15 December 2009

David Ben Gurion's house-museum in Tel Aviv

David Ben-Gurion was born in 1886 in Płońsk, then part of the Russian Empire and now Poland. In 1912, in his 20s, he moved to Turkey to study law at Istanbul University, then settled in Palestine. Thrown out by the Turks for political activism, Ben Gurion settled in New York City in 1915; there he met and married his wife Paula. The family returned to Palestine in 1918. Three children were born: Geula was born in Tel Aviv in 1918, Amos was born in 1920 in London and Renana was born in 1926 in Tel Aviv.

Ben Gurion house-museum, Ben Gurion Bvd Tel Aviv

A modest house in the midst of Tel-Aviv’s activity is the place that was the first long term residence of David Ben-Gurion and his family. Now located in a street named after him, the house was built in 1930-31 when the first workers' neighbourhood was established in Tel-Aviv, on Jewish National Fund land.

The building itself is an early example of Bauhaus design that the growing Tel Aviv came to specialise in, during the 1930s. But The Bauhaus didn’t close down until 1933 and the young Jewish architects were still in Germany in 1930, so how did the Bauhaus taste reach Tel Aviv so early? Via architectural journals, perhaps.

When the State of Israel was declared on 14th May 1948, a few hundred dignitaries were invited to the ceremony, held at the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv. As Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion of course had the unbelievable honour of declaring the independence of the new state.

Ben Gurion declared the birth of the State of Israel, May 1948

The Ben-Gurion family lived in this Tel Aviv house until they settled in Sde-Boker in the Negev, in 1953. They never sold the Tel Aviv house, and always had a place to stay when they were living/working /holidaying in Tel Aviv. I am pleased that a socialist politician should live in surroundings no plusher than the ordinary citizens, but I wonder if this house is the best site for a modern museum.

Family dining room

The Ozi Zion blog writes about the house-museum and provides a virtual tour. It is the home's second floor, used solely by Ben-Gurion himself, that houses 4 library rooms and a bedroom. This is where visitors can really look into the private world of an-otherwise very public man. Ben-Gurion's impressive personal library bears witness to his serious scholarship. It includes a collection of books and journals totalling 20,000 volumes, in his daily languages (Hebrew, Russian, English, Turkish and Yiddish) plus Greek, Latin, Spanish and French, covering politics and other disciplines. The house and its objects remain as they were when the Ben-Gurions lived there.

One of the upstairs libraries

Through the Land of Israel blog has wonderful images of the small rooms. On the first floor, visitors can see the family house, especially the kitchen and Paula's room where Ben-Gurion spent his last days. This floor also includes his daughter's bedroom, which served as his own bedroom and shelter during two wars, the Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War. In the bedroom photo, you can see a bricked-in window that made the area relatively safe as a bomb shelter.

Daughter's bedroom

Before his death in 1973, Ben-Gurion bequeathed his house to the state, on the condition that it became a public institution dedicated to research. The Knesset soon passed the Ben-Gurion Law which proclaimed that house would be used for the purposes stated in the will, and it has been open to the public since 1974. The Second World War blog described research he actually did in this house-museum.

The David Ben Gurion Museum in Plonsk (Poland) will be bigger.


Goldie said...

What an interesting blog you have, Helen. I'm interested for two reasons, one, I have a son who's an architect and two, I'm originally from Melbourne.

Thank you also for your kind comments about One-Liners on my blog.

LondonGirl said...

A fascinating entry! Tel Aviv does contain some amazing buildings, clean and beautifully designed. Have you been there?

Hels said...

Thanks you two. Yes I lived in Tel Aviv for two years think the city is a great place to study architecture eg see the post called http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/2008/12/bauhaus-moved-to-tel-aviv.html

LondonGirl said...

Lucky you, that must have been fun. Do you speak good Hebrew?

My boyfriend was born in Tel Aviv, and he and his brother still own half a shop there, that used to be their Granny's. We visit at least yearly (but we're a bit closer than you are!)

Hels said...

Anonymous said...
Hey all
I'm writing a final paper of Ben Guryon, and I need info about the architecture and design of his house in Tel Aviv, and info that connects the man to the house(why Tel Aviv for example...)
It's really hard to find info about it online.
Any help will be appreciated.

Hels said...
Thanks for your interest Shay. I hope my post gives you some useful suggestions.