Friday, February 26, 2010

Rehovot! What's new? What's old?

The view from the bus stop
Today, it's raining, hard. Just what we need after all the dry years we've had. Thank God, this is what we pray for. This storm, and it is a storm, is expected to last until Monday, comes just as we celebrate Purim. Kids won't be able to parade around in their costumes this year. I'm sure that's more than a little disappointing to many of them. 
Another event that won't be happening in Rehovot on Sunday is the kickoff of Rehovot's 120th birthday celebration. That has been postponed until next Friday morning. (Rehovot lovers abroad, that gives you a week to get here!) 
In honor of this milestone I am planning a few posts about Rehovot's history. This is not your Ari Ben Canaan (Exodus - Leon Uris, not Moshe Rabennus's - for those of you too young to remember) story. But it is interesting in other ways. 
Most people who think about it associate Rehovot's history with orange groves. The lament is that now the concrete is taking over the old orange groves. 
Well, before the orange groves, there was the idea. You know the one. Returning to Zion. 
Most folks attribute this to Theodore Herzl, who certainly helped organize the Zionists and put the idea out there. But 1890, was six years before he published his book The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat) and seven years before the first Zionist Congress. 
Jews returned to established Jewish cities, Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberius and Safed over the years and by the 19th century there were communities in all these cities.  Petach Tikvah, was the first attempt to establish self supporting agricultural communities outside these cities in 1878. The first 9 of these settlements were all supported by the Baron Rothschild. 
Rehovot was the tenth settlement founded. It was started by middle class business people and merchants who got together money and bought 10,000 dunams of land from the Arabs of Khirbet Duran. 
Rehovot's founders (Epstein, Cohen, Kaplan and Gluskin)
Among the group were members of 'Hovevei Zion' (Lovers of Zion) from Warsaw. Hovevi Zion were religiously observant Jews who helped financially support the early settlements. The story goes that the group approached a woman for support and she asked, "If you are so excited about helping the settlements in Eretz Israel why are you still in Poland?" When they thought about it they realized she was right and decided to put themselves where their money was and organized 'Menucha v'Nahala' (the economic and social organization which actually bought the land and set the legal framework for running the settlement) and the rest is history. 
Oh, and the trademark orange groves were first planted in 1904. 


Rachel Ann said...

wow!!! Thank you for this historical tidbit. Very interesting. The woman's name was Menucha? Sorry if I'm being dense.

Frugal Dougal said...

I agree - I love how history explains the present: thank you!

David Tzohar said...

To explain the expression "menucha ve-nachala.Literally resting place and portion (in the land of Israel)But there are two other usages according to the context
1-To reach a state of peace and tranquility in the general sense.
2- To come to your final resting place i.e. R.I.P.

I think that the Polish Jews who came to Rechovot were aware of all three meanings when they picked the name/ They had an inailiable right as Jews to aportion of the land of Israel. They had this great idea that by buying the land at full price from the natives they would not be considered imperialists and would be able to live in peace and tranquility with them.(ha,ha). And they meant to stay and find their final resting place in Rechovot.

Blanche and Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Happy birthday Rehovot.

Hasya Ya'ara said...

Happy Purim!

Risa said...

Sorry Rachel Ann, thanks David, I have clarified the Menucha v'Nachala point a bit. I hope to write some more about these people some time soon. Rehovot is turning out to be an interestin subject.
Thanks to everyone for taking an interest and Happy Purim to all!

Leora said...

Happy Shushan Purim! So Rehovot was founded by Polish Jews? I didn't know. Glad that woman convinced them to make the big move.

Batya said...

Wonderful post, Risa. I always associated Rechovot with the Weitzman Institute, because we went there on a Machon Greenberg tour over 40 years ago.

Yes, decades before you guys moved there.

lars shalom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tiktok said...

我來湊熱鬧的~~^^ 要平安快樂哦........................................

FF14 Gil said...

important! i really like learning more about my closest thing 'big' town. we are in kfar hanagid as well as go to rehovot for errands, as we aren't able to find some thing inside yavne... glad i stopped simply by these days. due to yahoo reader! content purim...

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