Nostalgia Sunday – The Tallest Building in the Middle East

December 6, 2009 - 6:25 PM by · 4 Comments
Filed under: General, History and Culture, Nostalgia Sunday, Pop Culture, Travel 

migdal_shalom_skyscraper 2It happened as we were discussing the lovely Nahum Gutman print (pictured right). My co-worker and I were trying to figure out the north-south axis of the old Herzliya Gymnasium at the center of the piece. Gymnasia Herzliya, as it continues to be known, is one of Tel Aviv’s best high schools but from an architectural standpoint, the razing of the old building in 1958 was a tragedy. So much so that a few years ago, some good souls banded together and put up a gate in the shape of the old building in front of the new.

But back to what happened. “I think that the front of the building is the side of the Kolbo Shalom,” I said to my co-worker. He looked at me and said, “You must really have been here a long time to call it that.”

He then proceeded to tell me his childhood memories of taking the bus to visit the Shalom Meir Tower, the skyscraper that was built on the site of the old gymnasia. Everyone has a story about that building which, for decades, was the tallest building in the Middle East.

It was – and is – 142.00 meters high, 36 floors including an observation deck. In it’s heyday, there was the department store called Kolbo Shalom. A wax museum featuring the great Zionist and Jewish leaders of the era – have your picture taken with Herzl or Ben Gurion! A mosaic mural wall by Nahum Gutman about the history of Tel Aviv – still well worth a visit. And of course, the Ministry of the Interior, where a thousand tears were shed each day, many by me, trying to navigate the red tape of becoming a citizen and staying sane. (I am not sure it worked).

But back to the Shalom Mayer tower! There is a great deal of factual information available at Emporis, a website devoted to tall buildings around the world, and there is a nice Wikipedia entry, that reads, in part:

“50,000 cubic metres of concrete, 4,000 tons of steel, 35 kilometres of water pipes, and 500 kilometres of wiring were used in the tower. The building has a cream hue tile facade which was created especially for the tower and was manufactured in Italy.”

That light color and repetitive pattern make it a favorite photographic subject for Tel Aviv locals who bring out the magic in an otherwise plain edifice that has in recent years been outstripped by high-rises in Tel Aviv, Givatayim and Ramat Gan such as the Azrieli Center, the Platinum Tower, Yoo Tel Aviv — not to mention Dubai, which today boasts the tallest buildings in the Middle East.

Today, the Shalom Tower itself is a nostalgic relic of a time when tall buildings were hard to come by, especially in our little corner of the world. In recognition of that fact, the Bauhaus Center shop has a small-scale ceramic Kolbo Shalom on offer. Order online or visit them at 99 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv.

The Ministry of the Interior has moved to nicer offices close by the Azrieli Tower but people still cry there a lot.

And if you want to see that pathetic attempt to replicate what was once the magnificent Herzliya Gymnasium, visit the present Gymnasia Herzliya at 106 Jabotinsky Street and look for the front gates.


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