Rishon by the sea

The old citrus orchards and vineyards in the city are today housing estates and shopping centers.

When Rishon Lezion became a city in 1950 it had a population of just over 10,000; by 2020 it is expected to reach 315,000. (photo credit: RISHON LEZION MUNICIPALITY)
When Rishon Lezion became a city in 1950 it had a population of just over 10,000; by 2020 it is expected to reach 315,000.
Rishon Lezion is Israel’s fourth-largest city, after Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, with a population of more than 250,000. A large city that covers a total area of 58.7 square kilometers, it is much in demand by families that want to live in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. But now it is a metropolitan area in itself with large shopping centers, a large industrial park, a seashore and attractive recreational facilities.
But despite its size, it has very humble beginnings. Like Petah Tikva, Rehovot and Hadera, it had its beginnings in the agricultural colonies established in what was then Turkish Palestine.
Petah Tikva was the first such colony, and Rishon was the second. Rishon Lezion, whose name means “the first to Zion,” was founded on July 31, 1882, by 10 Jewish pioneering families from Kharkov, Ukraine, who purchased 835 acres of land. The founders, who were not used to agricultural work, had a difficult time.
The soil was sandy, water was scarce, and the settlers had been urban dwellers. This was true of all the agricultural settlements established in the late 19th century. It was then that Baron Edmond de Rothschild decided to take the agricultural settlements under his wing and sent experienced estate administrators to give advice about sowing citrus orchards and vineyards. They were instrumental in establishing the Carmel Mizrahi Winery, the first of its kind in Palestine.
Today, Rishon Lezion has little of its agricultural past, as all the old citrus orchards and vineyards have become housing estates.
It has preserved and restored some of the historic buildings, the old winery and the city park – symbols of a bygone age.
Rishon Lezion became a city in 1950 when it had a population of just over 10,000. It is located in the southern part of the Dan Region, between Ness Ziona to the south, Holon and Bat Yam to the north, the vast Tzrifin military base to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. By 2020 the population is expected to reach 315,000.
Geographically, Rishon Lezion can be divided into four main areas: The Old City in the central area, where the residential area of the 19th-century agricultural village used to be; the eastern housing projects; the northern (old) industrial zone; and western Rishon Lezion. There is also an industrial zone on the southern tip of the city, next to Sorek Park.
The Old City includes some buildings dating back to Rishon Lezion’s founding in 1882. This quarter is located in the city center, between and around Herzl and Jabotinsky streets. It includes the old industrial zones of Rishon Lezion, but they are no longer industrial. They used to be the home of various light industries, but now they have large commercial enterprises, malls and offices, as well as entertainment centers with a vibrant night life.
West Rishon Lezion is different. It is the more modern, residential area of the city. There are some 95,000 inhabitants or around 38% of the city’s population.
Furthermore, because of its proximity to the sea, many developers are constructing residential developments in which sea views are one of the important selling points.
Nava Marom, the RE/MAX real estate agent in Rishon Lezion, is very upbeat about the area. She says,“The western part of Rishon Lezion has always been popular, and now it is more in demand than ever. Consequently, the current real estate scene is very positive, with satisfactory demand. Western Rishon Lezion has many advantages. It has excellent road links, primarily to Tel Aviv but also to the national road grid. It is a very modern area with excellent municipal services. Furthermore, on the western edge we have the sea. There are two high-rise apartment towers – Sky and Sha’ar Hayam. Demand for these properties is strong, so more of such properties can be expected in the future. The western edge of the area has its beach houses, or single-family homes some 500 meters from the water’s edge.
No building activity will be authorized between it and the sea,” she asserts.
Prices in the western part of the city are not much different from those of the eastern part. But the eastern part has substantial reserves of building land because the vast area of the Tzrifin military base to the east will soon be made available because the base is being moved to the south. Consequently, land for the construction of an additional 20,000 residential units will be made available.
In contrast, in the western half of Rishon Lezion, the last reserves of building land are quickly being exhausted.
At present, an average four-room apartment in western Rishon Lezion ranges from NIS 1.6 million to NIS 1.7m., while an average three-room apartment sells from NIS 1.45m. to NIS 1.5m.
Plots of land opposite the seashore for the purpose of building a single-family home costs NIS 2m. on average. The size of these plots ranges from 300 to 400 square meters.
Prices for the eastern part are similar for modern buildings. When the properties are 40 years old and more, prices per square meter are lower, but that is because in the western part there are no “old” buildings.
Dov Zur, the mayor of Rishon Lezion, says, “Rishon as a whole continues to grow, and we have already passed the 250,000 mark. We are a popular residential location, and this is due in no small part to the constant investments we make to upgrade our infrastructure.”