Netivot’s Eiffel Tower

photography by: Omri Westmark

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On first glance, there is not much in common between the glamorous capital of France and the low-key town of Netivot in southern Israel. However, despite being separated by more than 3,000 kilometers and sheer cultural differences, both cities can boast their own Eiffel Tower. Built at the outskirts of town, "Paris Center" commercial complex is a tidy Parisian enclave in an otherwise gritty industrial district.

Nestled about ten kilometers away from the Gaza Strip, the small town of Netivot in southern Israel is home to a thriving community of ultra-orthodox Sephardic Jews. Founded in 1956 as an immigrant camp for Jews who fled North African countries, the town rapidly grew into a nationwide religious center where famous rabbis lived and formed their own communities of followers. In fact, up until relatively recently, Netivot’s most notable monument was the tomb of Baba Sali, a Morocco-born rabbi who was well-known for his alleged paranormal ability of healing incurable diseases and fulfilling his devotees’ wishes.


Since its establishment, Netivot was always perceived as an incredibly conservative and uninspiring place. However, during the late 2010’s and early 2020’s, this unflattering image was challenged by a local real estate developer named Oded Shriki, who erected a series of unusual projects throughout the city, two of which are home to replicas of globally renowned landmarks, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.


If it wasn’t for Shriki, the industrial zone along Ba’alei HaMelacha St. at the outskirts of town was still an unnoticeable place, as in 2020, his real-estate company constructed the Paris Center, which as its name implies, was inspired by the ornate façades we all associate with the French capital. As you might expect from a self-proclaimed Parisian building, the 5-story complex aptly features Corinthian columns, a 4-sided pillar clock, Baroque-style cornices, crystal chandelier, just to name a few.


Nevertheless, the true centerpiece of this complex is a 32-meter-tall replica of France’s most famous monument, the Eiffel Tower. Towering over a rectangular plaza with upscale shops and restaurants, the replica was entirely manufactured in China and then reassembled in Netivot by Chinese workers. Despite not being everyone’s cup of tea, the mini-Eiffel Tower alongside its surrounding kitsch quickly became a pilgrimage site for curious visitors from all over the country, who after years of global pandemic, desperately missed the iconic scenery of the City of Lights.