Through a lens: views of Tel Aviv 1909-1934

These photographs come from one of a number of albums covering the Middle East in the Colonial Office library photographic collection (CO 1069) that have been made available on Flickr, the photo-sharing website.

Palestine was created as a part of the post-First World War settlement with boundaries resulting from political decisions taken by Britain and France.

Previously, under Ottoman rule, the land had been divided into three districts, each with its own Ottoman officials and a representative council of locals. Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa were the most important cities. The port city of Jaffa, Bride of the Sea, was mainly Arab but began to emerge as a cultural and educational centre for the immigrant Jewish population in the late 19th century.  In 1909 Tel Aviv was founded as a Jewish suburb on its northern outskirts.

The lottery for housing plots

The lottery for housing plots Document (reference: CO 1069/730 (4))

The above photograph depicts the lottery for housing plots that founded Ahuzat Bayit (Homestead) on 11 April 1909.  Shortly afterwards the suburb was renamed Tel Aviv (Hill of Spring).

The photograph was taken by Avraham Soskin who had been walking with his camera and tripod through the sand dunes when he chanced upon the group of 66 Jewish families at Karm al-Jabali and the historic lottery taking place.

Soskin had been born in Russia in 1884 before emigrating in 1905.  Subsequently, he went on to record the construction and development of the city, establishing his photographic studio in the city in 1914.

The "Allenby Road" 1924

The "Allenby Road" 1924 (reference: CO 1069/730 (9))

Substantial levels of Jewish immigration, attracted to an urban area under Jewish management, saw Tel Aviv’s rapid growth with township status granted in 1921.

The Allenby Road 1934

The Allenby Road 1934 (reference: CO 1069/730 (10))

During the 1920s, growing friction in the region between the Jewish and Arab  populations led to outbreaks of violence and thousands of  Jews left Jaffa for Tel Aviv after anti-Jewish riots in the city. Tel Aviv was granted city status in 1934 but the gradual separation of the Jewish and Arab population continued and was effectively completed with the establishment of a separate port in Tel Aviv in 1938.

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