the footsteps of the Hassidic rabbis” goes to Hassidic courts in the heart of Tel Aviv, and ultimately to the old Trumpeldor cemetery, where Galis will show you less well-known spots and tell interesting and colorful stories.
“In the same way that I study Bialik and Ahad Ha’am, why shouldn't people learn about the great men of Israel and about rabbis?” says Galis.
Tel Aviv religious council, tel.: +972-3-693-8930, Tel Aviv-Jaffa Association for Tourism,
Reproduced with permission: Ynet