Following the founders’ trail

A tour of some of Kfar Saba’s historical sites.

British soldiers enjoying Café Fiedler (photo credit: COURTESY KFAR SABA MUSEUM)
British soldiers enjoying Café Fiedler
Kfar Saba is a city with a strong sense of history. Although the original settlement was destroyed in World War I, it was reestablished in 1922 and became the thriving town of today, reaching a population of 100,000 in a little over 90 years.
That feeling for history is expressed in a venture that was established about five years ago at the instigation of the Kfar Saba Archeological Museum and its curator Yardena Wiesenberg. The Shvil Harishonim or Founders’ Trail is a collection of 10 historic sites around the town, each telling a part of the story of Kfar Saba’s origin.
Guided tours around the sites are conducted and visitors can see for themselves just how the small rural community evolved into the city of today. Each station has a plaque, a bench and a tree, and plans are afoot to add several more stations to the trail.
“We have at least 50 historic sites to choose from,” says Wiesenberg enthusiastically.
It all started when fourth grade pupils of the local Ussishkin school turned to the municipality, wanting to discover more about the history of their town.
They heard about the sites and decided to commemorate them with mosaic signs that they made in class, recording the name of the site and the date of construction. These plaques were ceremoniously set into concrete at the sites.
From this first initiative, a conservation committee was established whose brief was to set about preserving the historic buildings and sites of the Moshava, as the early village was called. The initial requirement was to raise the money for this important project. Veterans of the town, the Schreibman family, gave the first donation and the path bears the name of Mordecai Schreibman, one of the pioneers. Other founding families followed and a donation even came in from the fans of the Hapoel Kfar Saba soccer team.
Today, a visitor can enjoy all 10 sites in one brisk walk, building up a picture of its evolution through historical relics. The hard-working pioneers, the glamorous social life, the different ways that residents earned their living and spent their leisure time – all are here on the Shvil Harishonim.
The first stop is the museum itself that gives a fascinating glimpse of the prehistory of the town. Built in 1980, it houses an extensive collection of Roman artifacts unearthed by the eminent archeologist Etan Ayalon, when he excavated in the area about four decades ago.
“They did a great deal of digging,” says Wiesenberg, “and found six layers – Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Islam, Mameluke and Ottoman.”
The second station is Beit Aharoni, also known as The Palace, a splendid eclectic structure that was built in 1927 as a summer home for the Aharonovitch family, who owned many hectares of orchards but actually lived in Tel Aviv.
This magnificent building is known as Beit Sarah, after the original owner, Sarah Aharonovitch, whose husband Ben-Tzion was clearly a successful businessman – the house was surrounded by orange groves, had a swimming pool and an avenue of Washingtonia palm trees in the large garden. Today, the house still stands and is used by the Women’s International Zionist Organization and other institutions, while next to it is the first shopping mall ever built in Kfar Saba – Aharoni Center.
Station 3 is Kinneret Garden that was planted with orange trees to commemorate the beginnings of the citrus fruit industry in the town. In the late ’20s, it was decided that the ground was suitable for planting orange groves and about 200 hectares were desig-nated for this purpose. Citrus growing was for years the main employer and economic mainstay of the town.
Station 4 is what used to be the glittering social hub of the town, Café Fiedler, on the corner of Rothschild and Weizmann streets. Today, this wonderful old building from 1932, a perfect example of the International Style, houses a clothing store but the original steps and stone wall decorations remain.
Café Fiedler was “the” place to meet – parties and balls were held there and it was greatly favored by the British Mandate soldiers. On the day the United Nations voted to partition Palestine, November 29, 1947, Zvi Fiedler, the owner, threw a party for the residents of Kfar Saba, giving out ice cream and drinks to the children.
Says Wiesenberg, “There are at least eight historic buildings in Rothschild Street that we want to preserve and add to the trail. Eventually the plan is to make it a pedestrian mall.”
Herzl Street, where the first 12 houses were built, (although not one is preserved) is No. 5 on the trail.
The sixth is the famous shoe mender’s hut situated in the park next to the central synagogue. The sign – “sandlar orthoped” (orthopedic shoe-mender) is still attached to the refurbished hut, and older denizens remember Yehoshua Hochman arriving in Israel in 1950 and setting up business there. He developed methods of making and mending shoes, and, although he was without any formal training, he became well-known in the business. Customers came from all over the country until he retired in 1995.
The hut, refurbished thanks to the Hochman family shows all the tools of the trade he used in his work.
The present city hall, containing the offices of Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo is No. 7 on the trail. It was first built in 1906 as a khan, a wayfarers’ inn, and has retained that name until today. The first rather rough building was destroyed in the war and rebuilt in 1927 using local materials in an unadorned rustic style. In addition to an inn, it was used as a synagogue, mikve, post office and hospital as well as the seat of the local council. On the city hall’s grounds is Kfar Saba’s first well, dating back to 1906.
The eighth point on the Founders’ Trail is Beit Nordstein, a small stone building on Tel Hai Street opposite the central bus station. The Nordstein family first settled in 1919, immediately after World War I, but in 1921 was forced to leave because of Arab riots.
They returned a year later from Petah Tikva and the six members of the family lived in a tent purchased from the British authorities while they rebuilt their destroyed home, one of the first families to return to the town. They made a living from a small farm surrounding the house.
Station 9 is the part of the local cemetery known as Megurashim Tel Aviv/Jaffa, people who were expelled from their homes by the Turks in World War I out of fear they would collaborate with the British army. The village of Kfar Saba absorbed them, putting up tents to house them, which was not a satisfactory solution from a health point of view. Dr. Hillel Yaffe, who at the time traveled between villages giving medical care to the settlers, sent a message that they should stop coming to Kfar Saba.
Finally the Ussishkin Forest is the 10th station on the trail. It was here that the megurashim set up their schools, cutting down the eucalyptus branches that had been planted by pioneers like the Scheinfein family – whose descendants still live in the town – and building leafy shelters to use as improvised schools, one for boys and one for girls.
Eventually the trail will cover 50 sites, telling the story of Kfar Saba. For the moment, it’s still possible to visit the 10 stations, in one busy but fascinating day.