Sunday, August 1, 2010

Exploring Israel - Rishon LeZion

Rishon is the Hebrew word for first. Rishon LeZion - First of Zion. And boy, if there was ever a town that lived up to its name, it's Rishon LeZion. Rishon LeZion is about an hour's drive from Greater Jerusalem and even closer to Tel Aviv. It's a great, interesting and picturesque city to visit. LET'S GO!
Rishon LeZion's name comes from the phrase in Isaiah 41:27, "We are the first to Zion, and will bring good tidings to Jerusalem."
Rishon LeZion was the first colony founded by the First Aliyah (Wave of Immigration) in 1882 and today is Israel's fourth largest city. Conditions were very harsh during its first years, and it survived, B"H, thanks to the patronage of Baron Edmund de Rothschild.
And today, it has one of the highest quality of living in the country.

First First First
The museum of Rishon LeZion has a terrific exhibition of the country's firsts, all of which began right there in Rishon.
Israel's national flag - kachol v'lavan (blue & white) was flown for the first time in 1885 at Rishon LeZion's third anniversary celebration. The flag was inspired by the tallit, and incorporated the Magen David (star/shield of David). The Rishon LeZion museum says that the flag was actually made from the tallit of Rishon LeZion founder Zeev Abramovitch.
In 1886, Rishon LeZion's school was the first one to speak and teach in Hebrew.
Hatikva was sung for the first time in Rishon LeZion in 1888. The poem Hatikva was changed a bit by the teachers in Rishon LeZion's school, and the song eventually became Israel's national anthem.
The Baron deRothschild built the country's first winery in Rishon LeZion in 1888. The industry did not prosper until decades later. Today, the winery still stands, but it no longer produces wine.
The First "Keren Kayemet" National Fund was created there in 1889. Its aim was to collect money to strengthen Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. In 1901, twelve years after teh founding of Rishon LeZion's Keren Kayemet, the Zionist Federation established the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, which still operates today.

Park and Walk
There are so many beautiful streets to walk through in Rishon. First of all, you've got to see the museum, mentioned above. Then there's the Street Museum. Yes, every few buildings has a sign to clue you in on the history of the place - the first barber shop, the synagogue, the first kiosk, the secret meeting place of the Haganah. There is also a palm tree park that is just luscious. Many people were walking along the park, which leads to the winery, a beautiful building.
The synagogue is impressive, and if you're lucky enough to be there when it's open, go inside. The stained glass around the bet knesset is just lovely.
There's the first theater and the well where Rishon found water for the first time. It was the discovery of this water that enabled the settlement to survive.
Alongside the Rishon LeZion Museum, there is also a home of one of the founders of the town. It is restored to its original state, and gives you a real look at what life was like then.
In addition, the Municipality Building is beautiful, modern and has a changing art exhibit downstairs.
We really enjoyed Rishon LeZion, and suggest it as a wonderful day trip. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it under the palms.

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