The area where Herzliya is located was inhabited in different periods, starting from the end of the prehistoric era. Since the biblical period, there is evidence of small settlements that inhabited the area.
For a time the city served small merchant ships that sailed between Phenicia, Israel and Egypt. The Phoenicians established the port city of Arshof named after the god of fire and light Reshef, which is today near the coast of Sidna Ali.
During the Second Temple period, Arshof became Apollonia, and its inhabitants engaged in coastal trade and international trade. In the days of the Mishnah and the Talmud, Apollonia was the main port city in the southern Sharon and in its vicinity were agricultural villages, whose people were engaged in, among other things, growing olives and vines and producing wine and oil.
Apollonia maintained its importance until the middle of the 13th century. It was then conquered by the Mamluks and destroyed. Just south of the city, a mosque was erected. It was named after an Arab warrior, Abu al-Hassan Ali, who was killed fighting the Crusaders.
In 1921, Yehoshua Hankin, purchased about six square miles from the villages of al-Haram and Jalil. The American Zion Commonwealth Corporation (a land purchasing agency organized by the Zionist Organization of America) bought another five square miles of land, which it offered for sale to Jews in the United States, Europe, and Israel.
On Sunday, November 23, 1924, seven members of the Hechalutz group arrived in the area and erected a hut to live in on the western side of one of the hills (today the Weizmann School). This was the founding of Herzliya.
Despite hardships, they developed the settlement, which attracted families. The settlers, second-generation farmers, members of Benei Binyamin, soon developed a flourishing agricultural center principally based on citriculture. Between 1935-1926, new neighborhoods were established, and more orchards were planted. In 1926, the first school, later named the Weizmann School, opened.
By 1931, the population had grown to 1,210. Being surrounded on all sides by Arab villages and Bedouin encampments, the residents of Herzliya looked to the Haganah for security. The ancient Roman tunnel became a site for ranges and training.
As persecution of Jews intensified in Europe, illegal immigrants began to arrive on ships, many of whom were absorbed by the town. A memorial to the illegal immigrants can be found today at the entrance to the city.
The discontinuation of citrus exports during World War II brought about the development of other agricultural branches and industrial enterprises.
By 1948, Herzliya’s population was 5,300. After the War of Independence (1948), the municipal area was greatly enlarged, expanding mainly to the seashore. As immigrants began to arrive in greater numbers, the city grew to 12,000. By 1960, the population numbered 26,000 people. and Herzliya was accorded city status.
In 1969, the city boundaries included two separate urban zones: the older, eastern part, mainly a residential area; the dune-and-sandstone-hill area along the coast, comprising three quarters: a bathing and recreation area on the seashore proper, where some of Israel’s largest hotels are located; an industrial area in the south; and a middle-class residential area in the north.
The 1970s marked the establishment of major cultural institutions: Beit Yad LaBanim, in memory of the Herzliya people who fell in the Israeli battles and, later, the Herzliya Museum of Arts, which became a center for sculpture, painting and art education. In 1981, the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra was established. Neighborhoods were restored and transformed as the city grew. A promenade was built along the coast.
Other improvements over the years included the construction of a municipal stadium for sporting events, a shooting gallery, a country club and a Performing Arts Center and Auditorium. The city also opened a museum tracing the city’s history. A religious community center was established that serves as a home for the city’s religious council and a school for religious girls of middle and high school age was opened.
The physical structure of the city changed owing to continuing expansion. In the 21st century, the city can be divided into three main areas: Herzliya Pitu’aḥ, an upscale residential area; the industrial area with numerous high-tech firms, well known for its cafés and restaurants; and the eastern belt, including the city center and residential neighborhoods. The city’s area runs to 10 sq. mi. (26 sq. km.). It has several parks and recreation grounds and the municipality has been developing the city’s marina, which already accommodates 800 sailboats. The Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, a private college, is in the city. The city, with its restaurants and beautiful beaches, has become a major tourist destination.
Tel Aviv’s proximity was among the factors accelerating its growth, from 16,000 in 1954, and 35,600 in 1968 to 83,300 in 2002, including 7,000 new immigrants, mainly from the former Soviet Union. In 2020, the population was approximately 100,000.
The city falls within the Tel Aviv conurbation, a factor in regional and countrywide planning. Herzliya is named after Theodor Herzl.
[Efraim Orni / Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]