The final stop of our Israel trip was to the cosmopolitain seaside city of Tel Aviv. It was here that I found many highly creative designs and superbly curated shops for kids (and just a few for CultureBaby moms too). I started my usual CultureBaby canvasing on Dizengoff street, a famous shopping thoroughfare.
Here, chic boutiques abound offering delightful dresses and inventive jewelry. I scored a delightful dress at Shlomit Ofir (and sadly had to leave behind several "must have" goodies at the urging of my packing restriction conscious hubby). But I did score a gorgeous (and light!) a pair of gold peace dove earrings at Malka (054-5444510, look for their distinctive logo, a hipster glasses-wearing Queen Victoria).
I also stumbled on Kelim Shloovim, an eclectic shopfront with a wonderful back story. It is a social enterprise that partners various non-profits serving those with special needs to offer them rehabilitation and vocational training and sells the unique items they make at the store. I wanted almost every pillow, poster and knick knack in the place.
So where you may ask, are the goodies for kids? Point taken...enough for me. Although I did find one babylicious store on Dizengoff (Baby Teva at number 231), the real treasure trove was in Old Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv but an easy beachfront walk. With my chief product tester snoozing in his stroller, I beat the heat by tucking into store after store that each had something new to offer.
Beginning in the local tourist office, we found the work of a Jaffa cooperative of Arab and Jewish Israeli women who work together for female empowerment and create dolls. If your hebrew is better than mine (read: non-existent) you can read more about the Arous Albahar Organization on their website. But the dolls were an adorable first look at the inspired creations and ever so cool boutiques I would find in Jaffa.
There was Asufa Design which spotlighted Israeli creative talent in ceramics, artwork, metals - you name it. It was at Asufa that I found these family dolls (left) by Timo Handmade.The store owner kindly shared their story. They are the brainchild of a local artist who designed the first set for a gay couple and their newly adopted baby from Africa. She had not been able to find a representative gift to celebrate the new family. So she took to her sewing machine and literally drew the dolls with stitches. Cool huh? More requests followed and now the line, along with other delightful animal characters grace the shelves at Asufa.
Just around the corner we found Maasiya, a delightfully cozy shop offering a range of products for the home but we were instantly drawn to their old-fashioned but oh so cute array of children's toys and cuddlers! This little guy in particular (right) was just too darling and with a delicious smelling lavendar stuffing to boot! If you stop by, don't neglect to try the chilled lemon verbena tea across the road at Puaa Cafe(YUM!)
Then we hit gold at Marioneta (050 4333554), where Israeli and international collections for kids merge under the guiding hand of mom and store owner Keshet. It was at Marioneta that my little guy, now full of beans after his nap, stocked up on entertainment for the airplane ride home. It took a great deal of self control not to walk out with one of just about everything. Our undying devotion was also won when Keshet pointed out her nursing and changing station at the back of the store. Bravo! Our visit there was the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that was the Old Town Jaffa Flea market. Do not miss it should you find yourself in Tel Aviv.