Rishon LeZion at its establishment. (Photo: Wikicommons)

Rishon LeZion is the first agricultural town in Israel, established by the earliest Zionist pioneers. Meet the town where it all happened first.

Places of Israel

Rishon LeZion, founded in 1882, is one of the first towns in Israel.

Named after the verse in the prophet Isaiah, “The first one to Zion (Rishon LeZion), behold, behold them, and for Jerusalem I will give a herald (41:27),” the town signifies Israel’s redemption and the return of the Jewish People to their homeland.

Pioneers’ Home

Nestled on the Mediterranean Sea, Rishon, as it is popularly referred to, is the first agricultural settlement to be established in Israel by 17 members of the first Aliyah (immigration) wave. At the time, the Land of Israel was under Ottoman rule, which opposed the establishment of the Jewish town, but due to British support the Ottomans yielded.

Water was scarce at the beginning and was brought in from other locations, and so the digging of the first well generated much excitement.

The town members encountered many difficulties, but thanks to the benevolence of Baron Edmond De-Rothschild, they survived. Rothschild also funded the establishing of the famous Carmel Winery, the first one in modern-day Israel.

The town quickly became a hub for the renewed Israeli culture and creativity, and Israel’s flag was designed there.

Rishon, true to its name, sports the first Israeli school (1886), the first Israeli kindergarten (1898) and the first Israeli orchestra (1895); the Israeli flag was first flown there, the national anthem, Hatikvah, was compiled there, and Israel’s first female mayor, Chana Levin, served there (1956).

Rishon’s Coat of Arms

The city’s symbol, in the colors of blue, yellow and green, was designed to commemorate the city’s 60th anniversary. The symbol signifies the beginning, evolution and diversity of Rishon LeZion.

The city’s first well appears with the words “We found water” underneath. Vines and grapes, which signify the wine industry, and a citrus tree are featured on the symbol. In the background one can see industrial buildings and chimney smoke, symbolizing the city’s booming industry.

Modern City is Formed

Rishon LeZion was officially declared a city in 1950. During the 1970s and throughout the coming decades, the city grew significantly, and today it is the fourth-largest in Israel.

Rishon is described on its official website as: “Wonderfully accessible, with major traffic arteries crossing through it… Rishon’s population is young, dynamic and fairly upscale. The city abounds in cultural, entertainment and educational facilities, green areas, well-run municipal services, and energetic programs to continually upgrade the physical infrastructure and living environment. City residents express high satisfaction with their quality of life, and love living there.”

It has a twin-city pact with 13 others across the globe, as well as its own hockey team, the Rishon Devils.

Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel