|• Hebrew||רִאשׁוֹן לְצִיּוֹן (help·info)|
|• ISO 259||Riˀšon l Çiyon|
|• Translit.||Rishon LeTziyon|
|• Also spelled||Rishon LeZiyyon (official)|
|• Type||City (from 1950)|
|• Mayor||Dov Tzur|
|• Total||58,704 dunams (58.704 km2 or 22.666 sq mi)|
|Name meaning||First to Zion|
Rishon LeZion (Hebrew: רִאשׁוֹן לְצִיּוֹן (audio) (help·info), lit. First to Zion), is the fourth-largest city in Israel, located along the central Israeli coastal plain 12 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. It is part of the Gush Dan metropolitan area.
The city had a population of 228,200 at the end of 2009. Founded in 1882 by Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, it was the second Jewish farm settlement established in Land of Israel in the 19th century, after Petah Tikva.
The name Rishon LeZion is derived from a biblical verse: "First to Zion are they, and I shall give herald to Jerusalem" (Hebrew: ראשון לציון הנה הינם, ולירושלים מבשר אתן) (Isaiah 41:27) and literally translates as "First to Zion".
Rishon LeZion was founded on July 31, 1882 by ten Hovevei Zion pioneers from Kharkov, Ukraine (then the Russian Empire) headed by Zalman David Levontin. Reuven Yudalevich was also a member of the group. The pioneers purchased 835 acres (337.91 ha) of land southeast of present-day Tel Aviv, part of the townland of the Arab village of Ayun Kara (literally ' fountain of the crier'). Ayun Kara was the scene of a bloody battle between Turkish and New Zealand troops on November 14, 1917. A stone cenotaph was erected by the people of Rishon LeZion to the memory of the New Zealanders who fell that day, but it has since been destroyed.
The founders faced numerous difficulties. The soil was sandy, water was scarce and the settlers had no agricultural experience. After a well was dug and more pioneers arrived – the Biluim – the colony slowly took shape. Notable members of this group include Fani Belkind, Israel Belkind, Shimshon Belkind, Yoel Drubin, Dr. Haim Hissin, and David Yudilovich. When Baron Edmond James de Rothschild took over, sending in his administrators, major progress was made in the spheres of agriculture, citrus and viticulture. Under Rothschild's patronage, the Carmel-Mizrahi Winery was established in 1886.
David Ben-Gurion was head of workers' union at the winery before later becoming Israel's first Prime Minister. The first Hebrew school in the country opened in Rishon LeZion in 1889. Dov Lubman Haviv taught there and Mordechai Lubman Haviv was an educational inspector. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, known as the father of modern Hebrew, was a teacher in Rishon LeZion. In 1890, Rishon LeZion had a population of 359. Five years later, the figure had risen to 380, and by 1900, to 526. In 1911, 4,000 dunams of land in Rishon LeZion were planted with grapes and 254 dunams with other fruit orchards.
Development was hindered by the lack of a water source. Baron Rothschild brought in experts who located water at 42 meters below ground. The groundwater table in the area was found to be uneven and wells were mostly constructed at between 20 and 25 meters in depth. Orchards were then developed around the settlement, and by the late 1920s the city developed a burgeoning citrus industry.
Rishon was declared a city in 1950. By 1983 it had a population of 103,000. In 2006, 222,300 people were living in the city. By 2020, the population is expected to reach 315,000. In 2007, the Rishon LeZion Municipality was awarded the Ministry of Interior Prize for Proper Management.
The city may in the future host a new international airport, which will replace Ben-Gurion International Airport and Sde Dov Airport. Under a plan currently being considered, a new international airport will be constructed on a marine platform built two kilometers off shore of Rishon LeZion, the terminals and cargo docks will be built onshore near a highway intersection, which will be linked to the airport by fast trains or buses traveling along a pier.
According to data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics as of December 2009, the number of residents in Rishon LeZion is 228,200. Rishon LeZion is one of the fastest-growing cities in Israel, and is third-youngest city in the country, after Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, with 31.1% of the population being children and teenagers, and 61.4% of all residents being aged 40 or under. In addition, the city has attracted significant immigration, including from English-speaking countries. The city's population growth rate is about 5% per year. The predominant majority of the city's residents are Jews.
Rishon LeZion's main industries today are wine, construction, services and commerce. Factories and workshops are located in the old industrial zone, which has become a popular venue for pubs, dance clubs and restaurants. Industry in the city is largely divided into two industrial centers: the old industrial zone in the north of the city and the new industrial zone in the west of the city.
The two major malls in Rishon LeZion are Rothschild Center in the old downtown center and Gold Mall (Kenyon HaZahav) in the New West district. Companies such as Coca Cola, Gazit Globe, Volvo and Fiat are expected to open in the Maayan Sorek area. As part of the city's 5-year plan to be completely water-independent, construction of a desalination plant is planned for Rishon which will produce 3.7 million cubic meters of water per year, whilst the city already hosts the large Shafdan recycling plant.
Local government 
Education and culture 
Rishon LeZion has twenty-three elementary schools, nine middle schools and twelve high schools. Rishon Lezion's College of Management has a student population of 10,000. Sixty percentage of twelve graders in the city qualify for a matriculation certificate.
Rishon LeZion holds an annual wine festival. The Rishon LeZion Amphitheatre has hosted overseas artists such as Sting, Metallica, Alanis Morissette and Sean Paul. The city has a municipal zoo, an amusement park (Superland), and a beach promenade. Heychal HaTarbut (Hall of Culture) is a venue for classical concerts, theatre performances and cultural events. It has a larger theatre for shows and two smaller ones for artistic workshops. The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, has participated in music festivals all over the world. It was awarded the ACUM prize in 1991.
Landmarks in Rishon LeZion include the history museum; the Carmel Winery; the administrative center of Edmond James de Rothschild, now a soldiers' memorial; the Great Synagogue; the Well; the old water tower; and Beit Sefer Haviv, the first Hebrew School.
|Climate data for Rishon LeZion|
|Average high °C (°F)||17.8
|Average low °C (°F)||6.7
|Precipitation mm (inches)||139.7
Rishon LeZion can be divided into four main quarters: the old city, the eastern housing projects, the northern (old) industrial zone, and Western Rishon LeZion. There is also an industrial zone on the southern tip of the city, next to Gan Sorek.
Old city 
The old city of Rishon includes the original neighborhoods, some buildings dating back to Rishon's founding in 1881. This quarter is located in the city center, between and around Herzl and Jabotinsky Streets. It includes the following neighborhoods: Nahalat Yehuda (on the northernmost tip of Rishon); Neve Hillel; Bnot Hayil; Abramovich; Katzenelson; Remez (Giv'at Levinson), on the southwestern tip of old Rishon; Rishonim (Gan Nahum), to the east of Remez
Shikunei HaMizrah 
The Eastern Housing Projects (Hebrew: שיכוני המזרח Shikunei HaMizrah) was Rishon's quick expansion to the east. It is dominated by the housing projects (shikunim) there, in the Shikunei HaMizrah neighborhood itself. The eastern projects stopped developing when they reached the fences of the Tzrifin military base. When Tzrifin will be sold to private contractors as planned, this quarter is expected to expand significantly with new lucrative housing projects. Other smaller neighborhoods include Revivim, Kidmat Rishon, Ne'urim, Rambam, Neve Hadarim, HaShomer, Kfar Arye, Mishor HaNof and Kiryat Simha.
Old industrial zone 
The industrial zones in Rishon LeZion are called Mabat, an abbreviation for Miskhar, Bilui VeTa'asiya (Commerce, Pastime and Industry). The northern zone is the oldest and original industrial zone, once full of light industry and glass factories. Today, it is known for its prolific nightlife.
West Rishon 
West Rishon LeZion is the conglomeration of the new neighborhoods of the city, built in the 1980s and 90s. The west also has higher land value because of its relative proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. It includes the entire city west of Tzahal Road. The quarter includes the new industrial zone (Western Mabat), and a number of residential neighborhoods: Neve Eliyahu (or Ramat Eliyahu), Ne'ot Shikma, Neve Dekalim, Neve Hof (or Pueblo Español), Neve Yam, Kiryat Rishon, Kiryat Cramim, Kiryat Ganim, Ne'ot Ashalim, Kiryat Hatanei Pras Nobel (lit Nobel Prize Laureates' Town)
Rishon LeZion is known for its achievements in handball and chess. In handball, Hapoel Rishon LeZion and Maccabi Rishon LeZion dominate the handball league. Hapoel has won more than seven domestic championships and cups in a row, with stars like goalkeeper Vladimir Zaikman and field-players Idan Maimon and Dudi Balsar. Its biggest rival, Maccabi took the championship title from Hapoel in 2005/06. Handball is also a dominant sport in Rishon LeZion high schools. The Amit Amal high school handball team has won the world championship several times.
In chess, the Rishon LeZion Chess Club, founded in 1939, is one of the leading clubs in Israel, in senior, women and youth leagues. Israeli grandmasters such as Boris Alterman play for Rishon. World champion Garry Kasparov was a former member.
Ironi Rishon LeZion was in the top division, but now plays in the second tier. The Maccabi Rishon LeZion basketball team is a long-time member of Ligat HaAl, the top division. The team was a rival to Israel's top club and European champion, Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 1990s.
Rail transport 
The Rishon LeZion HaRishonim Railway Station is located to the south of the city center, in the middle of HaRishonim Interchange, at the intersection of the new Highway 431 and the Rishon LeZion – Ness Ziona road. There are direct trains from the HaRishonim Railway Station to Tel Aviv, Lod, Bnei Brak, Petah Tikva, Rosh HaAyin, Hod HaSharon and Kfar Saba. All stations of Israel Railways can be accessed using the transfer stations at Tel Aviv and Lod.
The Rishon LeZion Moshe Dayan Railway Station is in the western part of the city, situated on the new rail line from Tel Aviv to Ashdod via Moshe Dayan station and Yavne (West). While the link north to Tel Aviv is operational, the railway from Moshe Dayan to Yavne is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in 2012 and from Yavne to Ashdod in 2013. There are future long-range plans for some day connecting the Rishonim station with Moshe Dayan station, while constructing a couple of additional railway stations in between them.
Bus transport 
The bus companies serving intercity lines in Rishon LeZion are: Egged, Dan, Connex, Metropoline, Superbus and Kavim. Rishon LeZion has an intracity bus network operated by Egged and Dan. Most lines are metropolitan, continuing to Bat Yam, Holon, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The bus lines are augmented by share taxis operated by Moniyot HaIr.
Notable residents 
- Yaacov Agam (born 1928), sculptor and artist
- Zohar Argov (1955–87), singer
- Shoshana Damari (1923–2006), singer
- Boris Gelfand (born 1968), vice world-chess-champion
- Tal Ben Haim, football/soccer player
- Felix Halfon, football/soccer player
- Ya'akov Hodorov, goalkeeper
- Anastassia Michaeli, television journalist, presenter, politician
- Yagutil Mishiev (born 1927), writer, author of books about the history of Derbent, Dagestan, Russia.
International relations 
Twin towns — Sister cities 
Rishon LeZion is twinned with:
During the Gulf War in 1991, the mayor of Münster, Germany, made a surprise visit to Rishon LeZion. According to Haaretz, he felt he could not sit quietly at home while missiles were falling on his sister city. Throughout the war, he stayed at the home of Rishon LeZion mayor Meir Nitzan and accompanied him on visits to sites hit by missiles.
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- History of Rishon LeZion
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Rishon LeZion|
- Rishon LeZion City Hall (Hebrew)
- Places to Visit in Rishon LeZion (English)
- Rishon Le-Zion Digital Family Album