About Tel Aviv Port

About Tel Aviv Port

The dream of a port was born in 1913, a short time after the birth of Tel Aviv. Jaffa port was the primary marine gateway into the land of Israel, and the committee for Tel Aviv, still a suburb of Jaffa at the time, decided to construct an independent port. During the 1920s, various plans were drawn up for construction of a pier for unloading merchandise at the end of Allenby street, which could serve as the basis for an independent port, or for the expansion of Jaffa port in the direction of Tel Aviv. None of these plans were every realized, although some of them were approved by the British Mandate. The opportune moment for realizing the dream and building a port only occurred with the start of the Arab Riots (Arab Uprising of 1936-1939) on the 19th of April 1936. The general strike declared by the Arabs resulted in a complete six-month long closure of Jaffa Port. Jaffa port is the seaport through which a significant part of all imports and exports from Tel Aviv were conducted, and at the time Tel Aviv was the largest city in the county. Haifa port, which was a sophisticated port, could not be relied on due to the distance and transportation problems. The Jewish leaders pressured the British Mandate to authorize the unloading of merchandise on the Tel Aviv seashore. “Recent events in Jaffa have proven once again that the Jewish settlement in Tel Aviv and its environs is in critical need of a direct outlet to the sea, without being dependent on Jaffa port” – a memo written by the Tel Aviv Port and Transportation Committee at the time. The pressure bore fruit and approval was granted in mid-May. The desire to take tangible steps, due to the fear that the British would withdraw their approval, required rapid action, and construction of the first wooden pier in northern Tel Aviv commenced. The location was chosen due to its proximity to the estuary of the Yarkon River, the Yarid Hamizrach buildings that were designated to serve as warehouses, and the wide beach that was owned in part by the Municipality. “A wooden bridge on the sea, two wooden sheds, a not very big ship” – these were the beginning of Tel Aviv Port. On the 19th of May, a ship named Chaterty, under a Yugoslavian flag, reached the port with a cargo of cement bags. The workers gathered at the port, including the famous Salonika dock workers, and unloaded the cement bags onto the beach as crowds gathered to witness the event and sang the Tikva (anthem). This was an act of construction and creation in response to the violent riots. Meir Dizengoff, the mayor of Tel Aviv, who was sick at the time, came to observe the birth of the first Hebrew port in two thousand years, and said: “Here will be a great port...”. Over the next few months, a long iron pier was constructed deep into the sea (replacing the wooden bridge that was swept away by the waves), and the anchorage pool for boats was excavated under the supervision of the city engineer, Y. Shifman. Since the government did not participate in the construction costs due to political consideration, and even prohibited the municipality from participating in these costs, the port was constructed by a private company. The shares of the company – Marine Trust Ltd. – were issued to the public, that bought them enthusiastically. The Jewish settlement was proud of the port – a large economic undertaking that the community succeeded in creating independently, and saw this as a first step towards independence. Two years after the opening of the port, a passenger dock was opened, and another dream was realized. A year later, World War II broke out, and the port was closed, and many of its workers enlisted into the British Army, and much of the equipment and facilities were requisitioned for the war effort. After the war, renewal of ship traffic slowly began. Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, Tel Aviv port was the only port under Jewish control, and therefore was of great importance for the supply and smuggling of weapons at the beginning of the War of Independence. Since the port was constructed, and even after the establishment of the state, various plans were proposed to expand the port and turn it into a deep water port. The government of Israel finally decided that the southern port on the Mediterranean shoreline would be constructed in the estuary of Soreq river, and not in Tel Aviv. With the start of operations of Ashdod port at the end of 1965, Jaffa and Tel Aviv ports were closed. Tel Aviv port was of political and symbolic importance, although its economic contribution was minor. For many years after its closure, the port served as an area for warehouses and storage. Over the years many plans were proposed for re-planning the entire Yarkon peninsula region. In 2001, the management of Marine Trust Ltd., in collaboration with the Municipality of Tel Aviv, decided to restore the first Hebrew port to the first Hebrew city. The port, which since the 1960s had been a backyard that was cut off from the city, became, after the environmentally friendly reconstruction, and renovation of the original buildings, into a unique meeting point between the city, residents and the sea, and one of the most beautiful and lively leisure and entertainment venues in Tel Aviv – Jaffa.

Reconstruction of the historic Tel Aviv port began in 2001. One of the guiding principles of the reconstruction process was the Green Principle, according to which the process would be executed while preserving the authenticity and natural environment that make the port unique. Planning of the public spaces and infrastructure was based on this principle, and the entire design and reconstruction process was conducted while preserving the environment and using suitable materials. First and foremost was the protection of the shoreline and stoppage of water pollution. For this purpose, a pumping station and advanced sewage systems were constructed, that divert the port’s sewage directly to the Shafdan, thus stopping the flow of sewage into the sea. In addition, there is regular supervision to ensure the use of environmentally friendly detergents, and all cleaning of public spaces in the port is performed using treated (recycled) water. In parallel, the fences around the port were removed, and the port was opened to pedestrians and bicycle riders with the goal of connecting the port to the Tel Aviv promenade and Yarkon Park, and enabling green transportation (bicycles). The reconstruction works also included infrastructure and transportation: as a leading innovator, Tel Aviv port adopted an innovative solution – underground waste systems to replace the old waste containers and prevent odor and pest nuisances. The concealed waste project was a breakthrough project in Israel, and was adopted by municipalities and complexes throughout the country. In addition, as part of the infrastructure restoration:
• The old gas systems were replaced by advanced and safe underground routing exchanges
• Carton and paper condensers were installed for recycling
• Lighting, communications and electricity systems were renovated in modern, advanced rooms
Reconstruction of structure and public spaces:
Tel Aviv port, that was desolate since 1965 (when it was closed to ship traffic), was used primarily for warehouses and ceramic outlets. Most of the structures were empty or in poor condition. With the start of development works, a renovation and reconstruction plan was prepared for the structures, as well as the open spaces (that served as improvised parking and garbage dumps) to be converted into open areas for the general public. All this was executed on the backdrop of the historic port, while preserving its “port” character.
Renovation work included:
• Removal of all asbestos roofs and replacement with modern roofs (while preserving the original lines of the buildings)
• Construction of wooden boardwalks, the largest in Israel (about 20,00 square meters of wooden boardwalk open to the public). The boardwalks were designed to integrate with the environment, and only wood with “green” stamp (approved for cutting down) was used
• Construction of several plazas using recycled material similar to deck
• Renovation of the historic piers and anchorage
Now, after completion of the reconstruction and development work, the ports continues to operate under the green flag, with consideration for the environment and community. A unique Farmers Market is held at the port, offering fresh agricultural produce directly from the growers to consumers, and events are held to promote awareness for environmental issues.

<April 2020>
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