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Neve Tzedek Hip in Hebrew

2573879177_fe762984c4_o
Photos (1) by Teena Wildmen, (2,3,5,6) by Lawrence Ferber and (4, 7) by Kobi Israel
Story by Lawrence Ferber

 Lined with bath and body shops, cafés and clothing stores, Sheinken Street once laid claim as Tel Aviv’s trendiest strip: the queer hipsters of 2006’s The Bubble worked and hung out in the area. But now Neve Tzedek, one the city’s oldest sections, has snatched and run off with the glowing torch.

Founded in 1887 (before Tel Aviv even became a city) – the peeling paint and rough edges in the streets of Neve Tzedek still recall the late 19th century. Now snazzy, modern boutique businesses have added serious razzle-dazzle as well as sublime design-oriented flourishes—even the mezuzahs on people's doorframes.

First occupied by literary, artistic and philanthropic types, splashes of Hebrew poetry and art mark the walls of Neve Tzedek while the homes of prominent early residents, including Simon Rokach and painter Nachum Gutman are now museums packed with memorabilia and contemporary Israeli art—both on Simon Rokach St.

Leading the nouveau charge is wine bar/shop Pri Hagefen—the name is derived from the Jewish blessing for wine—with a mod-rustic cellar décor and an exclusively Israeli wine selection. Boasting five different climates in this tiny country, Israeli wines are bringing in strong regard: Galilee-based Rimon produces a couple of unique Pomegranate wines, dry and dessert—the latter boasts a crispness and perfect sugar balance. Blessed indeed!

More after the jump!

2573879177_fe762984c4_o
Photos (1) by Teena Wildmen, (2,3,5,6) by Lawrence Ferber and (4, 7) by Kobi Israel
Story by Lawrence Ferber

 Lined with bath and body shops, cafés and clothing stores, Sheinken Street once laid claim as Tel Aviv’s trendiest strip: the queer hipsters of 2006’s The Bubble worked and hung out in the area. But now Neve Tzedek, one the city’s oldest sections, has snatched and run off with the glowing torch.

Founded in 1887 (before Tel Aviv even became a city) – the peeling paint and rough edges in the streets of Neve Tzedek still recall the late 19th century. Now snazzy, modern boutique businesses have added serious razzle-dazzle as well as sublime design-oriented flourishes—even the mezuzahs on people's doorframes.

First occupied by literary, artistic and philanthropic types, splashes of Hebrew poetry and art mark the walls of Neve Tzedek while the homes of prominent early residents, including Simon Rokach and painter Nachum Gutman are now museums packed with memorabilia and contemporary Israeli art—both on Simon Rokach St.

Leading the nouveau charge is wine bar/shop Pri Hagefen—the name is derived from the Jewish blessing for wine—with a mod-rustic cellar décor and an exclusively Israeli wine selection. Boasting five different climates in this tiny country, Israeli wines are bringing in strong regard: Galilee-based Rimon produces a couple of unique Pomegranate wines, dry and dessert—the latter boasts a crispness and perfect sugar balance. Blessed indeed!

More after the jump!

Shabazi Street is Neve Tzedek’s main strip—in between raiding fashion and decor shops you can graze an afternoon away at numerous cafés and restaurants. The coffee’s fab at compact yet two-level Café Mia (55 Shabazi St.) – where I spot a well-dressed lesbian couple gossiping over cappuccinos—while next-door sister shop, Dolce Mia, sells chocolates, cookies, and other tasty confections.

Perhaps the city’s best gelato joint, and winner of a 2008 Time Out Restaurant/Food Award, Anita (25 Shabazi St.) proclaims itself “la mamma del gelato.” And mamma's doing fine, judging from the popularity of her superb Halva gelato, textured with flossy shreds of the Sesame-derived candy – although you can't lose with fresh Pomegranate and Fig sorbets.

The Mediterranean-tinged bistro menu at restaurant/bar Nana smacks of class and is quite a romantic spot, although the 40-something businessman with a laptop and glass of whiskey seemed pretty happy, too. The roomy, atmospheric Dallal also takes a très-Euro approach, and whips up a mean eggs benedict all day for the pork-starved (mind you, Tel Aviv is largely secular so you can find bacon).

Let’s not forget the eye candy out and about all day and night, from beautiful young soldiers passing through by foot (plenty of whom are queer – on gay Israeli dating websites many personal ads are accompanied by photos in their military drag), to 20- through 40-something sassy, classy “wish I knew what party they’re going to this evening” gay and lesbian cliques.

Nina Café Suites Hotel (29 Shabazi St. ) embodies straight-outta-Paris boutique chic, while 5-suites-only Neve Tzedek Hotel, sister business to Nana and Pri Hagefen, ups the luxe factor with Jacuzzis and full-on modern techno amenities including home cinema systems.

From here you can easily stroll the neighboring Florentin hood – home to underground art and café spaces – port city of Jaffa, and Tel Aviv gay clubs Evita (31 Yavne St.) and Ashmoret (10 Rothschild Blvd). And let’s not forget a walk along the beach, which never goes out of fashion.

New York-born freelance travel and entertainment journalist Lawrence Ferber has written for dozens of publications and websites including Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, The Advocate, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, Passport Magazine, L.A. Weekly, and MTV affiliate LOGO Online. His blog is ewelthorpe.blogspot.com.

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