Haunted houses : a brief history of Tel Aviv's abandoned buildings

From Tel Aviv's first cinema to the hottest club in the 90's, these seven abandoned buildings are steeped in history
© Din Aharoni Rolland
By Noam Cohen |

In a city where every grain of sand is a hot real estate commodity, it's hard to believe that there are huge abandoned structures & buildings standing tall (or barely standing at all) on Allenby, along Tel Aviv's beaches, and near iconic towers like Azriel . Some of them have a glorious history, some have a promising future, yet everyone of them has a sad present.

Alone in the dark

© Din Aharoni Rolland

Allenby 58

This club became the flagship of the Tel Aviv night scene at the height of its time, and today there is no trace of it, except for a huge, sealed block of concrete. In 1994, Uri Stark, Rall Nadel and Nitzan Lev-Tzur founded the Tel Aviv Super Club on the ruins of the Allenby Cinema. Every Thursday, trance, dance, and house parties were held and the venue became THE place to be, even more than today's Block. The hottest local and international DJs of the time waited in line to perform there. In the year 2000, as part of the municipality's policy of pushing major entertainment hubs out of the city center, which lead to a natural decline of the nightlife scene, Allenby 58 shut down. The building remains abandoned to this day, and last year it was purchased by real estate developers from Morocco, who want to demolish the building in order to build a residential building with a reconstructed facade.

Cinema Eden
© Din Aharoni Rolland

Cinema Eden

Don't let the pink facade entice you. Behind this front is a neglected lot. But about 100 years ago, Lilienblum housed the very first cinema in Tel Aviv and one of the most important cultural institutions in the young city. Mayor Dizengoff and the entrepreneur Mordechai Weisser were behind the establishment of the cinema; they purchased a projection machine from Alexandria and built an enormous hall, which in its early days would will up to capacity. Later, a summer hall was also built, where films were screened outdoors. Sixty years after it was built, the public began to veer away from the cinema in favor of more modern halls, and its owners decided to sell it to Bank Leumi, which promised to preserve the Israeli cinema. The bank did not keep its promise and abandoned the iconic cinema; all that remains is the sign. About a year ago, it was announced that the building would be turned into a luxury hotel with added stories–a familiar path for many cinemas in the city center.

© Mark Segal for Wikimedia

Customs House

The large and strange building that was built at the fork of the beginning of Harakevet Street was established in 1920 and served as part of the Tel Aviv railway station during the British Mandate, and until 1970. Over the years, it became clear that the station's location made it difficult to move vehicles in the area; therefore, the route of the train was changed to the existing one, parallel to the Ayalon River, so that it would no longer interfere with traffic on the Petah Tikva route. The station was destroyed, except for the Customs House, which was used by the clerks to check the goods arriving by train. The one-story building, with a tiled roof, was abandoned for years, and was finally declared a preserved building. Today, it serves as a warehouse for the Israel Police. Not exactly a reasonable place for a large police warehouse, not exactly a proper preservation of a special and historic building either.

© Government Press Office
Attractions, Beaches


icon-location-pin Tel Aviv Beach 

This sounds unreal today, but in the 1980's, the vision of businessman Zvi Efron, who built an impressive commercial and entertainment complex between the promenade and Charles Clore Park where the dolphins once swam, was fulfilled. Efron managed to recruit a group of Jewish investors from around the world who leased the vast area of ​​18 dunams from the Israel Land Administration to house dolphins, sharks, and fish caught in Sinai or imported from the United States and abroad. 1,200 spectators who were willing to part with their NIS 400 would swarm the venue to watch the dolphins–named after Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball players–through a glass wall. In 1985, five years after it opened, the place faded, lost its original owners, and eventually closed. First, the dolphins were transferred to Luna Park, where some of them died, and some were returned to the United States, where they too died. Repeated attempts to reopen the place proved unsuccessful, and over the years, some of the leading clubs in the city, including the Pacha and the Dolphi, made their short-lived mark; however tragedy struck in June 2001 in the form of a horrific attack, killing 21 young people. Since then the building with the faded teeth painted onto its rim has remained empty and deserted. Two years ago, the complex was sold for hundreds of millions of shekels to businessmen, and the municipality plans to allow them to build residential towers in the area, alongside a water sports center.

© Shaula Haitner for PikiWiki

Synagogue "Moshav Zkenim"

In the center of Allenby Street is the synagogue that belongs to the elderly home with the same name. The building, built in 1926, was designed in an eclectic style that was particularly impressive. Inside the synagogue there was a magnificent lintel with the words "Do not abandon me in old age," a saying that fit the place. The synagogue is part of a complex of apartments intended for elderly survivors of European Jewry, most of whom are single men and widowers of Polish and Romanian origin. In the past, the synagogue was bustling, but over the years the older population in the area was replaced by young people who found less and less interest in the synagogue. Today it is difficult to walk down Allenby Street and imagine a once-active synagogue there. It is full of graffiti, fenced in, and closed off by a chain and lock. Nonetheless, the structure is intended for strict preservation that prevents its destruction, but not its neglect.

© Dr. Avishai Teicher

The Immigration Market (Shuk Ha'Aliyah)

In 1930, the Aliyah Market was built atop what used to be the "School for Agriculture and Household Economy," designed for female workers. The new and modern market was an alternative to the Carmel Market and the Bezalel market. The city's planning department built a shuk that was then an example of local architecture, with internal spaces that allowed distribution to the stalls inside the market, and a front building that faced Aliyah Street. There was also an inner courtyard with a wholesale market selling meat and eggs behind it. The cellars of the market contained slaughterhouses for chickens, which were a real health hazard. These slaughterhouses were one of the reasons the market finally closed in 1981 and has since been abandoned. In recent years, the municipality has been working to demolish the old building in order to use the land for luxury residential buildings. Where chickens once lay in their imminent death beds, celebrities like Ivri Lider and Miri Mesika will now lie in Egyptian cotton King-sized beds.

© Shlomi Yossef

The "Magen" factory complex

Just a stone's throw from the Azrieli Towers, on the border of Givatayim, lies a building that used to be a weapon-production factory for the military industry, called the "Magen". From 1950 to 1996 the factory worked continuously producing Uzis. Today, the vast area of ​​44 dunams is deserted, but its affect on the city carried on with a vengeance. After it was closed, a report was published stating that the soil in the area was saturated with dangerous metals, and that the groundwater under the factory was toxic and chemically contaminated–the result of years of industrial work. Last year, in order to prevent the spread of pollution, NTA, which is installing the light rail, pumped water from the area. Tel Aviv graffiti artists have transformed the complex into an improvised gallery. 

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