Zichron Yaakov

January 19th 2014

If it’s quaint charm you’re looking for, Zichron Yaakov is the place to visit. Here, on a historic slope overlooking the Mediterranean coast, you can walk along the stone-lined pedestrian mall and explore the many boutiques and local shops, nestled among restaurants and coffee shops, wineries, art galleries and artists’ workshops.

There’s much more to Zichron Yaakov, located 22 miles south of Haifa at the foothills of the Carmel Mountain range, than the charming shopping district, though. The historic Carmel Mizrahi winery, Israel’s larget, offers free guided tours from its visitors’ center here.

Moreover, the town was among the first Zionist pioneering communities in Israel. Founded in 1882, the original settlers consisted of 300 families from Romania. The idealistic newcomers arrived in pre-Israel Palestine without much agricultural knowhow. Their discouraging first year was marked by crop failures, a malaria epidemic and extreme economic hardships. Baron Edmund de Rothschild, a French-Jewish banker and famous Zionist benefactor, sent European agricultural experts and infused the community with both the farming expertise and cash they needed to overcome the failings of their first year. The Museum of The First Aliyah, located on Hadnadiv Street, makes this history come alive by telling the story of one of the earliest families in Zichron Yaakov.

Another worthwhile museum in Zichron Yaakov is the Nili Museum – Beit Aharonson, located on Hameyasdim Street. During World War I, working on behalf of the British, local residents developed an espionage network to spy on the Ottomans who ruled the region at the time. The Aharonson Family, among the founders of Zichron Yaakov, were pivotal players in the Nili underground movement. Many find the tragic and controversial love story between Sarah and Avshalom, told here, to be moving. Both The Museum of the First Aliyah and Beit Aharonson are within walking distance along the main pedestrian mall.

Among the modern buildings of the town are some of the community’s original homes, now refurbished. The Ohel Yaakov Synagogue was built in 1886 and remains in daily use. During a visit there, you’ll learn the story of how the early settlers, working in cooperation with German Christians living in Haifa, evaded Muslim law to build their synagogue, despite their inability to gain a building permit from the Muslim Turks. The Ohel Yaakov Synagogue is centrally located at the intersection of Hanadiv and Hameyasdim, the two streets that join to make up the pedestrian mall.