The Mosaics of Migdal Shalom (Shalom Tower)
9 Ahad Ha’am Street, Tel Aviv
This is the original site of the first high-school, known as Gymnasia Herzelya. The tower has an observation deck that affords a great view of the city and mosaics by Nahum Gutman and David Sharir.
Nahum Gutman (1898-1978) was born in Romania and immigrated to Israel in 1905. He grew up in Jaffa, opposite the sand dunes (later to become Tel Aviv), and these locations dominate his landscapes. He was one of the first children to live in the new city of Tel Aviv, and this influential childhood experience is reflected in his books A Small City with Few People and Between Sands and Blue Skies. He became known as prolific children’s book author, and illustrator. His works earned him the title “the artist of early Tel Aviv” seeing as he had a knack for portraying the bohemian and realistic vision of the city and its people. Gutman is also famous for his illustration of Bialik poems and for mosaics he designed in Tel Aviv: in the Shalom Tower, the Chief Rabbinate Building, and the old City Plaza, Bialik Square. They were created in 1970 and they tell the story of the daily life in Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
After his death the Nahum Gutman Museum was founded. It is located in what is considered Tel Aviv’s first Jewish neighborhood, Neve Tzedek.
The Mosaic in the western wing of the Shalom Tower tells us of the beginning of the city. The mosaic is divided in four different colors each representing a period in the life of the city.
Chapter 1 – The Green Wall
Old Jaffa, with its houses piled up on top of each other, camel caravans and fishing boats. A large steamship is anchored in the harbour, looking at the children of Tel Aviv like a friend bringing greetings from distant lands. Jaffa is surrounded by orchards, wrapped in the idyllic atmosphere of an enchanted garden.
The trees are made of green arches, looking like the splendid fans of peacock tails. We see an Arab standing at the edge of a pool of water, a donkey turning a water wheel and women carrying jugs of water on their heads.
Chapter 2 – The Yellow Wall
The dominant color is yellow, the color of the sand dunes on which the city is built. All the pictures appearing here are taken from life in the neighborhood of Ahuzat Bayit, as described by the writer Nahum Gutman in his book: A Small Town, With Few People.
We can see a sycamore tree, a focal point for picnics in those days; the public water pipes, which sometimes bursted, producing a jet of water to the delight of the birds; the Gymnasium, taking a place of honor because of its central importance to the neighborhood; Dr. Hissin, the town doctor, riding his white donkey and holding a parasol. On Rothschild’s Boulevard, the town’s first gardener is watering a sapling whose shape is reminiscent of the emblem of the State of Israel. Mr. Diezengoff’s horse is led to the water tower, and a large samovar can be seen in Mrs. Zinna Diezengoff’s living room, welcoming the city’s residents. Linking the green and the yellow walls is another picture, showing immigrants from the second wave of immigration. They are leaving the harbour carrying bags and cases and going to the Jewish neighborhoods.
Chapter 3 – The Red Wall
This is the axis of the entire picture. In the center is a street lamp, the first in the neighborhood. People are standing around the lamp, staring up at it in wonder, their heads appearing almost separated from their bodies. The atmosphere is both mystical and mysterious. The boys who leveled the sand dunes, are represented by three workmen: one old-timer- already a few days in the country- who has dared to take off his shirt and show signs of a suntan; the second an intellectual- a student, on his first day at the job – his skin still lily-white, apart from his nose which is beginning to redden from the sun. However, he too is determined to overcome the hardships. Leading them is a tanned, veteran worker wearing a middle-eastern keffya and serving as an example to the newcomers.
The cultural beginnings of Tel Aviv- the concert. The violinist and pianist are playing and the entire neighborhood has gathered around the house. On the left we can see construction work, done by a Yemenite boy with the face of an ascetic saint. In addition there is a couple, he a young poet holding a book, and by his side a young woman, new in the country, also carrying a book of poetry. The figure is the actress Hanna Rovina and the poet Uri Zvi Greenberg who are representing poets and artists. Alongside them, at the end of an illuminated patch, is the Gymnasium. On his lunch-break the workman has taken off his shirt and has hung it up to dry, and in the shade he and his friends are sitting and eating watermelon, a nutritious meal in those days.
Chapter 4 – Tel Aviv of the 30s and 40s.
Tel Aviv has outgrown the appellation “little”. The city is already established, with rows of houses, the port, the Yarkon bridge, and green avenues. In the 30s Tel Aviv achieved the status of a city and already has a mother whose loving arms embrace the city in all its colors. Her left sleeve is black, and we can make out airplanes on it, a reminder of the bombing by the Italian Air Force during the Second World War. However, in the city that is built and renewed, the main element is its heart. The heart of Tel Aviv is Ahuzat Bayit and the Hebrew Gymnasium.
Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the Second Generation. Western Wing, ground level.
Opposite the wall by Nahum Gutman is the mosaic wall created by David Sharir, who grew up in Tel Aviv,