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Jaffa, History, Neve Zedek

Neve Zedek

Jewish expansion and growth in Jaffa—1870-1915

Toward the end of the 19th century, Jaffa prospered economically.  Over seven decades, the built area outside the walls grew a hundred-fold, from 14 dunams (in 1842) to 1447 dunams (in 1914). Economic and urban growth resulted in a significant increase in the price of land in and around the city, and Jaffa became a preferred destination for Jews who immigrated before the First Aliyah in 1882 as well as for those who came later. The number of Jews in Jaffa rose from 600 in 1876 to about 2,700 in 1891, and then later to 4,765 in 1905.

Jews spur economic and cultural development in Jaffa

The Yishuv played an important role in the economic development of Jaffa; Jews established various economic initiatives as well as religious and cultural institutions in the city. Jaffa became the commercial and cultural center for Jews in Eretz Yisrael. Jewish businessmen, activists and cultural celebrities lived there. In 1903 a branch of the Anglo Palestine Compony (APC) (which later became Bank Leumi) was opened and various aliyah organizations also chose to locate their offices there. The Jews of Jaffa differed from the Jewish residents of Jerusalem, in that they worked for a living and did not live on chalukah money (charity funds collected and distributed to residents of the Yishuv).  Some became quite rich by investing in land.  The city attracted affluent and educated residents who led, in comparison to the traditionally religious community, a freer lifestyle. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and even more so during the Second Aliyah (1905-1914), Jaffa became a transit point on the way to Jerusalem, and the center of the Jewish Yishuv in the Sharon and Judea regions.

Despite prosperity and urban growth, living conditions for the Jews in Jaffa were not great. Arab landlords, who owned most of the housing, would raise the rent from year to year. Therefore, many Jewish tenants were looking to avoid continuing to rent apartments from Arabs; one option was to purchase of land on the outskirts of Jaffa, where new Jewish neighborhoods were being established.

The first Jewish neighborhoods outside of Jaffa

The relocation of Jewish residents of the Old City of Jaffa, inspired by a similar move of Jerusalem’s Jews outside the walls of the capital’s Old City, can be seen as a natural step in the urbanization process of cities elsewhere around the world. Because residents wished to retain economic and cultural ties, the first Jewish neighborhoods were planned in a way that they would fall within the municipal area of ​​Jaffa. Neve Tzedek was founded in 1887 by the Ezrat Yisrael Society, led by Shimon Rokach and his brother Eliezer.  Neve Shalom was founded by Zerah Barnett (one of the founders of Petah Tikva) in 1890. Yaffe Nof was founded 1897, followed by Shaarei Achva in 1899, Mahane Yehuda in 1903;  Mahane Yosef (Kerem Hatyemanim) in 1904, and finally, Ohel Moshe in 1906.

Notably, the building and population of these neighbourhoods preceded the establishment of Ahuzat Bayit , which would later become Tel Aviv, in 1909. By that time 5,000 Jews were already living in the new neighbourhoods around Jaffa. With the Second Aliyah, these numbers grew.  

Towards the end of the 19th century, investment in land around Jaffa proved to be very profitable. In the 1870s, three members of Jaffa’s Jewish Sephardic community purchased about 100 dunams of vineyards north of the town. Not suitable for agriculture because of the sandy soil, the land were purchased at a discount. The buyers were Aharon Chelouche, son of Rabbi Avraham Chelouche, head of the Sephardic community in Jaffa, Haim Amzaleg, an agent for British commercial companies and Deputy Consul of Britain in Jaffa, and Joseph ‘Bey’’ Moyal, a trader and agent of Alliance Israélite Universelle  (Kol Yisrael Haverim) .

 

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