In late 2015 I lived in a 1970s-era camper in South Tel Aviv owned by a woman named Malka. The trailer is in a compound off Derech Ben Tsvi, the street that divides modern-day Tel Aviv from Jaffa, the southernmost and oldest part of the city. Despite being only a 15-minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea, it’s a rundown and desolate area dominated by motorcycle repair shops and stray cats. Just outside the rusting metal gate of the compound is an oddly positioned dusty public park that was shaped by forces no longer visible. On its western edge, along the road, there is a graffiti-ridden stone structure with three faded red domes and plants growing out of the walls. On one façade, over a long-defunct fountain, there is an inscription in Arabic. No passersby seem to notice this building.
Given its present condition, it’s hard to believe that during the late Ottoman period this building was one of the most famous in Palestine.