Walking on the “Tels” of Tel Aviv

I hadn’t given much though to the origins of the name “Tel Aviv”, only the fact that in Arabic Tel Aviv is pronounced “Tel Abeeb” due to the lack of a V letter in the Arabic alphabet, which made me giggle upon the first time reading it . Today however, I adapted a new understanding of the city and its name.

We began our morning lathered in sunscreen and a variety of appropriate walking attire, prepared for both a long and warm day ahead on foot. We began walking through Jaffa, starting at the harbor making our way through the Old City, encompassing what we would know as the Ajame neighborhood.  The night before we had make a similar trek, but it didn’t do full justice to the beauty of the white stone buildings in pair with the clear aqua landscape of the Mediterranean behind it.

As many of use were in dire need of caffeine, those around us were bustling about, going on morning jogs and preparing their boats for a morning out on the sea with their furry companions. As we sat observing what we would come to know as a historically important harbor, accompanied by a multitude of Israeli flags waving rapidly in the sea breeze.

The question is, how did these flags come about, and at the expense of what or whom?

We walked up a series of slippery stone steps steps with indents of those who walked on them hundreds of years prior. In contrast to historic exterior, the inside of the ancient buildings one could find a series of modern art galleries and shops to entice the ever growing tourist entities, most likely with greater purchasing ability then ourselves.

We enjoyed the shade near where the shops were located and then found ourselves once again in exposure to the sunshine in a vast open area once again. Such change of scenery we soon came to know was not a natural occurrence, but rather a result of a strategic demolishment of what was once Palestinian homes known as Operation Anchor.

Operation Anchor was in response to the uprising of the Palestinian Arab population against Mandatory British rule as well as mass Jewish immigration happening simultaneously. This, as the name implies, left an anchor shape in what was once a stacked city similar to where the new art galleries currently reside.

Continuing on our walk it seemed as if we were venturing across a hilly terrain, tiring us in combination with the lack of caffeine and heat. We were soon informed however the hills in which we were walking among was not the natural topography. Thus, they are a result of      new infrastructure on top of what was once Palestinian homes which now were only memories below our feet and sticking out from the planted landscapes around us.


Translated into what we know as hill or mounds is the meaning what we know as the Tel in Tel Aviv or in Arabic تل أبيب (“Tel Abeeb”) representing, the hills and mounds in which a Jewish nation was built upon over the Palestinians before it.

Walking over the Tels, the life below it isn’t visible, it is both forgotten unknown by those unaware of what lies beneath. No signs, no recognition, no “historic part under here!” it is as if it simply it never exsisted. Similar to the history of the same people within the modern day discourse , it remains unrecognized by those in their art galleries or by tourists accompanying us on Thursday morning enjoying the Tels of what is now known as Israel.

SLU students walking up the steps towards the once Palestinian majority neighborhood in Jaffa

Open area of Jaffa, result the demolition of Palestinian homes by the British.

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