Everything's Sky High
In Tel Aviv
Does Israel's tallest scyscraper bode well for
Tel Aviv's skyline?
TANIA HERSHMAN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
he corner of Derech Petah
Tikva and Rehov Harakevet
bustles under the spring
sunlight. From dawn to
dusk, delivery boys on scooters
weave their way through heavy
traffic while businesspeople
dressed in suits and ties scramble
to and from their offices to make
the next deal, broker the next
transaction or do the next busi-
You could be in any commercial
center in the world, except for one
glaring distinction: In Tel Aviv,
meetings, international conference
calls and online global commu-
nications are still conducted
behind old, dilapidated, white-
washed facades that are rarely
more than three stories high.
But slowly, Israel's Mediter-
ranean metropolis is beginning to
resemble the Big Apple as tall,
post-modem buildings sprout
where Bauhaus-inspired creations
once stood. In 21/2 years, the city's
largest skyscraper, called Migdal
Levenstein, will emerge from the
rubble, offering views far out into
the Mediterranean on the west
and deep into the territories on the
For 50 years, Meshulam Lev-
enstein has been building Tel
Aviv. From medical centers, police
stations, post offices and apart-
ment blocks to sewage works and
the Daliesque building on Ha-
yarkon Street affectionately re-
ferred to as the "Crazy House,"
Meshulam Levenstein. Contract-
ing and Engineering Ltd. has
made its mark on the landscape.
Mr. Levenstein, 78, will now
leave his mark on the skyline,
naming it after his father, a Russ-
ian immigrant who landed in
Palestine in 1905 and became the
country's first chocolate and can-
Migdal Levenstein, a 37-story
office building currently rising at
a rate of one floor per month, will
be located five minutes from
Migdal Shalom, on Petah Tikva
Road, one of the city's main. arter-
ies. Off the Ayalon freeway, the
building is located near the cen-
t" al bus station as well as the city's
business and financial centers.
When it is completed, Israel's
tallest office building, which will
cover an area of 10,000 square feet,
will also boast six floors of under-
ground parking offering 800
Behind its mirrored face, this
concrete phoenix will offer scores
of office space, a luxurious lobby,
a "New York-style" restaurant, an
espresso bar and a fully equipped
health club and gym.
Mr. Levenstein, who would
have built a 60-story building if
the Airports Authority would have
allowed it, said two floors, or 2,000
square meters, of the building
have been sold to date for $1.5 mil-
lion per 500 square meters.
Mr. Levenstein, a British-edu-
cated engineer, says this plan,
like his previous ones, does not
reflect a vision but his recog-
nition of the country's needs.
"I don't think I personally had
a vision," he says, referring to his
early days as a builder. "We were
driven by the flow of immigration.
As it developed, we had to adjust
ourselves to what was required."
Still, the most notable, let alone
visible, import Mr. Levenstein
helped bring to Israel is the sky-
scraper. For a metropolis like Tel
Aviv, where businesses are crav-
ing more space, the only way is up,
he says, commending municipal
planners who concluded that the
only way to preserve greenery and
ventilation between the city's
buildings is by significantly rais-
ing the height limits.
But his praise is mixed with ap-
prehension as questions still re-
main regarding Tel Aviv's
architectural future. Will the com-
mercial capital of the Middle East
resemble Brazilia, Brazil's splen-
did, well-planned financial hub, or
Hong Kong, where a jungle of sky-
scrapers suffocates the patrons be-
low in a maze of steel and glass?
Mr. Levenstein says Tel Aviv's
officials are not conserving land
out of altruism or encouraging sky-
scraping in order to let children
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