Streetwise: Yaakov Dori (Rav Aluf)

The street was named in Dori’s honor in 1974. It is one of Haifa’s longest thoroughfares.

yakov dori (photo credit: IDF)
yakov dori
(photo credit: IDF)
Driving or walking around a city, one often wonders about the connection between a certain street and the person whose name it bears. Derech Yaakov Dori – also known as Rav Aluf Yaakov Dori Street – is a metaphor for the life of an extraordinary soldier-turned-academic.
Yaakov Dori was educated in Haifa and was commander of the Hagana forces there before becoming its first chief of staff (rav aluf). He was later appointed president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, the city in which he lived until his death in 1973.
The street was named in Dori’s honor in 1974. It is one of Haifa’s longest thoroughfares, starting in the Naveh Sha’anan residential mountaintop suburb, winding from the access roads to the campus of the Technion and down the mountain to the industrial area, where it meets Hahashmal Street.
Dori was born in 1899 in Odessa. He immigrated to Palestine in 1905, studied at the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa, and during the First World War volunteered with the Jewish Legion of the British Army.
At the conclusion of the war, much of the Technion’s engineering department was under construction. So with few options for getting an engineering degree in Palestine, he spent the next few years studying abroad.
On his return, Dori worked his way up in the ranks of the Hagana, which at that time was a small self-defense paramilitary group that was to herald the national army of the nascent Jewish State of Israel. At first he commanded the Hagana in Haifa and in 1939 became its first chief of staff. He served throughout the War of Independence with Yigael Yadin as his deputy.
Ill health forced Dori to retire from military service in 1949. But he never lost interest in the strong IDF that had emerged from that fledgling Hagana.
As that door closed, his engineering qualifications opened new opportunities, and he became chairman of the Science Council in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The peak of Dori’s career was his appointment as president of the Technion, a continuation of his life in the city that culminated with him representing the prestigious institute of science and technology that was not yet available to him when he wanted to study engineering.
Reading about his life, there do not seem to be any scandals surrounding his varied pursuits. He was married to a Ukrainianborn teacher, Badana Pintov. His son Yerachmiel was a commander of the IDF Engineering Corps. His daughter, Etana, is a biochemist and professor of microbial ecology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And his youngest son, Zvi, was a chemistry professor at the Technion and founder of the MadaTech, the Museum of Science, Technology and Space on the site of the original Technion campus.
Dori would have been proud of the achievements of all his family, but the preservation of the iconic Technion building, the university of which he became president, would have given him a special pride.
The original site of the Technion was on the Hadar, the middle level of this mountain city. The entire Hadar neighborhood was designed as a garden city, with elegant boulevards and residences situated around the magnificent Technion building designed by the Prussian architect Alexander Baerwald and opened in 1924.
As the faculties expanded in the 1950s, the Technion relocated to the upper forested slopes of the Carmel. The focus on architecture and landscaping is apparent even today, for the trees and foliage have been preserved even as more and more faculty buildings and student dormitories cover the site.
The last faculty to leave the Hadar campus was the Architecture Department in 1985. The building was abandoned and the site was destined for demolition. Over the decades, the Haifa Municipality has not been particularly sympathetic to heritage and aesthetics, and it had plans for redevelopment.
Former students and staff were incensed at the planned destruction of this architectural gem. Funds were raised worldwide to save the building and turn it into a hands-on museum. It became a source of knowledge and entertainment for families from all over Israel who spend happy days in its galleries, special exhibitions and experimenting with balances and water installations in the courtyard. In light of the activity there today, Yaakov Dori must surely rest in peace.
The IDF base at Tel Hashomer is also named after Dori. This long, meandering street from Naveh Sha’anan, adjacent to the Technion and into the industrial zone, is a lasting reminder of his legacy.
At the top of Derech Yaakov Dori is the Ziv Center, a cluster of shops, banks and cafes. The surrounding streets are quiet and leafy. The population is a mix of Modern Orthodox and secular, many of whom are academics who work at the Technion or at the University of Haifa further up the mountain.
The view changes dramatically as one drives down this wide, busy thoroughfare. Lower-income apartments – often rented out to students or young couples and new immigrants – would have a magnificent view of the Zevulun Valley and distant hills of the Galilee, if the air was not polluted by the oil refineries and other industries in Haifa Bay. A study of lead levels in the blood of children done some years ago found that residents of that side of the Carmel suffered more asthma and elevated lead levels than those who lived in the bayside suburbs.
At its lowest point, Derech Yaakov Dori meets Hahashmal Street and the Gesher Paz interchange, which leads into Hof Shemen and Israel’s most polluted industrial area.
So, like the man whose name was given to this thoroughfare, the street covers the many stages of Israel’s development, the diverse population and the enormous progress of science and technology for which the country is famous. One wonders how the pioneers of that generation would have dealt with the price of that progress in terms of pollution and the greed of industrialists who do not seem interested in finding a solution.