Zichron Yaakov is a small picturesque town located about 20 miles south of Haifa. It is located at the southern end of the Carmel Mountain Range overlooking the Med Sea. It was one of the country’s first Jewish colonies in modern Israel, founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild and named in honor of his father, James Mayer de Rothschild (“James” being derived from the Hebrew name Ya’akov, Jacob).
A Little Bit About of History About Zichron Yaakov
Zichron Yaakov was founded in December 1882 when 100 Jewish pioneers from Romania, members of the Hibbat Zion movement, purchased two plots of land 5 km apart. The difficulty of working the rocky soil and an outbreak of malaria led many of the settlers to leave before the year was up.
In 1883, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild became the patron of the settlement and drew up plans for its residential layout and agricultural economy. Zikhron was one of the first Jewish agricultural colonies to come under the wing of the Baron.
The Baron also commissioned the construction of the Ohel Ya’akov Synagogue, named after his father, to serve the town. Sparing no expense to build the edifice, the synagogue features a majestic ark made of white marble. The synagogue opened in 1886 and has conducted daily prayer services continuously to this day.
Following several economic failures, in 1885, Rothschild helped establish the first winery in Israel, Carmel Winery (that you can visit), and a bottling factory in Zichron Yaakov. This was more successful economically, although it was initially short-lived as in 1892, the grapevines succumbed to phylloxera, a type of parasite. After a brief setback, American seedlings resistant to phylloxera were grown, and the winery began to flourish. Today, the winery remains in action, as do the huge wine cellars carved into the mountain over a century ago.
Nili Spy Ring
Zichron Yaakov became famous during World War I for establishing the Nili spy ring by Sarah Aaronsohn, her brothers, Aaron (a noted botanist) and Alex, and their friend Avshalom Feinberg. The group volunteered to spy on Ottoman positions and report them to British agents offshore.
In September 1917, the Ottomans caught one of Sarah’s carrier pigeons and cracked the Nili code. Then in October, they surrounded Zichron Yaakov and arrested Sarah and several others. After four days of torture, they planned on transporting Sara elsewhere, she requested to be taken home to change her clothes and shot herself with a pistol hidden in her bathroom and died after several days. Sara shot herself in the throat, leaving her unable to speak to avoid releasing classified information. The Aaronsohn House–Nili Museum recreates the history of this period.
Things To Do in Zichron Yaakov
So right on the main historic street, you can visit two nice museums: First is the Nili Museum (Beit Nili), which tells the amazing story of the Nili Spy Ring. Second, you can visit the First Aliya Museum. Indeed a must-see spot for all visitors who visit Zichron Yaakov. Moreover, the museum provides a peak into the reality of the of first aliah settlers’ courageous lives. Back in the days when they did not have coffee or water for making coffee, they raised families, battled the disease, planted vines, and prayed for yield. The Barron’s clerks run the show… And the rest is history. You can enjoy delicious ice cream in July or August at Golda Ice Cream.