For years, Bat Yam got a bad rap, as the rundown beachside city just south of Tel Aviv that was home to mafiosos and drug addicts. But then Tel Aviv got crowded, real-estate prices rose, and anyone who wanted proximity to the “city” — without paying the steep costs of that privilege — began thinking about the nearby rough-and-tumble city by the sea. Typically, it was the artsy types who got there first.
“Artistic types are always at the heart of this kind of change,” said Erez Podansky, Bat Yam’s chief executive officer. Podansky was speaking during a tour of the Design Terminal, a cooperative of designers — from industrial, graphic and clothing to accessories, websites and architecture — who have been sharing a renovated, loft-like space. The building was long-owned by next-door neighbor, clothing company Castro, which was only using the bottom, for “extra parking,” said Castro CEO Gabi Rotter, who joined the tour.
Now the Design Terminal is at the heart of the rova, Bat Yam’s industrial neighborhood which is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, including a fringe theater, artist studios and other entrepreneurial ventures. Here are the top five ways to get a glimpse of that Bat Yam renewal.
1) First stop, the Design Terminal. It’s the brainchild of Liron Hershkovitz, a 27-year-old entrepreneur who has always given much thought to community, social action and cooperative efforts. He decided to “go to the periphery,” Bat Yam, to create a place that would offer a solution for up-and-coming designers, while helping to make a difference in the emerging city. The Terminal now houses 11 designers who work out of their studios, while also serving as a gallery and event space for a slew of cooperative shows, such as design school The Guild; Castro; the Israel Export Institute; and a soon-to-be-opened test kitchen, designed by Regba, which will be used by chefs and food designers. Upcoming events this month include an open house during Purim, with visits to the designers’ studios on Sunday, February 24, and activities for kids on Monday, February 25, at 11 a.m.
2) Be sure to stop in at the designers’ studios, starting with Limor Peretz, a graphic designer who was born and raised in Bat Yam and now specializes in children’s games and books; her studio roomie, Ziv Ben Gal, a textile designer whose laminated fur scarves and knitted neckwear are a far cry from anything grandma ever created; Sarit Lulae, who designs Nuki’Le, children’s wear for ages 2-10 (while this former designer for Delta isn’t giving away the clothing for free, the prices are far lower than usual for designer duds, ranging from NIS 49 for shirts and tank tops to NIS 69 for pants and skirts and NIS 99 for jackets and NIS 139 or NIS 149 for dresses). Guy Klipstein is one of the resident industrial designers, an amateur chef who makes Klipy, a series of different kitchen gadgets, all designed to be small and unobtrusive for tight kitchen spaces.
3) Bat Yam isn’t new to art, as the home of MoBY, or Museums of Bat Yam, a complex of three museums — Ben Ari Museum of Contemporary Art; Ryback House; and Sholem Asch’s home (the Polish-born, American-Jewish novelist who wrote in Yiddish spent his last years in Bat Yam). MoBY was recently overhauled and is now aiming to become one of the leading contemporary art museums in Israel. The current exhibition, “Cargo Cult,” features works by former Eastern bloc artists, through April 6. Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m – 2 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. There are also several artists who set up studios in Bat Yam, and Liat Livni was one of the first, sketching, pasting and utility knife-cutting her way to astounding miniatures of a type, her statements on nature and urban architecture, “between what is man-made and what is machine-made.” Currently on exhibit at the Israel Museum through April 4, and at 29 Nisanboim, Bat Yam. Call 050-449-4940 for an appointment.
4) There are specific times of the year to visit Bat Yam, such as the biennial celebration of landscape urbanism, or the now-annual Bat Yam Street Festival, held in October, and run by the Notzar Theater, which moved from Jaffa to Bat Yam a few years back. Known for its fringe events, the theater this month features “Arava,” about a small group of pioneers living in the Negev Desert just after the War of Independence; as well as “The Israeli Series,” staged conversations about art, academics, communications and the social sphere. Call 03-635-0772 for more information and tickets.
5) You’re allowed to ditch the art and design at some point and head to one of Bat Yam’s six beaches, which are really just part of the city’s long seaside strip. A favorite among locals is Tobago Beach, also a favored spot of surfers, often spotted darting in and out of the waves in the early morning. If you’re in need of sustenance after a long morning of art-viewing, head to the Bat Yam beach boardwalk and take a seat at one of the cafés (there are kosher branches of Cup ‘O’Joe and Café Café) on the promenade. But locals recommend sitting on the beach itself at Tayo (not kosher), on the southern end of the beach, where nearly any seat offers a view of the waves.