Zichron Ya’akov is a quaint rural town surrounded by idyllic countryside 35km south of Haifa. The town has a fascinating history and is synonymous with Israel’s wine industry.
History of ZIchron Ya’akov
In 1882 the land where Zichron Ya’akov stands today was bought by Romanian Jews but within a year almost all the settlers had died of malaria or left. In 1883 Baron Edmond James de Rothschild assisted the remaining settlers and named the town Zichron Ya’akov (Jacob’s Memorial) in honor of his father. Rothschild had the main street designed to resemble a French village with houses that backed onto inner courtyards. In 1885 Rothschild helped establish Israel’s first winery - the Carmel-Mizrahi Winery.
During the First World War Zichron Ya’akov resident Aaron Aaronsohn and his family started a spy network called NILI to supply the British with information about the Turkish rulers. In 1917 Aaron’s sister Sarah was captured and tortured by the Turks before committing suicide rather than reveal information. Following WWI the town flourished with more wineries opening in the area and new industries developing.
Highlights of Zichron Ya’akov
Any trip to Zichron Ya’akov starts on Rothschild’s French-style pedestrian-only street (Hamayasdim Street). The picturesque street is lined with trees and historic houses that have been turned into restaurants, boutiques, galleries and cafes. Zichron Yaakov is a foodie destination with restaurants offering original creations and artisan food products.
NILI’s intriguing story of espionage is retold in the Aaronsohn House Museum. Here you can learn about the NILI spy ring and the tragic events that took place in this house. The original 1886 Ohel Ya’akov Synagogues till stands. It has marble interior walls; blue and white detail and stained glass windows. The First Aliyah Museum is housed in Rothschild’s former office building and offers exhibits on the original settlement of Zichron Ya’akov and Rothschild’s involvement in the town. On the outskirts of Zichron Ya’akov is the Rothschild family tomb in a beautiful botanical garden.
As a key location in Israel’s most famous wine route visitors can tour a number of local wineries including Tishbi Winery, Smadar Winery, Somek Winery and Carmel Winery housed in the original building.