Zichron Yaakov was one of the first new settlements founded by immigrants to Israel and is now a pretty town, with great views and a prestigious historical past.
The First Aliya & the Founding of Zichron Yaakov
The first wave of modern Zionist immigration to the Land of Israel, known as the ‘First Aliyah’, began in 1882 and with it a new chapter in Jewish history.
In addition to immigration, the First Aliyah became known for the renewal of Jewish agricultural settlement in the Land of Israel. By the time the First Aliyah ended in 1904, 28 new Zionist pioneering communities, known as moshavot, had been established.
Zichron Yaakov was founded in 1882, and was the third such moshava to be established. Its first settlers were idealistic Zionist immigrants from Romania, who purchased 1,500 acres of land in the southern Carmel hill country from a wealthy Christian Arab landowner.
The newcomers suffered terribly during their first year of settlement in Zichron Yaakov. They were inexperienced in agriculture and didn’t understand local customs. Crops failed and an economic crisis ensued. Many contracted malaria, which was rampant in the nearby swamps. The disease took a heavy toll on the early pioneers, especially among their children.
The moshava was rescued from collapse through the philanthropic intervention of the French Jewish banker Baron Edmund de Rothschild. Baron de Rothschild provided Zichron’s pioneers with much needed financial assistance and sent agricultural experts from France to teach them modern farming methods.
The Baron also sent choice French grape vines and instructors to help the new settlers set up a wine industry, which eventually grew into the still functioning Carmel Winery. The new community was subsequently named Zichron Yaakov in memory of the Baron’s father James (Yaakov) de Rothschild.
Visiting Zichron Yaakov
Hameyasdim Street, part of which is a pedestrian mall, is still lined with some of Zichron’s original houses and embodies a great deal of charm.
The Nili Museum at 40 Hameyasdim St. reveals a fascinating chapter in Zichron Yaakov’s history – An espionage network, organized by local residents to spy on the Ottoman Turks for the British during World War I.
There is an interesting looking water tower next door at 44 Hameyasdim St.
The Ohel Yaakov Synagogue, built in 1886 and also named for Baron James de Rothschild, is located at the corner of Hameyasdim and Hanadiv Streets.
Also worth visiting is the First Aliyah Museum at 2 Hanadiv St.
The Carmel Winery, founded in 1889, is located at the bottom of Hanadiv Street. It offers a brief audio-visual presentation and guided tours. The winery is and was one of the central features of Zichron Yaakov. Although there are now many wineries around Israel Carmel (who operate another winery in Rishon Le Zion) were the pioneers in developing this industry and still provide a substantial proportion of Israeli wine production.
As with any town, much of Zichron Yaakov is accessible for wheelchairs.
Zichron Yaakov Sea Views
For particularly nice views over the Mediterranean, try Yefe Nof Street on the western side of town or the top of Ben Gurion St. in the northern Givat Eden neighborhood. The latter offers good views of the Carmel Coast extending north to Haifa.
Ramat Hanadiv Memorial Gardens
A pleasure for the eyes and the nose, the exquisitely landscaped Ramat Hanadiv Memorial Gardens are located 1.5 kilometers south of Zichron Yaakov on Rt. 652. The fragrant, always blooming (plants are rotated to ensure flowers year round) gardens are dedicated to the memory of Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his wife the Baroness Adelaide, who were re-interred here in 1954.
The garden were deliberately planted above a promontory, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and Carmel Coast, surrounded by communities built with generous assistance from the Rothschild family and Baron Edmond in particular. A walk pleasant, easy walk through the gardens lasts approximately one hour.
Near to Zichron Yaakov