/Tel Avivs mostly-abandoned bus station is also a hub for artists

Tel Avivs mostly-abandoned bus station is also a hub for artists

… just about two miles from Jerusalem Beach …

Tel Aviv bus station to Jerusalem beach

It would take roughly 40 minutes to walk to the beach from the bus station.
Google Maps

… lies the Tel Aviv New Central Bus Station. It opened in 1993 on the outskirts of Nave Sha’anan, and it’s the second-largest bus station in the world.

Tel Aviv bus line

Travelers lined up to commute from the central bus station.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Atlas Obscura, The Guardian

Since then, the station has fallen into disrepair, and many parts of it are abandoned. But this has allowed the station to take on a new life as a cultural hub.

tel aviv bus station

A man feeding his parrots at the station.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

People with various ethnic and religious backgrounds live and work around the station, and they attend community events within the station. The sense of community in the station is “like no other in Israel,” according to the Guardian.

Tel Aviv bus station community

Community members play games like bingo.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: The Guardian


“It is a place where many peoples and cultures intersect — it’s certainly one of the most diverse spots in the country,” Naomi Zeveloff, a reporter based in Tel Aviv, told Business Insider. “The building is run down, no question, but peel back the layers and there’s so much to discover.”

Tel Aviv bus station worker

An employee washes a bus on a sunny day in Tel Aviv.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

One of the cultural centers is Yung Yidish — a non-profit organization that aims to preserve Yiddish culture. The center is open Tuesday through Wednesday each week, according to Time Out.

yung yidish cultural center

A small child takes a nap in the station’s Yung Yidish location.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters, Time Out

The bus station also serves as a host for different events, like the annual beauty contest for migrant workers from the Philippines residing in Israel.

Tel Aviv fashion show

The 2009 semi-final held in Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station.
Oded Balilty/Ap Images

Source: AP Images

Stav Pinto is a circus artist who practices her acrobatics in the station. Pinto uses her circus talents to teach life skills to children with disabilities and meets with an informal circus group on Monday evenings.

tel aviv performer

Stav Pinto uses the station for practice space.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters

“There’s a magical air to the Central Bus Station that reminds me of a dark urban forest,” Pinto told Reuters.

tel aviv bus station

There is very little natural light in the station.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Another artist, Tamar Lehman, uses space at the station to practice dancing and playing the accordion. “I felt this building is just like the people I work with — they may appear totally confused within themselves, not understood, bizarre, but the more you learn about the people and their inner structure you slowly become more familiar with their inner world, with all its craziness, and you see the beauty,” Lehman told Reuters.

tel aviv musician with accordion

Tamar Lehman practices her craft in the station.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters


But Tel Aviv’s bus station isn’t just for practice, it’s also the stage for “Seven” — a performance by actors from the Mystorin Theatre Ensemble — which uses all seven floors of the station as a stage.

tel aviv performance "seven"

“Seven” is a performance that is exclusive to the bus station in Tel Aviv.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters

The show was created specifically for the station, according to Broadway World.

tel aviv show "seven"

There are seven people in the play.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Broadway World

The show uses the daily grind of the station as a part of the performance’s setting.

tel aviv central bus station

The play uses all seven levels.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Broadway World

Actor and manager of the play, Dana Forer, called the station a “playground for imagination.”

Tel aviv show "seven"

Actors perform the show “Seven” in Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters


The station is not only used by performing artists, though. Visual artists come to the station for inspiration and a space to work, too.

tel aviv bus station

A man is modeling for a visual artist.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters


“It’s special because I can find everything we need to buy,” she said of the station, which is home to a Filipino food market called Makati Cabalen. The market is open seven days a week, according to Time Out.

filipino market in Tel Aviv

Community members shop and eat at the food market.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: ReutersTime Out

In fact, the entire fourth floor of the station turns into a Filipino food market on Saturdays when public transport is shut down in observation of the Jewish Sabbath.

Filipino market, tel aviv

The fourth floor on a Saturday.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: The Guardian

Even outside of the church, people find peaceful places to worship in this spacious station, like in front of this graffiti.

prayer, tel aviv bus station

A man worships in the station.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Reuters

The station offers guided tours called Talking Art. “We discovered a world that we didn’t know existed,” a Trip Advisor reviewer said of the tour.

tel aviv bus station

A maintenance office in the station.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: Trip Advisor


While it remains filled with art, the station functions a little differently during times of war. Aside from being a transit hub for soldiers, the station is a gathering point, bomb shelter, and command center when it needs to be, like for Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.

tel aviv bus station military

A soldier at a gate in the station
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: The Guardian, Haaretz


According to the Jerusalem Post, a bat colony took over an abandoned terminal at the station. The terminal was closed off during construction in the ’80s before the station was even opened, and the bats were drawn to it because it resembles a cave — the fruit bat’s natural habitat.

abandoned movie theater, tel aviv

The theater in the bus station has also been abandoned.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Source: The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post

The bats were drawn to Tel Aviv because of the city’s abundance of fruit trees — they stayed because food is easier to find in a city, which saved them time and energy. The bats are harmless, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Egyptian fruit bat

An Egyptian fruit bat in Tel Aviv.
Amir Cohen/Reuters

Source: The Jerusalem Post

Although the station has acquired a bad reputation, not everyone agrees with it, including Zeveloff, who commutes through the station regularly. “The bus station is so much more colorful, dynamic, and fascinating than its reputation among many Israelis would have it,” she told Business Insider.

Tel Aviv Central Bus Station

Commuters walk through the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.

According to the Jerusalem Post, tearing down the building would have to include getting permission from some 800 store owners, as well as from the environmental authorities.

tel aviv

The sixth floor of the station.
Ilan B/Foursquare

Source: The Jerusalem Post

Aside from this, local architects warned the Times of Israel that tearing down the concrete of the building would be virtually impossible, and it would leave a thick coating of dust that could choke all of Tel Aviv for weeks. Tour guides say the building will remain in Tel Aviv for at least another ten years.

tel aviv bus station

A busy terminal of the station.

Source: The Times of Israel

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