Rishon LeZion

Rishon LeZion (Hebrew: רִאשׁוֹן לְצִיּוֹןAbout this sound(audio) , lit. First to Zion) is a city in Israel, located along the central Israeli coastal plain 8 km (5 mi) south of Tel Aviv. It is part of the Gush Dan metropolitan area.

Rishon LeZion
רִאשׁוֹן לְצִיּוֹן
City (from 1950)
Hebrew transcription(s)
 • ISO 259Riˀšon l Çiyon
 • Translit.Rishon LeTziyon
 • Also spelledRishon LeZiyyon (official)
Rishon LeZion aerial view
Rishon LeZion aerial view
Flag of Rishon LeZion
Rishon leZion Coat of Arms.svg
Rishon LeZion is located in Israel
Rishon LeZion
Rishon LeZion
Coordinates: 31°57′N 34°48′E / 31.950°N 34.800°E / 31.950; 34.800Coordinates: 31°57′N 34°48′E / 31.950°N 34.800°E / 31.950; 34.800
Country Israel
 • MayorRaz Kinstlich
 • Total61,914.25 dunams (61.91425 km2 or 23.90523 sq mi)
 • Total254,384
 • Density4,100/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
Name meaningFirst to Zion

Founded in 1882 by Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire who were part of the First Aliyah, it was the second Jewish farm settlement established in Ottoman Palestine in the 19th century, after Petah Tikva. As of 2017, it was the fourth-largest city in Israel, with a population of 254,384.[2]

The city is a member of Forum 15, which is an association of fiscally autonomous cities in Israel that do not depend on national balancing or development grants.[3]


The name Rishon LeZion is derived from a biblical verse: "First to Zion are they, and I shall give herald to Jerusalem" (Hebrew: ראשון לציון הנה הינם, ולירושלים מבשר אתן‎) (Isaiah 41:27) and literally translates as "First to Zion".


Rishon LeZion in the 1890s

Ottoman period (1882-1900)Edit

Rishon LeZion in 1937

Rishon LeZion was founded on July 31, 1882, by ten Hovevei Zion pioneers from Kharkiv, Ukraine (then the Russian Empire) headed by Zalman David Levontin. Reuven Yudalevich was also a member of the group. The British vice consul in Jaffa Haim Amzaleg purchased 835 acres (337.91 ha) of land southeast of present-day Tel Aviv, part of the townland of the Arab village of Ayun Kara (literally 'fountain of the crier') from Mustafa Abdallah ali Dajan.[4] Amzaleg signed a declaration to the settlers stating that none of the structures on this land will ever be his own.

In addition to the problems posed by sandy soil and lack of water, the newcomers had no agricultural experience. Baron Rothschild brought in experts who drilled for water, finding the groundwater table uneven. Wells were built at a depth of 20–25 meters.[5] After the Biluim arrived, the colony slowly began to develop. On 23 February 1883, the settlers found water in the wells. To mark this occasion, the village emblem was inscribed with a verse from the Bible: "We have found water." (Genesis 26:32) Fani Belkind, Israel Belkind, Shimshon Belkind, Yoel Drubin, Haim Hissin, and David Yudilovich were among the Biluim who arrived in Rishon Lezion at this time.

In 1883 Itzhak Leib Toporovski a blacksmith of the young village created the first iron plow in the land of Israel, and in 1885 the flag that would later become the flag of Israel was raised for the first time as part of the celebrations of the 3rd anniversary of the village.[6]

When Baron Edmond James de Rothschild took over, sending in his administrators and agricultural guide Shaul Helzner of Mikve Israel, major progress was made in the spheres of agriculture, citrus and viticulture. In November 1883 the first rows were planted, led by ten Russian farmers who were further trained at Mikveh Israel agriculture school, also funded in part by Rothschild. The Great Synagogue, which became a major focus of life in Rishon LeZion, was built between 1885 and 1889. Under Rothschild's patronage, the Carmel-Mizrahi Winery was, established in 1886.[7] The Baron Edmond James de Rothschild and his wife Adelheid von Rothschild came to visit the village a year later in 1887.

In 1886, as Rishon LeZion's population of around 300 included several dozen children who required proper education, the Haviv elementary school was established in Rishon LeZion as the first modern school to teach exclusively in Hebrew. Dov Lubman Haviv taught there and Mordechai Lubman Haviv was an educational inspector. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the leading figure in the revival of Hebrew, was a teacher in Rishon LeZion. In 1898 the first Hebrew kindergarten in the world was established by Esther (Shapira) Ginzburg a former student of the Haviv school.

Naphtali Herz Imber, the later famed Hebrew language poet, lived in Rishon LeZion for a few years in the late 1880s. He recited his poem, Tikvahtenu, to eager ears. In 1887, Shmuel Cohen, a young resident of Rishon with a musical background, observed the emotional response of the local Jewish farmers to Imber's poem. Using his musical skill, he put the poem to music. Cohen's musical composition was an adaptation of a Moldavian/Romanian folk-song, "Carcul cu Boi" (the Cart with Oxen). The catalyst of Cohen's musical adaptation facilitated the quick, enthusiastic spread of Imber's poem throughout all the Zionist communities of Palestine. Within a short few years, it spread globally to pro-Zionist communities and organizations becoming the unofficial Zionist National Anthem. In 1933, at the 18th Zionist Congress in Prague, the Imber/Cohen Zionist National Anthem, formally adopted, was renamed the Hatikvah (The Hope). In November 2004, the State of Israel formally adopted Shmuel Cohen's 1887 musical adaptation to a newly shortened, modified version of Imber's poem, creating the modern Israeli National Anthem, the Hatikvah.

In 1888, the medicine house, the baron's stables and the baron's clerks house were built. In 1889 the building in which the Carmel-Mizrahi Winery is located was built. A telephone was added to the winery in 1891 and in 1898 electricity was installed. In 1890, a palm boulevard was planted in the location of the future city park. The Rishon LeZion orchestra was established in 1895. In 1898, the year Theodor Herzl visited the settlement, the city park (then the village park) was established and a water tower was built next to the well.[6]

Great Synagogue, founders square, and village bell

A founder of Rishon LeZion was Joseph Feinberg[8] the father of Dora Bloch.

At the year of its founding in 1882, Rishon LeZion had a population of 150. In 1890, Rishon LeZion had a population of 359. Five years later, the figure had risen to 380, and by 1900, to 526.

Village council and JCA administration (1900-1922)Edit

In 1900 the management of the village was transferred from the baron's office to the village council and the Jewish Colonization Association. Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, worked in the winery for two months in the summer of 1907.[9]

In 1910 the village bell was constructed next to the medicine house, and in 1912 the first car ("First chariot without horses") appeared in the village.[6] In 1911, 4,000 dunams of land in Rishon LeZion were planted with grapes and 254 dunams with other fruit orchards.[5] In 1913 the governor of Greater Syria Djemal Pasha annexed the sands around Rishon Lezion to their territory and in 1915 Rishon Lezion was expanded again and was given the territory between it and the Mediterranean Sea. In 1913 Nahlat Yehuda, another Jewish settlement, was established north of Rishon Lezion. In 1915 Rishon Lezion and the surrounding area experienced a Locust attack.[6]

Ayun Kara was the scene of a bloody battle between Turkish and New Zealand troops on November 14, 1917.[10] Local citizens carried the wounded to a medical facility in Rishon LeZion.[11] A stone cenotaph was erected by the people of Rishon LeZion to the memory of the New Zealanders who fell that day, but it has since been destroyed.[12][13] In the wake of the battle the New Zealanders set up camp at Rishon Lezion, which was described by one officer as a "pretty little hamlet surrounded by vineyards and orange groves." Relations between the troops and villagers were good, and the troops brought the villagers the news of the Balfour Declaration.[14] In 1919 the women of Rishon Lezion were given voting rights and on the same year Nehama Pohatchevsky was elected chairman of the village council which marked the first time a woman was elected to the position.[6][15]

Rishon LeZion in 1995, with Founders Square and the Great Synagogue in the foreground

British MandateEdit

In 1924 the British Army contracted the Jaffa Electric Company for wired electric power to the military installations in Sarafand. The contract allowed the Electric Company to extend the grid beyond the original geographical limits that had been projected by the concession it was given. The high-tension line that exceeded the limits of the original concession ran along some major towns and agricultural settlements, offering extended connections to the Jewish settlements of Rishon Le-Zion, Nes-Ziona and Rehovot (in spite of their proximity to the high-tension line, the Arab towns of Ramleh and Lydda remained unconnected).[16] According to a census conducted in 1922 by the British Mandate authorities, Rishon LeZion had a population of 1,396 inhabitants, consisting of 1,373 Jews and 23 Muslims,[17] increasing in 1931 census to 2,525 inhabitants, in 648 houses.[18]

State of IsraelEdit

Rishon LeZion was declared a city in 1950, by which time it had a population of around 18,000. By 1983 it had a population of 103,000. In 2006, 222,300 people were living in the city. By 2020, the population is expected to reach 253,600.[19] In 2007, the Rishon LeZion Municipality was awarded the Ministry of Interior Prize for Proper Management.[20]

The city may in the future host a new international airport, which will replace Ben-Gurion International Airport and Sde Dov Airport. Under a plan currently being considered, a new international airport will be constructed on a marine platform built two kilometers (1.2 miles) offshore of Rishon LeZion, the terminals, and cargo docks will be built onshore near a highway intersection, which will be linked to the airport by fast trains or buses traveling along a pier.[21] In 2016, the Israeli government approved the expansion of Rishon LeZion onto sand dunes west of the city, upon which one of the largest commercial and residential construction projects in the Central District will be built on 1,000 dunams. Another industrial zone in the western part of the city is planned to be almost doubled in size.[22][23]


Neot Ashalim Park

The 1922 Census conducted by the British Mandate authorities found there were 1,373 Jews living in Rishon LeZion and 23 Muslims.[24]

According to data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics as of December 2019, the number of residents in Rishon LeZion is 254,384.[1] Rishon LeZion is one of the fastest-growing cities in Israel, and is third-youngest city in the country, after Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, with 31.1% of the population being children and teenagers, and 61.4% of all residents being aged 40 or under. In addition, the city has attracted significant immigration,[25] including from English-speaking countries.[26] The city is expected to have a population of around 270,000 by 2030.[19] Its population growth rate is about 5% per year.[27] The majority of the city's residents are Jews.


HaZahav shopping mall
Superland amusement park

Rishon LeZion's main industries today are wine, construction, services and commerce. Factories and workshops are located in the old industrial zone, which has become a popular venue for pubs, dance clubs, and restaurants. Industry in the city is largely divided into two industrial centers: the old industrial zone in the north of the city and the new industrial zone in the west of the city.[20]

The three major malls in Rishon LeZion are Rothschild Center in the old downtown center, Gold Mall (Kenyon HaZahav) in the New West district and the newly constructed Azrieli Rishonim. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Gazit-Globe, Volvo and Fiat are expected to open in the Maayan Sorek area.[20] As part of the city's 5-year plan to be completely water-independent,[28] construction of a desalination plant is planned for Rishon, which will produce 3.7 million cubic meters of water per year. The city already hosts the large Shafdan recycling plant.[20]

Local governmentEdit


Education and cultureEdit

Haviv School, the first all-Hebrew elementary school
Boardwalk (Tayelet Hatnei Pras Nobel) with cenotaphs of Jewish Nobel Prize laureates in Rishon LeZion

Rishon LeZion has twenty-three elementary schools, nine middle schools, and twelve high schools. Rishon Lezion's College of Management has a student population of 10,000.[20] Sixty percentage of twelve graders in the city qualify for a matriculation certificate.

Rishon LeZion holds an annual wine festival. The Rishon LeZion Amphitheatre Live Park has hosted overseas artists such as Sting, Mariah Carey, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Alanis Morissette, alt-J, Megadeth, Deep Purple, Avicii, Jason Derulo, Flo Rida, Wiz Khalifa and Sean Paul. The city has a municipal zoo, an amusement park (Superland), and a beach promenade. Heychal HaTarbut (Hall of Culture) is a venue for classical concerts, theatre performances and cultural events. It has a larger theatre for shows and two smaller ones for art workshops. The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion has participated in music festivals all over the world. It was awarded the ACUM Prize in 1991.

A boardwalk (Tayelet Hatnei Pras Nobel) in honor of Jewish Nobel Prize winners was built, with cenotaphs of the laureates in Rishon LeZion.


Landmarks in Rishon LeZion include the history museum; the Carmel Winery; the administrative center of Edmond James de Rothschild, now a soldiers' memorial; the Great Synagogue; the Well; the old water tower; and Beit Sefer Haviv, the first Hebrew School. "Open Doors" is a holocaust memorial which is a 7-meter-high (23 ft) sculpture designed by Filipino artist Luis Lee Jr. It was erected in honor and thanks to President Manuel Quezon and the Filipinos who saved over 1,200 Jews from Nazi Germany.[29][30]


Rishon LeZion is located on the Israeli Mediterranean Coastal Plain and the northern Shephelah. The city sees the majority of its annual 800 mm (31 in) of precipitation between the months of October and March.

Climate data for Rishon LeZion
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 17.8
Average low °C (°F) 7.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 244.7
Source: YR.NO[31]


Gan Rishon
Old water tower

Rishon LeZion can be divided into four main quarters: the old city, the eastern housing projects, the northern (old) industrial zone, and Western Rishon LeZion. There is also an industrial zone on the southern tip of the city, next to Gan Sorek.

Old cityEdit

The old city of Rishon includes the original neighborhoods, some buildings dating back to Rishon's founding in 1881. This quarter is located in the city center, between and around Herzl and Jabotinsky Streets. It includes the following neighborhoods: Nahalat Yehuda (on the northernmost tip of Rishon); Neve Hillel; Bnot Hayil; Abramovich; Katzenelson; Remez (Giv'at Levinson), on the southwestern tip of old Rishon; Rishonim (Gan Nahum), to the east of Remez

Shikunei HaMizrahEdit

The Eastern Housing Projects (Hebrew: שיכוני המזרחShikunei HaMizrah) was Rishon's quick expansion to the east. It is dominated by the housing projects (shikunim) there, in the Shikunei HaMizrah neighborhood itself. The eastern projects stopped developing when they reached the fences of the Tzrifin military base. When and if Tzrifin is sold to private contractors as planned, this quarter is expected to expand significantly with new lucrative housing projects. Other smaller neighborhoods include Revivim, Kidmat Rishon, Ne'urim, Rambam, Neve Hadarim, HaShomer, Kfar Arye, Mishor HaNof and Kiryat Simha.

Old industrial zoneEdit

The industrial zones in Rishon LeZion are called Mabat, an abbreviation for Miskhar, Bilui VeTa'asiya (Commerce, Pastime and Industry). The northern zone is the oldest and original industrial zone, once full of light industry and glass factories. Today, it is known for its prolific nightlife.

West RishonEdit

West Rishon LeZion is the conglomeration of the new neighborhoods of the city, built in the 1980s and 90s. The west also has a higher land value because of its relative proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. It includes the entire city west of Tzahal Road. The quarter includes the new industrial zone (Western Mabat), and a number of residential neighborhoods: Neve Eliyahu (or Ramat Eliyahu), Neot Shikma, Neve Dekalim, Neve Hof (or Pueblo Español), Neve Yam, Kiryat Rishon, Kiryat Cramim, Kiryat Ganim, Neot Ashalim, Kiryat Hatanei Pras Nobel (lit Nobel Prize Laureates' Town)


Rishon LeZion beach

Rishon LeZion is known for its achievements in handball and chess.[citation needed] In handball, Hapoel Rishon LeZion and Maccabi Rishon LeZion dominate the handball league. Hapoel has won more than seven domestic championships and cups in a row, with stars like goalkeeper Vladimir Zaikman and field-players Idan Maimon and Dudi Balsar. Its biggest rival, Maccabi took the championship title from Hapoel in 2005/06. Handball is also a dominant sport in Rishon LeZion high schools. The Amit Amal high school handball team has won the world championship several times.[citation needed]

In chess, the Rishon LeZion Chess Club, founded in 1939, is one of the leading clubs in Israel, in senior, women and youth leagues. Israeli grandmasters such as Boris Alterman play for Rishon. World champion Garry Kasparov was a former member.

Hapoel Rishon LeZion is the major football club, currently playing in the second tier, although the club played in the past in the top division, even as recently as 2011–12. The club also appeared in two cup finals, in 1946 and in 1996 and won the 2012–13 Toto Cup Leumit. Other active football teams are Moadon Sport Shikun HaMizrah (playing in Liga Alef), Hapoel Nahalat Yehuda (playing in Liga Bet), and Moadon Sport Rishon LeZion (playing in Liga Gimel). Other football clubs previously played in the city, such as Maccabi Rishon Lezion, which played at the top division during the 1940s and the two seasons after the Israeli Declaration of Independence, as well as smaller clubs which played in the lower tiers, such as Beitar Rishon LeZion, Hapoel Bnei Zion and Hapoel HaMegabesh Rishon LeZion.

The main football stadium in Rishon LeZion is the 6,000-seats Haberfeld Stadium, which hosts matches of Hapoel Rishon LeZion. Other, smaller stadiums, are located in Shikun Hamizrah, in Nahlat Yehuda, and in the Superland complex.

The Maccabi Rishon LeZion basketball team is a long-time member of Ligat HaAl, the top division. The team plays at Bet Maccabi Arena, which seats 2,500. Maccabi The team was a rival to Israel's top club and European champion, Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 1990s.

The city also is home to the new 3,000-seats Athletics Municipal Stadium, which was built between 2001 and 2013, with the intention to host international athletics competitions.[citation needed]


Rishon LeZion can be accessed by road from several major highways. Public transportation includes bus, train and share taxi.

Rail transportEdit

Gan Habaron

The Rishon LeZion HaRishonim Railway Station is located to the south of the city center, in the middle of HaRishonim Interchange, at the intersection of the new Highway 431 and the Rishon LeZion – Ness Ziona road. There are direct trains from the HaRishonim Railway Station to Tel Aviv, Lod, Bnei Brak, Petah Tikva, Rosh HaAyin, Hod HaSharon and Kfar Saba. All stations of Israel Railways can be accessed using the transfer stations at Tel Aviv and Lod.

The Rishon LeZion Moshe Dayan Railway Station is in the western part of the city, situated on the new rail line from Tel Aviv to Ashdod via Moshe Dayan station and Yavne (West). While the link north to Tel Aviv is operational, the railway from Moshe Dayan to Yavne is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in 2012 and from Yavne to Ashdod in 2013. There are future long-range plans for someday connecting the Rishonim station with Moshe Dayan station, while constructing a couple of additional railway stations in between them.

Bus transportEdit

The bus companies serving intercity lines in Rishon LeZion are: Egged, Dan, Afikim, Metropoline, and Kavim. Rishon LeZion has an intracity bus network operated by Egged and Dan. Most lines are metropolitan, continuing to Bat Yam, Holon, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The bus lines are augmented by share taxis operated by Moniyot HaIr.

Notable residentsEdit

International relationsEdit

Rishon LeZion is twinned with:[43][44][45][46][47]

During the Gulf War in 1991, the mayor of Münster, Germany, made a surprise visit to Rishon LeZion. According to Haaretz, he felt he could not sit quietly at home while missiles were falling on his sister city. Throughout the war, he stayed at the home of Rishon LeZion mayor Meir Nitzan and accompanied him on visits to sites hit by missiles.[48]

In 2009 a memorial was erected in Rishon LeZion to the 10,000 German and Austrian Jews who found refuge in the Philippines during the Shoah.[49]


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External linksEdit