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Tel Aviv - Sarona

Standing on Kaplan Street, in front of the Azrieli Center, it is hard to imagine the former German settlement nestled in the serene countryside on the outskirts of Jaffa, which constitutes today the military and governmental campus and one of the most expensive areas in Tel Aviv a part of the State's principal Business Center. Its intriguing history is linked to the founding of the State 60 years ago, and constitutes an important prospect for the city's future development.

The first group of Christian Germans, who named themselves Templars (from the word Temple) immigrated to Israel some 140 years ago. On 1871 they founded their third colony in Israel Sarona. Theses Templars were developing and settling the land in preparation for the return of Jesus. Though few in number, the Templars have left their impression on the landscape, introducing modernization to almost every aspect: agriculture, tourism, transportation, medicine, architecture and design, industry and commerce, and more.

Many of the settlement's houses are still standing, around them there once were vegetable and fruit gardens, barns and cowsheds sustaining a developed dairy farm. At the edge of the settlement the Templars built an advanced winery and a distillery for processing the grapes harvested around the settlement, their wine cellars were linked by an underground tunnel, and an olive press equipped with German machinery can still be visited today.

The colony thrived also under the British mandate, but from 1933 many of its members identified themselves with the Nazi movement. During the Second World War the Templars were considered enemy citizens and were imprisoned in the settlement. Some of them were expelled to Australia as the settlement became a British army camp. Towards the end of the mandate, at the close of 1947, the British evacuated Sarona, taken over as a military camp for the Haganah. During the months preceding the establishment of the State of Israel, the settlement was witness to intensive action its cellars functioning as a workshop for the assembling of 14 planes cunningly purchased from the British army, doubling the strength of the "Air force" (which was not as yet a proper air force) of the state to come. Jerusalem, which was to be the States' capital, was under seize, crowing Sarona as the chosen location for the government houses of the Israeli State founded on May 1948, as well as for the President's bureau, the secret services, the police head quarters, and later on the high military command.

After years of struggles, the Society for Preservation of Heritage Sites succeeded in obtaining a plan for preserving 40 of the settlement's buildings in a park, around which office and residence towers are to be built, thus ensuring the preservation of one of Tel Aviv's unique heritage sites, recounting the tale of the country's last 140 years.

Written by Yossi Goldberg, a guide of the Association for Tourism Tel-Aviv Jaffa
http://www.visit-tlv.com/?CategoryID=190&ArticleID=194
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Templer bicycling club -- taken at exhibit at Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv
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Templer bicycling club -- taken at exhibit at Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv