It happened one night in 2006. The actor and singer Mendy Cahan, accompanied by two bitter and exhausted movers, parked a large van with a container in the parking lot of Tel Aviv’s New Central Bus Station. Cahan quietly opened the container, and the trio began to pull out large boxes sealed with duct tape. Shortly after, they had carried the boxes to the station’s fifth floor.

Construction of the Central Bus Station, which was supposed to be the world’s biggest shopping mall, began in 1967, but the plans for developing it as a shopping center collapsed. The station opened in 1993, in a grand, fanciful ceremony attended by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Its architects promised a five-star-level shopping and transportation center, but its levels, corridors and wings confused shoppers, so they stopped coming. Levels 1 and 2, which included stores, bus stations and a passenger hall, were found to suffer from severe air pollution shortly after the opening, and were closed off. Now, some areas teem with life, while others are almost abandoned. Levels 4 (the street level), 6, and 7 are currently active. The fifth floor has come to be known as “The Artists’ Compound.” When businesses began abandoning the station in the mid-1990s, the city of Tel Aviv decided to offer spaces as cheap studios for artists. Most of those artists have since departed.

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