April 11, 1909
Sixty-six families gathered on the sand dunes outside of Jaffa and selected lots for property in a new neighborhood called Ahuzat Bayit (“Homestead”) that became the first modern Jewish city, Tel Aviv.
As the Jewish population in Jaffa grew at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, a society was established to create a garden suburb outside of the city limits. The group was seeking to escape the overcrowding and increasing rents of the mainly Arab city of Jaffa, where many Jewish settlers lived during the period of the Second Aliyah. The society purchased the “Karm Jabali” land northeast of Jaffa and obtained a loan of 300,000 Francs from the Jewish National Fund to construct the first 60 houses.
Akiva Arieh Weiss, chairman of the society, gathered sixty-six grey seashells and sixty-six white seashells. Weiss wrote the names of the participants on the white shells and the plot numbers on the grey shells. He paired a white and grey shell, assigning each family a plot.
According to Rivkah Alper, whose family was among the first sixty-six, “All the members gathered on the piece of land – an expanse as far as the eyes could see with its crests and dips like a stormy sea. Will a settlement truly arise here? Fearfully I drew the lot…Afterwards each family went out to inspect the piece of land which had befallen them. Four stakes were marked out its boundaries. We surveyed it with amazement and great emotion. Here we will begin a new independent life. Here we will erect a dwelling according to our own liking” (Levi Soshuk and Azriel Eisenberg (ed.), Momentous Century: Personal and Eyewitness Accounts of the Rise of the Jewish Homeland and State, 1875-1978, NJ: Cornwall Books, 1984, p. 82-83).
Since its founding in 1909, Tel Aviv has grown to be the second largest in Israel with a population of 410,000 and the largest metropolitan area in Israel with a population of 3,405,000. The photo shows the first families gathering on the dunes to select their lots.