|• Hebrew||אַשְׁדּוֹד (help·info)|
|• ISO 259||ʔašdod|
|• Type||City (from 1968)|
|• Mayor||Yehiel Lasri|
|• Total||47,242 dunams (47.242 km2 or 18.240 sq mi)|
Ashdod (Hebrew: אַשְׁדּוֹד (audio) (help·info); Arabic: اشدود, إسدود Isdud), is the fifth-largest city in Israel, located in the Southern District of the country, on the Mediterranean coast, located 32 kilometres (20 mi) south of Tel Aviv and 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Ashkelon and 53 kilometres (33 mi) west of Jerusalem. Ashdod is an important regional industrial center. The Port of Ashdod is Israel's largest port accounting for 60% of the country's imported goods.
The first documented settlement in Ashdod dates to the Canaanite culture of 17th century BCE, making the city one of the oldest in the world. Ashdod is mentioned 13 times in the Bible. During its history the city was settled by Philistines, Israelites, Byzantines, Crusaders and Arabs.
Modern Ashdod was established in 1956 on the sand hills near the site of the ancient town, and incorporated as a city in 1968, with a land-area of approximately 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi). Being a planned city, expansion followed a main development plan, which facilitated traffic and prevented air pollution in the residential areas, despite population growth. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Ashdod had a population of 206,400 at the end of 2009, the sixth largest city in Israel, and had an area of 47,242 dunams (47.242 km2; 18.240 sq mi).
The site of Ashdod in the Bronze Age and Iron Ages was at a tell just south of the modern city. It was excavated by archaeologists in nine seasons between 1962 and 1972. The effort the first few years was led by David Noel Freedman of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Moshe Dothan. The remaining seasons were under Dothan and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Human settlement in Ashdod dates from the Paleolithic Age. Ashdod is mentioned in documents written in Ugaritic, a language of ancient Canaan. At the end of the 13th century BCE the Sea Peoples conquered and destroyed Ashdod. By the beginning of the 12th century BCE, the Philistines, generally thought to have been one of the Sea Peoples, ruled the city. During their reign, the city prospered and was a member of the Philistine pentapolis, which included Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza in addition to Ashdod.
In 950 BCE Ashdod was destroyed during Pharaoh Siamun's conquest of the region. The city was not rebuilt until at least 815 BCE. Around 715 BCE, it was conquered by Sargon II, who destroyed the city and exiled its residents, including some Jews who were subsequently settled in Media and Elam. Asdûdu led the revolt of Philistines, Judeans, Edomites, and Moabites against Assyria after expulsion of king Akhimeti, whom Sargon had installed instead of his brother Azuri. Gath (Gimtu) belonged to the kingdom of Ashdod at that time.
An Assyrian general Tartan gained control of Ashdod in 711, and forced the "usurper" Yamani to flee. Mitinti was king at the time of Sennacherib, and Akhimilki in the reign of Esarhaddon. Psamtik I of Egypt is reported to have besieged the great city Azotus for twenty-nine years (Herodotus, ii. 157); the biblical references to the remnant of Ashdod (Jeremiah 25:20; cf Zephaniah 2:4) are interpreted as allusions to this event.
In the Book of Nehemiah, the Ashdodites seem to represent the whole nation of the Philistines in the sixth century BCE, the speech of Ashdod (which the younger generation of the Jews are described as adopting) would simply be the general Philistine dialect. Hugo Winckler explains the use of that name by the fact that Ashdod was the nearest of the Philistine cities to Jerusalem.
Biblical references 
In I Samuel 6:17 Ashdod is mentioned among the principal Philistine cities. After capturing the Ark of the covenant from the Israelites, the Philistines took it to Ashdod and placed it in the temple of Dagon. The next morning Dagon was found prostrate before the Ark; on being restored to his place, he was on the following morning again found prostrate and broken. The people of Ashdod were smitten with boils; a plague of mice was sent over the land (1 Samuel 6:5).
The capture of the city by King Uzziah of Judah shortly after 815 BCE is mentioned within 2 Chronicles (26:6) and in the Book of Zechariah (9:6), speaking of the false Jews. In the Book of Isaiah (20:1), an Assyrian general named Tartan, sent by Sargon, gained control of Ashdod in 711.
In the Book of Nehemiah (13:23–24), some 5th century BCE residents of Jerusalem are said to have married women from Ashdod, and half of the children of these unions were reportedly unable to understand Hebrew; instead, they spoke "the language of Ashdod".
The 1st century CE Book of Acts (8:40) refers to Azotus (the Hellenistic name of Ashdod) as the place in which Philip the Evangelist reappeared after he converted the Ethiopian eunuch to Christianity.
Hellenistic period 
The city prospered as Αzotus (Άζωτος) under the Hellenistic rule, until the Hasmonean Revolt. During the rebellion Judas Maccabeus arrived at its gates, but did not conquer it. He left it for his brother Jonathan, who conquered it in 147 BCE and destroyed the Temple of Dagon. According to Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 13:15, volume 4), Alexander Jannæus possessed it. Pompey restored its independence by reconstructing its city walls, though it belonged to the dominion of Herod and Salome (Antiquities... 17:18, volume 9), and Vespasian had to later take it by force.
Despite its location four miles (6 km) from the coast, both Ptolemy and Josephus described it as a maritime city. This curious description may refer to Ashdod's control of a separate shore-edge harbor, called Azotus Paraliyus, or Ashdod-Sea (Antiquities... 13:15, volume 4). The city's prominence continued until the 7th century, when a citadel was built in Azotus Paraliyus as a stronghold against the Byzantine navy. To the west of the wooded height on which the city stands, traces of the ancient harbor Kal'at Al Mina can still be seen.
Arab, Crusader and Mamluk periods 
Ottoman rule 
The location of the village on Via Maris enhanced the city's importance during the Ottoman rule. In 1596 CE, administrated by nahiya ("subdistrict") of Gaza under the liwa' ("district") of Gaza, the population of Ashdod numbered about 413. The villagers paid taxes on wheat, barley, sesame and fruit crops, as well as goats and beehives.
In the late nineteenth century, Isdud was described as a village spread across the eastern slope of a low hill, covered with gardens. A ruined khan stood southwest of the village. Its houses were one-storey high with walls and enclosures built of adobe brick. There were two main sources of water: a pond and a masonry well. Both were surrounded by groves of date-palm and fig-trees.
British Mandate 
During the Mandatory period, Isdud had two elementary schools; one for boys which was opened in 1922, and one for girls which started in 1942. By the mid-1940s the boy-school had 371 students, while the girl-school had 74.
1948 war 
The village of Isdud was occupied by the Egyptian army on May 29, 1948 and became the Egyptians' northernmost position during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. While the Israelis failed to capture territory, and suffered heavy casualties, Egypt changed its strategy from offensive to defensive, thus halting their advance northwards. Egyptian and Israeli forces clashed in the surrounding area, with the Egyptians being unable to hold the Ad Halom bridge over the Lachish River. Israeli forces surrounded the town during Operation Pleshet, and shelled and bombed it from the air. Fearing encirclement, Egyptian forces retreated on October 28, 1948 and the majority of the residents fled. Those who remained were driven southwards by the Israel Defense Forces.
State of Israel 
In 1950, the moshavim of Sde Uziyahu and Shtulim were established to the east of Isdud, and in 1949 and 1953, Bnei Darom and Gan HaDarom were established north of Isdud. According to Khalidi, they were established on the village lands.
The modern city of Ashdod was founded in 1956 4 kilometers (2.5 mi). On May 1, 1956, then finance minister Levi Eshkol approved the establishment of the city of Ashdod. "Ashdod Company Ltd.", a daughter company of City-Builders Company Ltd., was created for that purpose by Oved Ben-Ami and Philipp Klutznick. The first settlers, twenty-two families of immigrants from Morocco arrived in November 1956, and a group of immigrants from Egypt joined them. In July 1957, the government granted a 24 square kilometers concession, approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Tel Aviv, to the Ashdod Company Ltd., for building the modern city of Ashdod. The building of the Eshkol A power station in Ashdod was completed in 1958 and included 3 units: 2 units of 50 megawatt, and one unit of 45 megawatt (with sea water desalination capabilities). The first settlers were 22 families from Morocco, followed by a small influx of Jews from Egypt.
The first local council was appointed in October 1959. Dov Gur was appointed the first local council head on behalf of the Israeli Ministry of Interior. The Magistrates' Court in the city was inaugurated in 1963. The building of the port of Ashdod began in April 1961. The port was inaugurated in November 1963, and was first utilized in November 1965, with the coming of the Swedish ship "Wiengelgad".
Large-scale growth of the city began in 1991, with the massive arrival of immigrants from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia and infrastructure development. From 1990 to 2001 the city accepted more than 100,000 new inhabitants, a 150% growth.
Ashdod was one of six cities that won the 2012 Education Prize awarded by the Israel Ministry of Education.
Urban development 
The modern city of Ashdod city was built outside the historic settlement site, on virgin sands. The development followed a main development plan. The planners divided the city into seventeen neighborhoods of ten to fifteen thousand people. Wide avenues between the neighborhoods make traffic flow relatively freely inside the city. Each neighborhood has access to its own commercial center, urban park, and health and education infrastructure. The original plan also called for a business and administrative center, built in the mid-1990s, when the city population grew rapidly more than doubling in ten years.
Three industrial zones were placed adjacent to the port in the northern part of the city, taking into account the prevailing southern winds which take air pollution away from the city. The plan had its problems, however, including asymmetric growth of upscale and poorer neighborhoods and the long-time lack of a main business and administrative center.
The city was planned for a maximum of 250,000 inhabitants, and an additional area in the south was reserved for further development.
In 2012, a plan to build an industrial zone on part of the Ashdod Sand Dune was approved. The plan calls for a hi-tech industrial park, events halls, and coffee shops to be built adjacent to the train station. It will cover 400 dumans, including 130 dumans of built-up space, with the rest of the area being preserved as a nature reserve. In addition, the Port of Ashdod is undergoing a massive expansion program, and a private hospital will be built in the city.
The Ashdod-Nitzanim sand dune nature reserve is a 20-kilometer stretch of sand dunes on the southern outskirts of Ashdod.
Ashdod has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers, pleasant spring and fall, and cool, rainy winters. Humidity tends to be high year round, and rain occurs mainly from November to March. In winter, temperatures seldom drop below 5 °C (41 °F) and are more likely to be in the region of 10–15 °C (50–59 °F), while in summer the average is 27 °C (81 °F). The average annual rainfall is 510 millimeters.
|Climate data for Ashdod|
|Average high °C (°F)||17.2
|Average low °C (°F)||8.1
|Precipitation mm (inches)||127.9
|Source: Israel Central Bureau of Statistics|
Ashdod is one of the most important industrial centers in Israel. All industrial activities in the city are located in northern areas such as the port area, the northern industrial zone, and around the Lachish River. The port of Ashdod is the largest port in Israel, handling about 60% of Israel's port cargo. It was mainly upgraded in recent years and will be able to provide berths for Panamax ships. Various shipping companies offices are also located in the port area which also is home to an Eshkol A power station and coal terminal.
The Northern industrial zone is located on Highway 41 and includes various industry including an oil refinery, which is one of only two in the country. The heavy industry zone located south of the Lachish River was once the main industrial center in Ashdod. Recently, however, leisure facilities have moved into the area. There is still some industry here, however, such as a Teva Pharmaceutical Industries plant, construction components producer Ashtrom, and Solbar a soybean oil producer. Ashdod is also home to Elta, a part of Israel Aircraft Industries where radar equipment, electronic warfare systems, and ELINT are developed.
Historically each neighborhood of Ashdod had its own commercial center. In 1990, however, when the mall shopping culture developed in Israel, the main commercial activity in Ashdod moved to malls. The first mall to open in Ashdod was the Forum Center in the industrial zone. Restaurants, bars and night clubs were opened in the area. Today, the Forum center is mainly used for offices. Lev Ashdod Mall, which opened in 1993, has been enlarged and upgraded since then. Ashdod Mall, billed at the time as the city's largest shopping mall, has also been redesigned since its opening in 1995. City Mall, Ashdod was opened in a combined building with the central bus station in 1996, following the examples of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station and the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. The Sea Mall, a three-story mall near the government offices, has a climbing wall and movie theater. Star Center doubled in size in 2007.
In 2013, Ashdod had 500 schools employing 3,500 teachers. The student population was 55,000. The city's education budget was NIS 418 million shekels.
Ashdod is located on the historic Via Maris. Highway 4 was developed following this route along the southern sea shore of Israel; it serves as the main connection to the north, towards the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, and to the south, towards Ashkelon.Ad Halom junction was planned as the main entrance to the city from the east.
An interchange was opened in 2009. The interchange is intended to continue the freeway section of Highway 4 further south by removing the traffic light at this junction, and it also utilized grade separation with the railway.
The other main road in the area is Highway 41 which served the city from the start of its modern history. This road runs from west to east towards Gedera and it is the main transport link to the port of Ashdod and the industrial zones, and connects to Highway 4 with an interchange.
In late 2012, Ashdod won a NIS 220 million grant from the Israeli Transport Ministry to improve public transportation and decrease private car use. According to the municipality's plans, a 20-kilometer ring of road arteries will be given priority in public transportation. These arteries will carry four bus rapid transit lines. In the city's more crowded areas, such as Herzl Boulevard or the western part of Menachem Begin Boulevard, a public transportation lane will be paved in the center of the road. In other areas, the right-hand lane will be reserved for public transportation. Buses will also be given priority at traffic lights; electronic devices will allow a bus to signal its approach, causing the light to turn green. In addition, an electric-powered bicycle rental network will be set up, and 22 kilometers of bicycle paths will be paved in the city.
The passenger railway connection to Ashdod opened in 1992 after the renovation of the historical railway to Egypt. Ashdod railway station is on Israel Railways' Binyamina/Netanya – Tel Aviv – Ashkelon line and it is located near Ad Halom Junction. The station was upgraded in 2003 when a new terminal building was built. The station building is modern, but proper road access to it is was only organized on September 23, 2008, when a new road to the station was opened.
A new central bus station opened in 1996. It serves as the terminus both for inter- and intracity lines. The central bus station is attached to the City Mall. Intercity bus lines connect the city with most population centers in central and southern Israel. Following is the list of bus companies serving routes at the central bus station:
|Company name||Major destinations|
|Egged||Jerusalem, a seasonal line to Eilat|
|Metropoline ||Be'er Sheva, Kiryat Gat, Sderot, Netivot|
|Connex||Tel Aviv (CBS and Arlozorov Terminal), Bar Ilan University, Tel HaShomer, Rishon LeTziyon, Rehovot, Yavne, Ashkelon, Kiryat Mal'akhi, Gedera, Gan Yavne|
|Egged Ta'avura||Intracity service|
Due to the large Haredi population in Ashdod, many mehadrin lines connect the Haredi neighborhoods of Ashdod with other Haredi population centers, such as Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Modi'in Illit, Kiryat Gat, El'ad, Tzfat and other towns. The mehadrin lines are operated by Egged, Connex, Egged Ta'avura and Superbus, and do not use the central bus station.
The Egged Ta'avura company has been operating urban buses in Ashdod since 2007. In addition, a share taxi service exists in Ashdod, operated by Moniyot HaIr. Most share taxi lines coincide with intracity bus lines.
Cruise ships and yachts 
According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Ashdod had a population of about 204,400 at the end of 2006, making it the fifth largest city in Israel. The annual population growth rate is 2.6% and the ratio of women to men is 1,046 to 1,000. The population age distribution was recorded as 19.7% under the age of 10, 15.7% from age 10 to 19, 14.9% from 20 to 29, 19.1% from 30 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% were 65 or older. The population of Ashdod is significantly younger than the Israeli average because of the large number of young couples living in the city. The city is ranked medium-low in socio-economic grading, with a rating of 4 out of 10. 56.1% of 12th grade students in Ashdod were eligible for matriculation certificates in 2000. The average salary in 2000 was NIS 4,821 compared to the national average of NIS 6,835.
Immigrant absorption 
Ashdod has seen much of its growth as the result of absorption of immigrants. The first major group were Jews of Moroccan and Egyptian descent. In the 1960s Ashdod accepted a large number of immigrants from Romania, followed by a large number from Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union) in the 1970s. More than 60,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union (as well as non-Jews eligible under the Law of Return) who immigrated to Israel in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union settled in Ashdod. Recent demographic figures suggest that about 32% of the city's population are new immigrants, 85% of whom are originally from the former Soviet Union. During the 1990s the city absorbed a large number of Beta Israel immigrants from Ethiopia, and in more recent years Ashdod absorbed a large number of immigrants from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Argentina, and South Africa. Many of the 60,000 Marathi-speaking Bene Israel from Maharashtra, India who moved to Israel also settled there. Ashdod also receives a significant amount of internal migration, especially from the Gush Dan region.
Over 95% of Ashdod's population is Jewish, over 30% of whom are religiously observant. Despite this, the city is generally secular, although most of the non-Jewish population is a result of mixed marriages. About 100 families are affiliated with the Pittsburg Hasidic group, established here in 1969 by Grand Rabbi Avraham Abba Leifer and continued today by his son, Grand Rabbi Mordechai Yissachar Ber Leifer. Ashdod has many synagogues serving different streams of Judaism. The city is also home to the world's largest Karaite community, about five thousand strong. There is also a Scandinavian Seamen Protestant church, established by Norwegian Righteous Among the Nations pastor Per Faye-Hansen.
Local government 
Ashdod was declared a city in 1968. The Ashdod City Council has twenty-five elected members, one of whom is the mayor. The mayor serves a five-year term and appoints six deputies. The current mayor of Ashdod, Yehiel Lasri, was last elected in 2008 after Zvi Zilker has been in office continuously since 1989. Within the city council there are various factions representing different population groups. The headquarters of the Ashdod Municipality and the mayor's office are at city hall. This new municipal building is located in the main culture and business area.
Culture and art 
Ashdod is home to the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra which performs music originating in Andalusia, a blend of Western and Arabic music. The orchestra was awarded the Israel Prize in 2006. The ACADMA conservatory, a professional educational institute for music and performance studies is based in Ashdod. Operated under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, the institute was established in 1966, and serves as a home for 600 young musicians in different fields. The MonArt center is a performing arts center which has different art schools, studios and events. Theater and concerts are hosted in several cultural venues; the most important are performed at Yad LaBanim concert hall. A new 2,000-seat concert hall in the cultural center is in its final building stages. The Korin Maman Museum has a permanent archeology exhibition called "Philistian World" as well as various changing art exhibitions. Ashdod Museum of Art located in the MonArt center, has 13 exhibition halls. In an architectural echo of the Louvre, the entrance to the museum is through a glass pyramid. In 2003 the internal spaces of the museum were redesigned by the architects Eyal Weizman, Rafi Segal and Manuel Herz.
Ashdod's football team, F.C. Ashdod represents the city in Ligat ha'Al, Israel's Premier League. The club is known for its successful soccer school. The city's top basketball team is Maccabi Ashdod. The men squad plays in First League, Israel's First tier league, and the women squad Maccabi Bnot Ashdod plays in top division.
Ashdod plays host to many national and international sporting tournaments, including the annual Ashdod International Chess Festival. The city has a cricket team, a rarity in Israel. It is run and organized by citizens of Indian descent. Ashdod's beaches are a venue for water sports, like as windsurfing and Scuba diving. The Ashdod Marina offers yachting services.
Notable athletes from Ashdod include:
- Vered Borochovsky – 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Summer Olympics swimmer.
- Alon Hazan – international soccer player
- Haim Revivo – international soccer player
- Gocha Tzitziashvili – 2003 Greco-Roman Wrestling World champion & 2004 Summer Olympics wrestler
Twin towns–Sister cities 
Ashdod is twinned with
- Brest, Belarus
- Batumi, Georgia
- Zaporizhia, Ukraine
- Atyrau, Kazakhstan
- Arkhangelsk, Russia
- Chișinău, Moldova
Notable residents 
See also 
- Cities of the ancient Near East
- List of Arab towns and villages depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
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