Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The City of Firsts

I moved to Israel because I love the country, not because I particularly wanted to leave the UK. Quite the contrary actually. I am very proud of my British roots. I have always had a soft spot for The Royal Family too. My Dad still has my huge collection of Princess Diana scrapbooks (ideas what to do with them please!). Therefore I have had a fabulous time over the last few days being glued to the television watching the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I have, in fact, watched more television these last few days than I have the last few months put together. We only have one television and the kids want it back!
Of course, whilst I am proud of the British people and the fantastic show they have put on these last few days, I am also an extremely proud Israeli and never fail to get a kick out of discovering something new here. 
Not long ago it was International Museum Day, a day when, across the globe, many museums open their doors and invite visitors to explore their institutions for free. The date was actually switched here in Israel to coincide with a one-day school holiday and it gave me the perfect opportunity to take the youngest son off for an educational and fun day with Mum. I already knew where I wanted to take him. Nearby Rishon LeZion has a local museum which we had not yet visited and I thought it would perhaps be a little less crowded than some of the bigger institutions. I was right. The museum was small, quiet and the perfect place to visit with an inquisitive 9 year old who says he hates museums, but always enjoys them once I've got him there!
We learnt so much from that one small place! Rishon LeZion was one of the first settlements in Israel (the city's name means “First to Zion”) and its museum tells the story of the First Aliyah (the initial wave of new immigrants to Palestine in 1882). The youngest son and I heard about the hardships and achievements of these first settlers. The museum is located in some of the founders’ renovated homes, commercial enterprises and public buildings, and we saw how they lived, went to school and made a living. We learnt about how Israel's national flag came about and where it was first flown. The settlers needed a banner to celebrate the third anniversary of the founding of the community and so two members took the tallit (prayer shawl) of one of the founders and sewed on a blue Star of David. This very design of the Star of David with two blue stripes was later adopted as the flag of Israel. We saw where Hatikva (The Hope), Israel's national anthem, was written by Naftali Herz Imber during his stay in Rishon LeZion, and was edited by members of the community. It was a local farmer who adapted its words to the tune of a Romanian folk song, many years before its formal adoption as the national anthem of the State of Israel.
In 1886, Rishon LeZion's school, pictured above, was the first one to speak and teach all subjects in Hebrew. The synagogue in the city was one of the first buildings to be erected, seen below, bottom right. As Turkish law forbade the building of a synagogue, the founders declared that the structure was to be a warehouse. The 'warehouse' later evolved into the synagogue.
A short walk from the museum complex took us to the city's first well, its pumping equipment and the adjacent water tower. The well, built with financial assistance from Baron de Rothschild in France, enabled the settlement of Rishon LeZion to survive and today it is immortalized in the shield of the municipality.
After a good couple of hours it was time for refreshments. Our day of fun had come with the promise of lunch, so we checked out the outdoor cafe overlooking the beautiful municipal park near the water tower. Afterwards we walked off our food through the majestic park and learnt that it too had a historical background, having been the site of receptions for Theodor Herzl, Lord Balfour, Winston Churchill and other dignitaries.
It was a short walk back to the car and, as we made our way back, we noticed a beautiful building built in the 1890's, the Rothschild Administration Centre. Today the building contains a memorial commemorating the fallen soldiers of Rishon LeZion but it once served as the home and offices of Baron de Rothschild's chief administrator. In 1898 Theodor Herzl was photographed on its balcony and, if you look closely at the photo above, you can see his model lookalike standing there today!
We really enjoyed our day in Rishon LeZion. It was only ever so slightly spoiled at the end when we discovered that the hubby's car, borrowed because it has a GPS in it, had a flat battery. Fortunately the youngest son was in a good mood from the day out and patiently waited for almost two hours in the sun till I got the problem sorted out.


Miss Val's Creations said...

What a perfect day! Strolling museums is always relaxing and enjoyable. I am glad your little guy enjoyed it. Car problems are never fun when they come up! What a dilemma with the Diana's scrapbooks. I would suggest just holding onto them as is. Future generations will love to browse through them!

Additionsstyle said...

Sounds like you and your son had a wonderful day together exploring the museum. It's a bummer about the car problems, but it sounds like you both took in stride and did not let it ruin your lovely day.
Everyday Inspired

dottycookie said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the jubilee too! Your pictures are always so happy and sunny - unlike most of the shots from London this week!

Denise Kiggan said...

Something else to add to our places-to-visit next time we come!