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April 10, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 10, 2009 Grt,wing up wilLh Tel Aviv By Dina Kraft TEL AVIV (JTA)--When Yoram Kaniuk was born in Tel Aviv in 1930, itwas a small place with just 20,000 people and a handful of paved roads. But for Kaniuk and his friends, it was the world. "We thought it was a big city," Kaniuk said, sitting by the window of his apart- ment's snug living room on Bih Street, today a narrow, tree-lined road he remembers as having the highest sand dunes in the city. The eastern side of the city, including Ibn Gvirol Street, today Tel Aviv's main thoroughfare, was open fields and orange orchards. In the old days, the northern edge of the city was Mapu Street, now considered central Tel Aviv. "We called it the Galilee, as we could not imagine any point further north," Kaniuk said. He grew up in something of Tel Aviv nobility. His godfather, a friend of his grandfather's from Odesssa, was Chaim Nachman Bialik, the national poet. His father, Moshe Kaniuk, was an aide to the city's first mayor, Meir Di- zengoff, and was the founder and curator of Tel Aviv's first art museum. Kaniuk, who went on to become one of Israel's best- known novelists--his book "Adam Resurrected" recently was made into a film starring Jeff Goldbhm--recalls play- ing in Bialik's garden, kicking around a soccer ball and riding his bicycle everywhere with- out fear of cars because only a few drove by on any given day. In Tel Aviv's early days, everyone got around either by bicycle or on one of the city's red buses. Culture was abundant-- aphilharmonic, opera, theaters and rows of cafes. The museum Kaniuk's father oversaw was in Dizen- goff's house, which eventually would become part of history when David Ben-Gurion de- clared Israel's independence from its ground floor in 1948. For Kaniuk it was where he spent many days of his child- hood listening to the classical music concerts held there, overhearing the conversa- tions of refugees from Ger- many who came to get their fill of Beethoven and Bach. "Tel Aviv felt like the center of everything," he said. "It was the Zionist city, the first Hebrew city. All of the orga- nizations were based here, all of the newspapers--it was the cultural capital of the Land of Israel." Decades later, Kaniuk says he still loves its energy. "Everythingyou could ever want is only a walk away," he said. "It's not like New York, where you have to hop on a subway. The city is constantly reinventing itself anew." A painter's wife Esther Rubin was still Es- ther Davis, just an 18-year-old girl from the Bronx, when she first laid eyes on Tel Aviv in 1929. "I had been prepared for Tel Aviv to be small and provin- cial, but seeing a donkey or camel in the street next to an automobile charmed me and I liked the idea," she said. "I felt very much bound to Tel Aviv, as I am still today." Still elegant at 98, Rubin's hair is swept up in a perfect coif, her lips covered in dark pink lipstick. She talked to JTA on the 13th floor of her sprawl- ing, sunny TelAviv apartment, its walls full of her favorite oil paintings. The artist: her husband, Reuven Rubin. Rubin's aqua blue eyes twinkle brightly as she speaks, the same enchanting eyes her late husband painted in his portraits of her decades ago. She met her husband on the steamship from New York to Palestine in late 1928. She had won a free three -month trip to Palestine from Young Judaea for winning an essay contest about the youth of Palestine. Her mother had warned her to stay away from strange men, but after he approached her on deck one morning they started talking. They were engaged soon afterward. When the couple landed in Haifa and made their way to Tel Aviv by taxi, Rubin remem- bers feeling instantly comfort- able in her new, though very foreign, surroundings. "The intimacy of people, the kindness--everyone was so nice," she said. "I felt very much at home from the be- ginning. I did not feel I was in a strange city or a strange country." When Rubin arrived, the buildings of Tel Aviv were a mix of styles--eclectic archi- tecture mixing Turkish, clas- sical and modern elements. Later the refugees from Eu- rope would arrive, bringing with them the international Bauhuas style that became a hallmark of Tel Aviv. Some of the better-known glimpses of early Tel Aviv life can be seen in her husband's paintings. In 1923, when he arrived here from Romania, Reuven Rubin would paint on the seashore, putting into color the dazzling sun and blue of the Mediterranean. He painted the new city of TelAviv and the ancient walkways of nearby Jaffa with its red-tiled roofs, minarets and bobbing rowboats. In a self-portrait sitting with Esther on a Tel Aviv balcony overlooking the sea, called "The Engaged Couple," the sea is visible. The young couple used to run down to the beach for their daily swim from one of their first homes, an apartment on Hess Street. Later they moved to a house on Bialik Street, just a few doors down from their friend, the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik. Today the house is a museum. Rubin recalls the open houses they used to have every Saturday morning when doz- ens of people would gather--a mix of friends, musicians and fellow artists often staying for impromptu lunches. "I don't know how I man- aged it, but I did," said Rubin, who in addition to her hostess duties was also her husband's chief cataloger and archivist, keeping meticulous records for nearly 50 years. Rubin says she doesn't mind that Tel Aviv, just two years older than she is, is growing up. "I don't look for the old Tel Aviv," she said. "I grow with the new Tel Aviv and am delighted to see the changes." Tel Aviv royalty The morning Rafaella Di- zengoff Rivlin was born in 1921, her great-uncle, Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, rushed over to see her still dressed in his pajamas. PAGE 11A Dim Kraft Rafaella Dizengoff Rivlin stands next to a framed photo of her famous greaNmde, Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv. TelAvlv on page 19A Dina Kraft Esther Rubin, who has lived in Tel Aviv for 70 years, poses beneath a painting by her late husband, the artist Reuven Rubin. Treating patients in Central Florida for over 25 Years Steven Rosenberg, M.D. Carlos M. Jacinto, M.D. ALLERGY & ASTHMA ASSOCIATES OF CENTRAL FLORIDA Winter Park Orlando 407-678-4040 407-370-3705 Altamonte Springs 407-331-6244 www.aaacfonline.com liana Stone, ARNP-C Our physicians hold faculty appointments at the Florida Slate University  of   Qe University of Central Florida School of Medicbte and are members of Florida  Kid's D0c's Wishing The Community A Very Happy Passover!