First Israelis Move into Dimona

August 1, 1955

As the young State of Israel absorbed over half a million immigrants from the Arab world alone, it was challenged to provide adequate housing and employment for the new arrivals.  Most immigrants, especially those from Asia and Africa, were sent to transit camps called ma’abarot.  In these camps, each family was given its own tent, with 100-200 tents per camp. There was one common outdoor bathroom (a sewage pit) and one water faucet for every ten to twenty tents. In the center of the camp were a health clinic, classrooms and a synagogue. There was no electricity. By the end of 1951, there were 220,517 immigrants living in 127 transit camps, 75% of whom were from Africa and Asia.

During the 1950s, many Mizrahim (Jewish immigrants from Arab lands) were settled in development towns. These towns were usually small and isolated, located in the far north and south of the country.  Immigrants were often employed as construction workers to build the towns and their future homes.

In the south of Israel, Dimona was populated entirely by Mizrahim.  The first thirty-three families were recent arrivals from Morocco.  Although many new residents found jobs at the Dead Sea Works potash plant, many had to travel great distances for work.  Water and other necessities had to be brought from Beersheba, which was forty kilometers away.

Dimona received municipal status in 1969 after rapid population growth resulted in 24,000 residents, nearly half of whom were children.  In 2007, it had a population of 33,600.  The city is home to a small community of Black Hebrew Israelites, African American immigrants descended from the Tribe of Judah who arrived in Israel in the late 1960s.

The photo shows immigrants outside Dimona’s Immigrant Absorption Center in 1972.