The books which a hotel makes available to its guests give a sense of the kind of clientele for which it was conceived. In the Levee there are: a monograph of Raf Simons (the giant edition, published by Taschen) and one of Paul Smith, an essay on contemporary art by Francesca Gavin (curator of Soho House and writer for Dazed & Confused, Sleek, AnOther, and Wallpaper), Happy Graffiti by Jenny Foulds (Scottish actress and photographer who lives in a former hat factory in northern London), and Home Chic by India Madavi (French-Iranian architect known for the Connaught Hotel’s bar in London, for the Monte Carlo Beach in Monaco, and for the Townhouse in Miami). The guests that the Levee attracts are young cosmopolitan types who might appreciate the presence of monographs in the living room – better yet if they’re on Raf Simons rather than Giorgio Armani or Louis Vuitton. General Manager Hadar Ben Dov studied fashion at IED, Milan and applies these studies to luxury hospitality – something which is today a niche sector in Israel, but which until recently hadn’t existed at all.
The Levee is made up of eight apartments with kitchen and launderette. Conceived for medium-long stays, it provides the intimacy of an apartment in a luxury context. Thanks to the reduced cost of flights and smart working, more and more people are preferring such accommodations over traditional hotels. The concept of home away from home has spread across all social hierarchies – Booking.com and AirBnb make apartments available for short-term rentals at a moderate price. Those who can afford it go to the Townhouse, the Cheval Harrington in London, the Atellani Apartments in Milan, or the Levee.
The Levee is located in the residential area of Neve Tzedek, on the street dedicated to Judah Halevi – a Spanish poet from the 12th century and author of several Jewish liturgical verses. The erratic construction style of the 1970s (buildings erected hurriedly in order to handle the influx of migrants), has created contrasts (in some areas of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Nazareth, and Jerusalem) and architectural disasters in most of the rest of the country. Today, in Tel Aviv, rigid guidelines are in place regarding architecture, but renovations that adhere to standards are very expensive, especially in terms of bureaucracy. In the White City (a collection of over 4,000 buildings that were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013) the (white) houses were renovated in keeping with the eclectic style of the first settlements. The building in which the Levee is located was originally two-stories; the third story, with the penthouse, was added later and is in stark contrast with the rest of the building, despite being in harmony with it – an intentional choice that was intended to represent the coming together of old and new, so indicative of the neighborhood and the city.
The interiors of the apartments were created by Belgian designer Yael Siso and exalt European elegance, despite keeping the original atmosphere of the location alive. Art Déco elements meet industrial design. The floors are wood while the walls and ceilings have been stripped of all signs of plaster. Seashells are visible on some of the walls – the hundred year old cement was made using sand from Tel Aviv’s beaches. Pieces by Molteni, Minotti, Cassina, Moroso, Mooi, and Kristalia furnish the rooms: a large petrol-green suede sofa, a low coffee table with marble top, a 1950s-style chair with a high backrest, and lavender plants on the terrace.
The Levee touches the border of the Florentin neighborhood, the youngest and most hipster neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Not far away is the old American Colony, one of the city’s best kept secrets: a district made up of wooden two-story homes built in the New England style by a group of American Catholics, originally from Maine, who arrived in 1866. In the late 19th century the colony was occupied by the Germans, who built a Protestant church. In addition to the church, the colony is also home to the old Norton House (today the Drisco Hotel): the historic location of the Maskit brand, the first high-end Israeli fashion brand, launched in 1954 with the support of the government. Tel Aviv is the most liberal city in the Middle East with a nightlife made up of rooftop bars, nightclubs, and electronic music. Tinder reports to local papers Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post that the number of Israeli members using the app is remarkably high and concentrated mostly within the city. ‘Kosher’ variations of the app also exist: Jswipe and Jflix, wherein the J stands for Jewish.
Netanyahu’s administration, in accordance with the religious-orthodox political faction, has promoted a law that forces all public businesses to close during Shabbat. The law has yet to be approved by parliament and for the time being, is at the discretion of the individual local governments. While Jerusalem, from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening, is deserted, Tel Aviv is an uninterrupted river of people. The restaurants close late, the pubs don’t close at all. Though those who have been visiting the city for some time have noticed that the religious population is growing (kippahs, sidelocks, black coats, and, for the women, wigs or turbans) and that there are more and more AM – PM (ampam for locals) stores. If one moves towards Jaffa, at pre-determined hours one will hear the call of the Muezzin, from a minaret that rises between the flea market, the cafés with their hookahs, the cocktail bars, and the California-style surfers. In a city that never sleeps, in which the traffic never stops, where people talk loudly and the houses are clustered together one on top of the other, luxury is also found in space and silence. The Levee’s lofts, with their high ceilings and large rooms, are designed to convey another idea of vastness.
16, Yehuda ha-Levi St
Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel