PHOTOS: Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station — a grimy commuter hub with a soul

Lior Avshalem and Rotem Cohen, actors from the Mystorin Theatre Ensemble, perform in the group's show "Seven," at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)

Opened in 1993 in hopes of rejuvenating one of Tel Aviv's poorest neighborhoods, the Central Bus Station is now commonly referred to as "the Monstrosity."

An urban development dream gone bad, the seven-story jumble of grungy corridors was once envisioned as a slick shopping center serving streams of commuters.

Instead, with many of its stores long shuttered, its labyrinth of passageways has given rise to an eclectic mix of commerce and culture.

A Filipino food market serves a large community of caregivers for the elderly, and there's a makeshift Filipino church, a folksy Yiddish book center and money changers.

Dancers, musicians and circus artists use its free space to practice and perform, and the homeless are also drawn into its shadows.

The station's diversity reflects the neighborhood, where a large foreign migrant population lives in mostly run-down apartment blocks.

Dana Forer, an actress and manager of the Mystorin Theatre Ensemble, in the group's show "Seven," at the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)

Dana Forer, 40, is a member of the Mystorin Theatre Ensemble, which has made the building its artistic home.

"The Central Bus Station is a playground for imagination," she said. "I feel full of joy and creativity when we light up the dark spaces with our performance."

Tamar Lehman is a 32-year-old social counselor for young adults who comes to the station to practice dancing and play her accordion.

"I felt this building is just like the people I work with — they may appear totally confused within themselves, not understood, bizarre, but the more you learn about the people and their inner structure, you slowly become more familiar with their inner world, with all its craziness, and you see the beauty," Lehman said.

Food purchased from a Filipino food market being consumed inside the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)

Merry Christ Palacios, 37, is a caregiver from the Philippines who shops at the station and worships in its church.

"It's special because I can find everything we need to buy," she said, but added visitors need to be "very careful about their bag, cellphone, money and things" as they navigate the station's hallways.

Stav Pinto, 24, employs her circus talents to teach life skills to special-needs children. Pinto and her hula hoop take part in an informal circus group that meets on Monday evenings.

"It's a place of adventure where you can meet a variety of people and be exposed to different cultures. Every time I walk through it, I can discover a new place that is completely different from the others."

Photography by Corinna Kern/Reuters

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Actors from the Mystorin Theatre Ensemble inside a former box office, in the group's show "Seven," at the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A man feeds his pet parrots at the Central Bus Station on May 29. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A Druze woman sells traditional food at a makeshift stall at the Central Bus Station on Feb. 3. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A cleaner near the shops inside the Central Bus Station on May 29. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A driver cleans a bus at the Central Bus Station on May 29. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A mannequin near an artist's studio at the Central Bus Station on Jan. 19. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
The basement entrance of the Central Bus Station on April 2. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A vendor prepares to open a store at the Central Bus Station on May 29. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Merry Christ Palacios, a caregiver from the Philippines, during a church service held at the Central Bus Station on April 13. Palacios shops at the station and worships in its church. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Seats inside an abandoned cinema in the basement of the Central Bus Station on Jan. 13. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Actors from the Mystorin Theatre Ensemble, and a passerby, walk down the stairs during the group's show "Seven," at the Central Bus Station on Dec. 27, 2018. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Tamar Lehman, a social counselor for mentally ill young adults, plays an accordion inside a cultural center used by Yung Yidish, a nonprofit group aiming to preserve Yiddish culture, at the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
An office used by maintenance staff in the basement of the Central Bus Station on May 29. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Passengers wait to board a bus at the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A man walks by as a woman waits outside a hair salon at the Central Bus Station on Jan. 11. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A poster outside an abandoned cinema in the basement of the Central Bus Station on April 2. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A child sleeps on a couch inside a cultural center used by the nonprofit Yung Yidish, at the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Buses parked at the Central Bus Station on May 29. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A bingo game at the Central Bus Station on April 13. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Girls from Eritrea play near the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
Stav Pinto uses a hula hoop as she practices her acrobatic skills during a weekly informal circus community meeting at the Central Bus Station on July 1. Pinto employs her circus talents to teach life skills to special-needs children. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A urinal in the basement near a sign pointing toward a bomb shelter at the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A model poses for an artist at the Central Bus Station on Jan. 11. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A Muslim man prays near graffiti at the Central Bus Station on May 29. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A bus near a gasoline pump on the upper floor of the Central Bus Station on Feb. 3. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
An Israeli soldier waits with others to board buses at the Central Bus Station on Feb. 3. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)
A discarded gaming machine in the basement at the Central Bus Station on May 25. (Photo: Corinna Kern/Reuters)

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