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Sarona, Colony

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Sarona, Colony


Basic Information

Location Tel aviv
Country Israel
City Tel Aviv-Yafo

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment yes
Handicap accessibility yes
Geographical Coordinates 32.06616,34.77782


The Templer settlement of Sarona was one of the first modern agricultural settlements in Palestine and became a model for the Jewish pioneers. In August 1871, the Templers purchased 60 hectares of land from a Greek monastery north of Jaffa. Part of the Plains of Sharon (after which it was named) near the River Audsche (Yarkon River) it was four kilometres from Jaffa. In October 1871, the foundation stones were laid for the first houses. Extreme hardship and disease took a heavy toll in human life the first few years. Malaria caused the deaths of 28 of the 125 settlers of Sarona in 1872 alone. In an effort to dry the marshy land 1,300 eucalyptus trees were planted.

By 1889, 269 persons lived in Sarona. There were 41 homes, a communal hall, a winery, workshops, barns and sheds. The Sarona colonists brought modern farming tools and practices to the Holy Land. They focused on crops and products they could readily sell. This "agriculture-for-profit" was an economic innovation in a land that for centuries had practiced only "self-sustaining farming." Grain crops and dairy industry first, then orchards and vineyards were planted. Faced with a shortage of financial resources for infrastructure development, the community introduced Frondienst, a compulsory work system where every male member was required to do a certain number of hours of community work each month. The building of roads, development of land, roads and drainage and community facilities could thus be scheduled. The researcher and author Sven Hedin wrote of his visit to Sarona in 1916 "...many plants were in blossom. They mainly grow grapes, oranges and vegetables, [but] like in old times they also produce milk and honey."

In November 1917, British troops occupied Sarona, turning the community house into a field hospital and commandeering other buildings for military use. In July 1918, the Templers (a total of 850 people) were interned in Egypt at Helwan near Cairo. The Red Cross, Quakers and Unitarians took up their cause, and on July 29, 1920, after 270 internees had been repatriated in April to Bad Mergentheim in Germany, the House of Lords permitted the remaining internees to return to Palestine. The residents of Sarona returned to a plundered and vandalized colony. Following negotiations with the British authorities, compensation was paid, in some cases up to 50%.

By 1925 Sarona was still a small settlement, although it had grown in some areas. It was still a farming community but more emphasis was placed on tradesmen. With the increasing Jewish immigration to Palestine (80,000 immigrants arrived in 1920-1926 alone) the settlement prospered due to a ready market for their produce and their services.

After the Nazi takeover in Germany the new Reich's government streamlined foreign policy according to Nazi ideals, using mainly financial pressure. The Nazi emphasis was on creating the image, that Germany and Germans are equal to Nazism, thus all non-Nazi aspects of German culture and identity were discriminated against as un-German. All international schools of German language subsidized or fully financed by government funds were obliged to redraw their educational programs and to solely employ teachers aligned to the Nazi party. The teachers in Bethlehem were financed by the Reich's government, so Nazi teachers also taken over there. In 1933 Templer functionaries and other Gentile Germans living in Palestine appealed to Paul von Hindenburg and the Foreign Office not to use swastika symbols for German institutions, without success. Some German Gentiles from Palestine pleaded with the Reich's government to drop its plan to boycott shops of Jewish Germans on April 1, 1933. Some Templers enlisted in the German army. By 1938, 17% of the Templers in Palestine were members of the Nazi party. According to historian Yossi Ben-Artzi, "The members of the younger generation to some extent broke away from naive religious belief, and were more receptive to the Nazi German nationalism. The older ones tried to fight it." At the start of World War II colonists with German citizenship were rounded up by the British authorities and sent, together with Italian and Hungarian enemy nationals, to internment camps in Waldheim and Bethlehem of Galilee, and they were eventually deported. In 1962 the State of Israel paid 54 million Deutsche Marks in compensation to property owners whose assets were nationalized.

Sarona, together with the three other agricultural settlements - Wilhelma, Bethlehem of Galilee and Waldheim - became "perimeter" compounds into which all Germans living in Palestine were interned. Sarona held close to 1,000 persons behind a guarded, 4 m high barbed-wire fence. In July 1941, 198 people from Sarona, together with almost 400 from the other internment camps were deported to Australia on the Queen Elizabeth. They were interned in Tatura in Central Victoria Australia until 1947. By November 1944, most of the remaining Sarona residents had been moved to the camp in Wilhelma camp. The last group was sent there in September 1945.

Restored Templer homes on Kaplan Street.

The former Sarona houses were taken over and used by the British army and mandatory government, and as such were the target of raids and attacks by the Zionist underground organizations during their 1945–1947 struggle against British rule.

In 1948, when the British Mandate ended and British troops left Sarona, the old houses and army barracks were used by the newly-formed Israeli government as offices. The area became known as the "Kirya." Part became a military compound, comprising the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, and various other military installations. Other parts of the former Sarona were used to house the offices of civil ministries in the Israeli Government.

With the rapid growth of Tel Aviv, the Kirya became prime real-estate in the heart of the city. When plans for redeveloping the area were proposed in the mid-1970s, preservationists successfully campaigned against demolition. Consulting with historians, it was decided Sarona was of heritage value and 18 structures with distinct architectural styles would be preserved.

Civil government department were moved out of the low buildings and into a high office building erected in the eastern end. During the widening of the Kaplan Street, the main thoroughfare, considerable effort was made to move the historic buildings intact. These were intended to become an area of cafés and recreation. Also in the military part, a high-rise military headquarters was erected, topped by a helicopter pad. However, historic buildings in the military compound remain in IDF use.


Since 2003, the Tel Aviv municipality has been working to preserve and restore Sarona. To make way for a highway, techniques were developed for moving some of the houses to a more convenient location.

Houses marked for preservation:

Original Community House (No 25)
Old Lämmle House (No 19)
Glenk House (No 61)
The New Community House (No 9a)
Friedrich Häring House (No 52)
New School and Community Complex (No 84)
Immanuel Steller House (No 55)

In 2008, after the widening of Kaplan Street, which required moving four houses and the old Gemeindehaus, the area to the south was renamed Ganei Sarona (Sarona Gardens).

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Time period

20th century