- In the Beginning
- The City Expands
- Politics and Government
- Business and Commerce
- Education, the Arts, Popular Culture
The Tel Aviv Municipality: Politics and Government in the Hebrew City
In June 1921, Tel Aviv was officially recognized by British authorities as an autonomous municipality, separate from neighboring Jaffa. This was not an amicable divorce; the municipal council was established one month after inter-communal riots in Jaffa which claimed nearly one hundred lives (including the great Hebrew writer Joseph Hayyim Brenner). Tel Aviv henceforth enjoyed a degree of local political autonomy under the British colonial administration, with its own police force, courts, taxation authority, governmental bodies, and bureaucracy. Together with such Zionist institutions as the Jewish Agency and the General Labor Federation (Histadrut), Tel Aviv thus served as a laboratory for – and the nucleus of – the political and governmental apparatus of the future Jewish state. The Eliasaf Robinson Collection includes proclamations issued by the Tel Aviv municipality from its inception, along with pamphlets circulated by the city’s political factions in response to policies pursued by the municipality’s leadership.
Official letter, dated June 23, 1921, and signed by Meir Dizengoff, inviting Yehoshua Gordon to the ceremonial banquet honoring the establishment of the Tel Aviv Municipality. The banquet was held at the Herzliah Gymnasium on June 26, 1921, at 7:30 p.m.
"The special character of this town is in its being essentially Hebrew in all its details. The public life, education, sign boards, advertisements, notices, newspapers, theatre and Opera – in all [of them] the Hebrew language is paramount. The Town is administered by an elected Council of 41 members, representative of all the different parties of which its population is composed. In May 1921 it was empowered by the Government to manage its affairs autonomically [sic] as a Township, and as such to impose and levy civic taxes and to receive Municipal Loans in accordance with the requirements of its public life. In the same year it was also authorized to establish a special Municipal Police Force, all of whose members, officers and constables, 70 in number are Jews. This is the first Hebrew Constabulory [sic] in the World and the first Municipal Police force in Palestine. In 1922 the Government published an Order entitling the Township to establish a Special Municipal Court as well."
Preface to Album of Tel-Aviv Views, by Photographer Abraham Soskin (1926).
A few of "Tel-Aviv’s finest," photographed in 1926 (source: Avraham Soskin, Tel Aviv, 1926).
The official emblem of Tel Aviv: The lighthouse signifies that the new city will be “a light to the Diaspora and the Gate of Entry to the Land of Israel.” The city’s motto, “I shall build thee and thou shalt be built,” is taken from the Book of Jeremiah (31:3) (source: Avraham Soskin, Tel Aviv, 1926).
The Tel Aviv Municipality building. Undated, probably 1930s.