A couple of Saturdays ago, I found myself walking through the city of Tel Aviv, not quite aimlessly, but with a less than firm idea of where I was heading. At one point I decided to photograph the street signs along the way – at least those that were named after people – and then try find out who the people were. I made no attempt to be comprehensive, simply snapping when I felt like it and when the angle of the sun allowed.
Here’s the first batch:
Though born in Palestine Daniel Frisch (1897–1950) was taken by his family to Romania as a baby. In 1921, he moved to the US, settling in Indianapolis. An investment broker and the head of a large salvage firm, Frisch was a militant General Zionist becoming a member of the Zionist Organization of America's Administrative Council in 1934. A collection of his essays, sketches, and letters was published as On the Road to Zion (1950). He died in Manhattan at the age of 52 after an operation for a liver ailment.
Solomon Ibn Gabirol (c. 1021-1058) was one of the most famous medieval Hebrew poets in Spain. He was born in Malaga and although he died young, he appears to have been very prolific, writing a range of devotional and secular poetry. Here are the lyrics to a song of his, protesting a merchant who diluted wine with water. (There's a link on the page to hear it sun.)
Menahem Sheinkin (1871–1924) is credited with the naming of Tel Aviv. Born in Ulla (near Vitebsk), Sheinkin initially studied to become a rabbi, but became attracted to the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment) movement and enrolled at Odessa University. An early Zionist, he was a delegate to the Second Zionist Congress in 1898, moving to Palestine in 1906.
The discussion about what to call the new Jewish neighbourhood in 1910 went like this. Tel Aviv is a translation of the title of Theodor Herzl’s novel "Altneuland". It involves the same play on words between "old" and "new". In Hebrew, "tel" means a mound of ancient ruins and "aviv" means spring.
According to the South African Sunday Times, Sheinkin Street is Tel Aviv’s "best-kept secret":
Named after one of the founders of Tel Aviv, Menachem Sheinkin, Sheinkin Street lies in the middle of the city. It is packed with Israeli designer shops and fabulous restaurants, cafes and fruit juice stands. (Israel is famous for its fruit juices.) It is young, vibrant, "artsy", religious and non-religious - totally representative of this multi-faceted city.
(This was something I didn't know at the time, unfortunately.)
Born in Toledo, Spain, Yehuda Ha-Levi (c.1080-1141) was another of the great medieval Spanish Jewish poets writing in Hebrew about a wide range of religious and secular subjects. (He also wrote poetry in Arabic.) Here’s one of his poems about wine – or rather no wine.
Cups without wine are low things
Like a pot thrown to the ground,
But brimming with the juice, they shine
Like body and soul.
Alexander Marmorek (1865 - 1923) was born in Mielnica, Galicia. After graduating in medicine from Vienna university, he moved to Paris where he studied and worked at the the Pasteur Institute. He was head of the French Zionist Federation and developed a friendship with Theodor Herzl. He also wrote about septic diseases.
In the ninth century, Amram Ga'on headed the Jewish Talmud Academy of Sura, a city in the southern part of Babylonia. He was the first to arrange a complete liturgy for the synagogue. He also wrote numerous responsa on Jewish jurisprudence.
Micah Josef Berdichevsky (1865-1921) was a Ukrainian-born writer, journalist, and scholar. The son of a Hasidic Rabbi, he studied at Volozhin Yeshiva, then at the universities of Berlin, Breslau and Bern. He began publishing articles in Hebrew journals, and became a leader of the Hatseirim movement (The Young), which rejected standard definitions of Jewish experience. He appealed to Jews to free themselves from the dogmas of religion, tradition and history. He married dentist Rachel Romberg in Berlin and during the remainder of his life he was a near-reclusive intellectual, publishing numerous books in Hebrew, Yiddish and German.