The incredible history of Tel Aviv’s largest culinary buzz: Sarona

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The Germans were the first in Sarona

History of Sarona from the perspective of Israel is remarkable. So many things happened here. Sarona was buzzing with activity even before Tel Aviv came into existence. Back then from Jaffa until Sarona there was nothing at all except some orange trees.

Sarona was, in fact, a swampy area plagued with diseases such as malaria. No one lived there at that time. It took the ingenuity of the German templers to soak up water and fight diseases.

An Israeli dad and son playing in front of the Sarona market entrance on a Friday morning.
An Israeli dad and son playing in front of the Sarona market entrance on a Friday morning.

The Germans fought malaria & won

As much as 28 templers died of malaria in the first year of their arrival. However, they did not fret. They knew their stuff. The Germans planted eucalyptus trees in the swamp. Eucalyptus is a thirsty tree that can soak up insane amounts of water pretty quickly. The trees helped templers remove the stagnated water in the swampland and thereby fight malaria. Indeed, they survived to tell a story. Sarona is the place in Tel Aviv where the German Templers built their colony.

Who are Templers?

Templars are religious believers who are members of the Temple Society. They were part of a protestant sect of the Lutheran church. Back in 1868, a group of Christians who disowned the Luthern church came to Israel hoping that redemption will take place and Jesus will rise.

How to reach Sarona visitor’s center?

Sarona is located centrally in the buzzing city of Tel Aviv. The place is easily accessible by bus, train, or taxi.

Buses: Sarona is located near to the major bus routes in Tel Aviv. Use the Moovit app to find the best bus to reach here. Also, check out the other must-have apps that will make your travel in Israel easier.

Trains: Sarona market and the visitor’s center are located at a walkable distance from the Tel Aviv Ha-Shalom railway station.

Taxis: DON’T hire random taxis unless you want to haggle and potentially be cheated. Use Moovit carpool or Gett taxi, where you can pay a fixed price.

They felt compelled to believe that they do not need a mediator – church or priests- between them and God. They settled near the Bahai Gardens at a place now known as the German colony.

A street between the German settlers' homes that leads to the Sarona market.
A street between the German settlers’ homes that leads to the Sarona market.

How did they end up near Sarona market?

A year later, half of the Germans in Haifa moved to Jaffa. They bought the houses of the American Christians who lived there. The Americans left the holy land because it was too difficult for them to live here.

A little bird I met on a park bench near Sarona market cautiously watches me as I try to photograph it.
A little bird I met on a park bench near Sarona market cautiously watches me as I try to photograph it.

Later in 1871, the Germans settlers bought about 60 hectors of land in Sarona from a Greek monastery where they built the German-styled homes that we see today near the Kaplan street. Back then from Sarona until Jaffa there was nothing at all except some orange trees.

A parrot feeding on the ripe oranges in Sarona

These houses have a basement, a ground floor, first floor, and an attic. – Most other homes in Israel do not have basements. They used locally available materials such as sandstone to build these houses.

A German cooking stove recovered by archeologists from one of these houses is kept on display at the Sarona Visitor's Center next to Sarona market
A German cooking stove recovered by archeologists from one of these houses is kept on display at the Sarona Visitor’s Center next to Sarona market

Why is this place called Sarona?

When the Germans bought this place they thought that they were in the plains of Sharon near the Yarkon river. In reality, they were a bit north from the plains of Sharon. At any rate, they decided to name to place Sharona, which later became Sarona. Now, the Israelis are still debating whether to call it Sarona or Sharon. How fun!

Balcony of a German home, which is now the Sarona Visitor's Center.
Balcony of a German home, which is now the Sarona Visitor’s Center.

The Germans were met with a lot of difficulties. The agricultural practices that they learned from Germany were not suitable for Israel. Everything including the soil and the weather was different. In addition, the Sarona area was swampy and was plagued with diseases such as malaria.

As many as 28 Germans died because of malaria during the first year of their arrival in Sarona. But they did not give up like the Americans. They successfully established the colony. They went on to become the first pioneers of modern agriculture in then Ottoman-ruled Palestine and modern Israel.

The successfully cultivated a lot of orange trees, grapes, other fruits and potatoes in the area.

Household utensils recovered from the German homes in Sarona kept on display in Sarona Visitor's Center near Sarona Market
Household utensils recovered from the German homes in Sarona kept on display in Sarona Visitor’s Center near Sarona Market

Most of the time, the Germans had good relations with the Jews and the Arabs. The British came to Israel in 1917 and they saw Germans here. They decided to put the Germans in detention camps in Egypt. They were allowed to come back only later in 1920-21.

A radio from the time of Germans in Sarona.
A radio from the time of Germans in Sarona.

When they came back to Sarona the Germans saw that everything has changed. The British soldiers used and destroyed their houses. Household equipment and tools were stolen. So they had to reconstruct the colony in Sarona again.

As I mentioned earlier, the templers did not have churches. Instead, they had community houses. Their community house is the showroom of Adidas now.

Everything was good until 1933. Then the Nazis came to power in Germany. As time passed, more and more templers adopted the Nazi ideology, especially the youngsters. The templers as a whole grew less and less religious. The youngsters went to high school in Germany. They even started a branch of the Nazi party in Sarona. So the Nazis were really here in Israel.

In 1939, the second world war started the British decided to arrest all the Germans in Sarona again. As world war progressed and Germany started to control more and more regions in the world, the British decided to expel a few of the templers. But they did not expel them to Egypt as they did last time. The British expelled them really far away to the end of the globe, Australia.

At the end of the second world war, there were a few templers left in Israel and they tried to put pressure on the British government to reconstruct their houses. But the Jews did not want any Germans in here. Even the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah in 1946 assassinated one of the leaders of German templers. After the establishment of the State of Israel, the few remaining templers left the place to Australia, Germany, and Cyprus.


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Girish Kaitholil
I was born and brought up in India. I came to Israel in 2015 to start my Ph.D. at Ariel University. I am naturally intrigued by the history of places and how they became what they are today. When I came to Israel, I realized that such a comprehensive resource does not exist in Israel. I thought, why not, let's write it. One article at a time. That's what you will read here. I hope these stories will give you a vivid and intense experience of the places that you visit in Israel. Any edits or new information are always welcome. Thanks for reading.

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