Camels transport coarse sand from the beach to make cement for construction

Everybody is fascinated by how their neighborhood looked “in the olden days”. How were things different before they came on the scene? While communities evolve all over the world, in Israel they literally sprung up in one generation.

For those interested in Herzliya Pituach, its colorful history is newly assembled and accessible in this book.

Herzliya Pituach began in 1925 as a modest outpost of its mother town, Herzliya. Known for many years simply as Herzliya Gimmel, together with its sister community, Herzliya Bet, east of the Haifa highway, it was the home of pre-state newcomers from Europe. Arriving from cosmopolitan backgrounds, the settlers confronted a new life on unfamiliar soil, adapting to a strange language and radically different conditions of heat and sun and rural surroundings.

One family was that of Danny Gormann who arrived from Germany in 1933. Having read Mein Kampf  they sensed early which way the German wind would blow, and left the same year Hitler came to power.

His father decided to take up agriculture as a way to establish himself. Arriving in Herzliya, he inquired: “Where is the soil good?” He set out in the direction that was indicated, and began living and farming on what is now the corner of Shlonsky and Shaul Hamelech streets. His son still maintains that property.

The plot thickens ... first buildings in Herzliya Pituach

Today if one walks or drives the scant half kilometer to the sea from the Gormann’s property, one passes through dense housing, crossing the streets David Hamelech, Shalva, Yehoshofat, Hanasi, Wingate, Alexander Yanai and Ramat Yam.

In contrast, in the 1930s the Gormanns’ house was the farthest building built on the outskirts of Herzliya. Between it and the sea were no houses or hotels, no construction whatsoever - only wild vegetation, stones and dirt. The beach was empty, the sand a virgin stretch of white. The Accadia, Daniel, and Sharon Hotels had not yet been dreamed of.

There was, however, an established Arab presence in the area: the village of Al-Haram, which included the mosque of Sidni Ali in present day Nof Yam.

Brandeis School in Herzliya Pituach was established in 1938

Danny, born in in 1941, went to kindergarten on Hameginim Street, to which parents from as far away as newly established Kfar Shmaryahu brought their children on foot. Bicycles were a rare luxury, and private telephones unheard of. The Gormann family vehicle was a horse and wagon.  Brandeis School, which had been established in 1938, served all the children of the area.

On the beach, dotted today with lifeguard booths, restaurants, umbrellas and lounge chairs, lolled tethered camels ready to transport the sand mixture called “zivziv” (used to mix concrete) to nearby construction sites.

Towards the end of the British Mandate, boats carrying illegal refugees docked under cover of night off the coast of Herzliya Pituach. British soldiers were quartered in the main military camp in Shefayim and the smaller base in Sidni Ali. Residents bribed British soldiers with drink and food to look the other way when ships came in. Children smuggled to shore were hidden in local homes before being driven in secret to kibbutzim around the country.

Home sweet home ... where Golda Meir’s parents lived in Nordau Street, Herzliya Pituach

The area boasted famous personages. When Golda Meir moved with her parents from Minneapolis in the USA, the family lived in a small home at the back of what is now a high-rise building at the south end of Nordau Street. One of the first regular guests to the Sharon Hotel was David Ben Gurion, who practiced his now famous headstands on the beach below.

Slowly but surely more residents arrived; the area developed. It was recoined Herzliya Pituach. Some families stayed in the area, others dispersed.

But the children who had been born and spent their childhoods in Herzliya Gimmel did not forget. In 2015 they published Herzlia Ezor Gimmel: Its Founders and Descendants 1925-1950, a commemorative Hebrew volume of almost 500 pages edited by Beni Kimron. Three children of original inhabitants, Shlomit Yadid, Eli Bahat and Moti Kfir initiated, researched, investigated, wrote and distributed the handsome comprehensive book. It details the origins and history of the town, its cultural landmarks like cafes and guest houses, the development of postal services, the establishment of the school, the pre-state history of the Haganah, the flight of the local Arabs from their village in 1948, the downing of an Egyptian Spitfire plane on the Herzliya beach, the community as it stood on the eve of Independence.

The book contains the personal testimony and stories of descendants of dozens of original residents - an impressive contribution towards a first-person record of history. Perhaps most intriguing are the hundreds of photographs which dot the pages and bring to life for curious modern eyes the saga of this vibrant town.

The book is available for perusal or purchase at the Herzliya Municipal Library, Nordau branch in Herzliya Bet.

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About the author

Helen Schary Motro

Helen Schary Motro is author of Maneuvering between the Headlines: An American Lives through the Intifada (Other Press, New York 2005). An American lawyer living in Israel for 20 years with her fam...

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