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Sharon Rotbard


Sharon Rotbard (b. 1959) is a Tel Aviv-based architect, author, activist, educator,  editor, and co-founder of Babel Press. He is currently serving as Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture of the Bezalel Academy, Jerusalem.

Among his books: The Refuseniks' Trials (Hebrew, 2004), White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa (Hebrew, 2005; English edition 2015), Avraham Yasky: A Concrete Architecture (Hebrew, 2007); Neither in Jaffa, Nor in Tel Aviv (Hebrew, 2009), The War of Streets and Houses and other Texts about the City (Hebrew, 2021).

Title: White City, Black City


Publisher: Babel

Year: 2005

352  pp.


Translation rights available: World excluding English and Polish

Audio visual rights: World

Translations available: English, Russian, Polish

Rights sold: English UK (London, Pluto Press, 2015), English US (Cambridge MA, The MIT Press, 2018), Russian: (Moscow, Ad Marginem Press, 2017), Polish (Warsaw, Wydawnictwo Filtry, 2022)

This is the story of two cities, historical Jaffa and modern-day Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the ‘White City,’ said to have risen from the sands of the desert, acclaimed worldwide for its Bauhaus-inspired modernist architectural heritage. Jaffa is the ‘Black City,’ the Palestinian city that was largely obliterated to make way for the new European-style architecture that dominated newly formed Israel.

Israeli writer and architect Sharon Rotbard offers a rare insight into the politics that underpin the narrative of the White City, and how architecture has been used as a political tool. Both a gripping narrative history and a unique architectural record, this deeply moving book shows how any city in the world is built not only of stones and concrete but also of stories and histories – victors and losers, predator and prey. In this way, the legend of the Black City and the White City, architecture and war, is the Israeli story too.

Critical Praise


Landmark book.

The Architect’s Newspaper

White City, Black City still reads like a fresh and necessary corrective – in parts like a slap in the face – mostly due to the fluent urgency of Rotbard’s prose…One can only read Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s streets with more open eyes…, with a more sober a tread, with Rotbard’s book in hand.

Barbara Mann, Quest, Issues in Contemporary Jewish History

This book by an Israeli architect and historian focuses on the construction of Tel Aviv’s ‘Bauhaus Style’ city centre in the 1930s, for which it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status. Rotbard reads these mostly speculative white-walled apartment blocks (almost never by actual Bauhaus-trained designers) as a reaction against colonial architecture which ended up being the most colonial city building project imaginable, designed to circumvent, then to consume and subjugate the adjacent Palestinian city of Jaffa. This often ugly story is told with tact, subtlety and through some particularly seductive images of this Weissenhof-on-Levant.

Owen Hatherley, The Architectural Review

Challenging modern architecture from another direction was Sharon Rotbard’s White City, Black City (Pluto), in which the much-admired “Bauhaus”-style houses of Tel Aviv are attacked as agents of the colonisation and impoverishment of the Arab city of Jaffa. These works of progressive European intelligence, he argues, are actually instruments of conquest. Taken together, Rotbard and Hatherley show the relationship of buildings to politics to be a slippery but nonetheless vital aspect of architecture.

Rowan Moore, The Guardian

A responsible, sharp, critical project, in which Rotbard reads the Zionist representations of Tel Aviv…written with a political and esthetical responsibility: not only in relation to his discoveries, but also in relation to the censored political story of the Tel Avivian landscape, that its false signs are freedom, secularism and progress. Rotbard demonstrates how the cultural imagination marks its narrative on the place, and more important from this, he draws a straight line between the fiction of 'the flourishing of wilderness' and the actual contemporary violence that is supported upon it.

Omri Herzog, Ha’aretz

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