Torat Tel Aviv
A Religious Revival in the Heart of “Secular” Israel
An Introduction by Rabbi Aron White
People say to me that Tel Aviv is the most secular city in Israel. I say to them, “Tel Aviv has over 500 shuls, tens of yeshivot, and over 900 eateries with kosher certification. This is the most secular city in Israel?!” (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo)
Founded just over a century ago, Tel Aviv is one of Israel’s most remarkable cities. No Israeli city is building higher or faster than Israel’s city that never sleeps, as the sand dunes of its pioneers have been transformed into malls, hotels and skyscrapers. It is the economic and technological engine of Israel’s economy, and new projects like the Gush Dan light rail and a planned metro system promise to propel its growth to new heights.
Tel Aviv is often associated with Israeli secularism, but there is more to the city than meets the eye. From its inception until today, religious communities have played a key role in the story of Tel Aviv. Some of its earliest neighborhoods were built by religious pioneers; Shabazi and Kerem HaTeimanim by Yemenite Jews, and Neve Tzedek by the Chassidic Shalom Rokach. Some of Religious Zionism’s greatest leaders, including Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Rav Ze’ev Gold and Rav Yehuda Leib Maimon, lived and taught Torah in Tel Aviv, while the Chief Rabbis of Tel Aviv are a Who’s Who of leading poskim of the 20th century – Rav Ben Tzion Uziel, Rav Moshe Avigdor Amiel, Rav Shlomo Goren, Rav Ovadia Yosef, and today, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. Maale Eliyahu and Orot Shaul, Hesder Yeshivot with hundreds of students, are located in Tel Aviv, alongside tens of religious schools, youth groups and organizations.
Tel Aviv’s story has always been about new waves of immigrants, and in recent years, new waves of religious Jews have moved to the city, increasing the city’s religious population. At the same time, many young, religious, and single Anglos have moved in, creating a Tel Aviv version of the Upper West Side. In the last year alone, several rabbinic couples have taken up roles geared to building the community among young Anglos in Tel Aviv. The recent wave of French olim has brought thousands of traditional and religious families to the city, also elevating the city’s kosher culinary scene to new heights. Organizations like Rosh Yehudi have brought idealistic couples to the city, spreading Torah to secular and traditional Jews. To paraphrase one of the city’s most famous sportsmen, Tal Brody – Tel Aviv is on the religious map, and is staying on the religious map.
Our Torah is eternal; the cultural waves of secular society may challenge, but will never extinguish, its holy light. As we celebrate the eternality of Jewish tradition and identity, Chanukah is an opportune time to celebrate the light of Torat Tel Aviv!