In the prehistoric era, the area currently occupied by Holon was a shallow lake teeming with animals. A settlement – set up on the premises during the Late Stone Age – continued to flourish during the entire Bronze Age and was destroyed around 1000 B.C. The area was resettled in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. During the Early Arab Period (the 7th century A.D.), the area was covered by wandering sands and the settlement ceased to exist.
In the mid 19th century, the settlement came back to life in the region bordering on the sands. The villages of Tel Arish, Darwish and Abu Kfir were built around the Arab city of Jaffa. The Mikveh Israel Agricultural School, which was founded by the Alliance’s school for boys Kol Israel Haverim, began operation in 1870.
The First Neighborhoods
Jewish settlement in the region – then dubbed "extended Tel Aviv" or "the sands of the south" began at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s. Several private individuals as well as association and company representatives purchased land in the region.
The founder of the first neighborhood, which was located southeast of the Tel Arish village, was Shlomo Greene (a customs agent and real estate developer). In the summer of 1929, he purchased a land on which he built several residential shacks as well as a shack for a synagogue. Greene dug Holon's first well, which – to this day – can be found on the corner of Hashmonaim and Montefiore streets. In 1931, additional families joined the neighborhood, which was subsequently called the Greene neighborhood. Four other neighborhoods were founded up to 1937: Moledet, Agrobank, Kiryat Avoda and the Am neighborhood and together, these were the first five neighborhoods of the future City of Holon.
Along with the homes built in the neighborhoods, roads and sidewalks were paved, trees and ornamental gardens planted, two water towers were built, and a sewer system and electricity mains were installed. The South Judea Cooperative launched a public transportation service from Shenkar Street to Tel Aviv. In the wake of the 1936–1939 Arab Revolt, the inhabitants – with the help of the Jewish Settlement Police – began to prepare to watch over their young settlement. The Bialik School for the workers' children was opened in the Kiryat Avoda neighborhood (1937). Many of the young settlement's inhabitants – both men and women – made their living at the Lodzia factory, operating in the Agrobank neighborhood and the industrial area that flourished at the junction between Shenkar and Jabotinsky Streets.
The first five neighborhoods faced financial and security problems and the neighborhood committees found it difficult to provide the inhabitants with decent services. The existential problems, coupled with the pressure exerted by the British government, led to a merger of the neighborhoods into a single local council called Holon. The first local council for the settlement was appointed in June 1940. It consisted of 11 council members, headed by the late Dr. Haim Kugel. Ten years later, on November 14, 1950, Holon was declared a city and Dr. Haim Kugel was elected as its first mayor.
The name Holon appears twice in the Book of Joshua, but the name was primarily chosen to reflect the sand dunes on which it was built (“hol” in Hebrew means “sand”).
Following the declaration of the UN Partition Plan, in December 1947, the young City of Holon – with a population of about 9,500 inhabitants – found itself surrounded by Arab settlements to its north and east. A tall dug-in guard post made out of concrete, called The Pillbox was built in a single night in the Tel Giborim Youth Park, which was then situated in the Village of Tel Arish and proceeded to wreak havoc over the entire region. Mine laying, firing, sabotage and sniping became daily routine.
In April 1948, the Hagannah command launched Operation Hametz, during which the Hagannah forces and Givati soldiers launched a full scale attack on the hill, but were driven away from it by a counter attack led by the Arabs. Twenty-one fighters were killed in the attack and many were wounded. The bodies of seven fighters remained at the site and were only returned by the British several days later. On May 13, 1948, Jaffa surrendered and the grounds of the Village of Tel Arish were transferred to the Holon Local Council. Several years later, these were the grounds on which the Tel Giborim neighborhood was built and Pillbox is still the name of the hill that the bunker stood on.
Holon was declared a city in 1950.
An Expanding Immigrant-Friendly City
During its first decade as a city, Holon welcomed tens of thousands of new immigrants from various countries in the Diaspora. One of Israel's largest Ma'abarot (transit settlements) that took in immigrants was set up in the city's east. In the mid 50s the immigrants began to populate the neighborhoods built throughout the city. Holon continued to develop at a rapid rate and welcome both new immigrants and veteran residents. The first five neighborhoods grew and new residential neighborhoods followed thereafter.
In the 50s, these were: Tel Giborim, Shikun Amami, Jesse Cohen, Rasko, Mafde Ezrachi and Blokonim; in the 60s: Naot Rachel, Naot Shoshanim, Naot Yehudit and Naot Rasko; in the 90s: Kiryat Rabin, Naot Ben Gurion and Kiryat Pinchas Ayalon in the 2000s.
Holon's Samaritan community
In 1955, Israel's second President, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, fostered a Samaritan enclave in Holon. The Samaritan community is one of Israel's most long standing populations which currently totals about 730 individuals, half of whom live in Holon and the other half in Mount Grizim, adjacent to Nablus.
The Pillbox – In December 1947, the Arabs of Tel Arish built a concrete bunker on a prominent (44 m) gravel hill. This vantage point began to threaten the neighborhoods of Holon. Following the War of Independence, the Tel Giborim neighborhood was built west of the hill, which became the Tel Giborim Youth Park featuring a memorial, street sculptures, waterfalls, a playground area for children as well as picnic areas for families.
Husmassa – At first, there was a well dug on the hill for the enjoyment of passersby. Once the Agrobank neighborhood was built, the well was dug deeper (94 m) and became the neighborhood's first source of water. Later on, a two-storey well house, serving the members of the Hagana for training purposes, was built in this place. The site currently offers visitors a well tended garden housing the historical Yad LaHagana Museum as well as the remains of a small botanical garden that was planted in the 1930s.
Security Road – On January 22 1948, seven watchmen were murdered on the outskirts of the Arab village of Ya'azor. In the wake of the murder, the Hagannah command built a makeshift route, namely the Security Road of Holon. The route originated from the Ezra neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv, crossed the Ayalon River (Wadi Musrara), passed through the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School, Hankin Street in Holon adjacent to Husmassa, through the Moledet neighborhood, and into Nahalat Yehuda and Rishon LeZion. From the settlement of Rehovot, the path led eastward toward Hulda and the Judean Hills, or southward toward Gdera and the Negev expanses. On Rafael Eitan Street in Kiryat Pinchas Eilon and adjacent to the water tower in Moledet, one can still see several original sections of the Security Road.
The Moledet water tower was built by Solel Boneh in 1936 in order to supply water to the inhabitants of Moledet Neighborhood. In 1936–1939 Arab Revolt erupted close to the time the tower was built and a lookout and guard point was set up on the middle floor. The tower is currently the site of an historical exhibition featuring photographs of the tower, the Moledet neighborhood and Security Road that ran along the foot of the tower.
The Turkish Pillbox is located on a gravel hill adjacent to the old Jaffa-Jerusalem Road (Highway 44). It was built in the mid 19th century by the Ottoman sultan in order to secure the passage of coaches, carriages and passengers between Jaffa Port and Jerusalem. The Turkish Bashi Bazooki soldier patrol occupied the pillbox. The pillbox in Holon and another pillbox at Sha'ar HaGai are the only ones remaining since then on the road between Jaffa and Jerusalem.
Mayors of Holon