In The Beginning It started with seashells.
Yes, a lottery using gray and white shells marked the beginning of the first Hebrew city, Tel Aviv.
Akiva weiss was a man in a hurry. True, he was a watchmaker…but on his first night in Palestine , after disembarking at Jaffa port with his wife and six children in July 1906, he was called to an important meeting. His neighbor, David Smilansky, proposed to the participants – jewish residents of Jaffa – to collectively purchase a plot of land, just north of Jaffa , where they would build the first modern Hebrew-speaking city. The proposal was adopted enthusiastically. The Jaffa Home-Builers' Association – Ahuzat Bayit – was eastablished, and its head was nne other than Akiva Wiess, the new arrival who became the project's guiding spirit.
Three years later, during Passover 1909, Weiss Called together on a dune near the seashore some 200 people representing the 60 families who wanted to build homes in the new neighborhood. The historic occasion: a lottery to distribute plots of land among the city's founders. To ensure a fair allocation, Weiss took 60 white seashells and 60 gray ones, inscribing the names of the families that had bought land on the white shells and the plot numbers on the gray ones. A young boy and girl drew out, one by one, a gray shell and a white shell – and the rest is history.
From out of the dune sprang a city that, according to the plans of its founders, would bring a new quality of life to the land of Israel : "Houses with green gardens and flowerbeds, children's playgrounds, street lights and running water in every home. In short, a Jewish neighborhood that would take its place without shame among the world's neighborhoods. "A progressive vision, to be sure.
Thus, by 1910, with the first 60 houses already standing proudly on the sands, the founding families celebrated Moving Day, and a train of camels made its way north from Jaffa , carrying the Weiss family's belongings to their new home. But as the surveyors were busy measuring for the next phase of construction and the first trees where being planted, a question arose, there on the dunes:
What would the new city be called?
What to do?
Appoint a committee, of course; it duly suggested to the general assembly of neighborhood residents a variety of names: New Jaffa, Garden City, Aviva, Yafefiah (Beauteous), Ivriyah and more. When the journalist Nahun Sokolow came forth with a name "Tel Aviv", he explained that it was a combination of the old and the new. The word tel means a mound of ancient ruins, while aviv, or spring, connotes blossoming and renewal. Nor did he forget to give a nod to Theodor Herzel, the father of Zionism, whose seminal book Altneuland he had translated into Hebrew as "Tel Aviv". Sokolow's suggestion won a majority of the votes and when the city was established, in 1911, Meir Dizengoff was appointed to head its council. He subsequently became mayor, a position he filled most admirably until his death in 1936.
The charismatic mayor used o ride on horseback through the city's streets (such as they were!) every day, and he led the annual Purim parade, called the Adloyada. After the death of his wife, Zina, he donated his home at 16 Rothschild Boulevard to the city of Tel Aviv for use as an art museum. It was in this building, on May 14, 1948, that David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the state of Israel .