Dizengoff, Meir

(1861–1936)
   First mayor of Tel Aviv. One day in 1909, sixty Jewish families marched out of crowded, noisome Arab Jaffa to the barren sand dunes north of the railway line. There they heard their leader Meir Dizengoff, in a fine flight of rhetoric, prophesying a town of 25,000 Jews. This was the beginning of Tel Aviv, today a city of half a million inhabitants. Dizengoff grew up in Russia, studied chemical engineering in Paris, and in 1892 was sent by Baron Edmond de ROTHSCHILD to set up a wine-bottle factory in Tantura, Palestine. It closed after two years, since the sand was unsuitable for glass.
   Dizengoff settled in Jaffa in 1905 and founded the company that bought the dunes north of Jaffa. Here the suburb of Ahuzat Bayit was built, with himself as the chairman of its Council. In 1921 it became Tel Aviv, and Dizengoff was its elected mayor for nearly all the time till he died. He devoted himself tirelessly to the development of the town, obtained loans from overseas, built cultural institutions, organized the first Levant Fair and the first Maccabiah sports rally. During the Arab strike and boycott of 1936, he obtained from the High Commission permission to build a separate port at Tel Aviv, which made the country independent of Arab port workers. Each year the burly figure of the mayor on horseback would lead the Purim Parade through the streets.
   He was a member of the first Va’ad Leumi (national council) and a member of the Zionist Executive from 1927 to 1929. He left his house to the Tel Aviv Museum, which he had founded in 1931 in the name of his wife Ziva, and it was there that Ben-Gurion announced the birth of the State of Israel in May 1948. The main street of Tel Aviv is named in his honour.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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