Rehovot was founded in 1890, by First Aliyah immigrants from Poland. The land had been bought from a wealthy Christian Arab owner through the efforts of Yehudah Goor (Grasovski), Yehoshua Hankin, and A. Eisenberg. The founding group, Menuḥah ve-Nahalah, was intent on establishing a moshavah independent of Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s aid and tutelage. Rehovot was then the only Jewish village to achieve this status.
Although the moshavah was based on private initiative and property, the settlers showed civic spirit and strove toward cooperation. Initially, they had to overcome many obstacles – the Arab neighbors’ enmity, agricultural failures due to plant diseases and the like, and marketing difficulties of their grape and almond produce.
Citriculture was introduced in the first decade of the 20th century and the population increased, particularly after 1906, with the settlement of immigrants from Yemen in the suburbs, e.g., Sha’arayim founded in 1912.
In 1914, Rehovot had 955 inhabitants and 2,750 acres of vineyards and almond orchards as well as over 130 acres of citrus groves. After the hardships of World War I, Rehovot entered a phase of quick expansion. In 1922, the village received municipal council status. In 1932, the Agricultural Research Station of the Jewish Agency (since statehood under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture) was transferred from Tel Aviv to Rehovot.
In 1934, Chaim Weizmann founded the Sieff Institute in Rehovot and built a home in the moshavah in 1936.
While throughout the 1930s and 1940s the citrus crop continued to constitute the mainstay of Rehovot’s economy, industrial enterprises, particularly citrus preserve plants, were opened.
In 1948, Rehovot had 9,000 inhabitants and became a city two years later. The population increased rapidly in the first years of statehood, reaching 23,000 in 1953. Later, its growth continued at a slower pace with 29,000 inhabitants in 1958 and 36,600 in 1968.
Citrus and mixed farming still constituted an important element in the local economy, and Rehovot became one of Israel’s principal centers for citrus packing, particularly after the opening of Ashdod port. Industry was diversified and included the production of artificial leather and chemicals, along with additional food-processing plants.
In the late 1960s, a number of scientific enterprises connected with the Weizmann Institute added yet another element to the city’s economy.
The Kaplan Hospital is included in Rehovot’s municipal boundaries.
In the mid-1990s the population was approximately 83,200, rising to 143,904 in 2019 on an area of 8.5 sq. mi. A third of the population was religious, 21% had an academic education. The economy continued to be based on packing, food processing, and chemicals, services, commerce, and the science and research institutes.
M. Smilansky, Reḥovot – Shishim Shenot Ḥayyeha (1950); Z. Gluskin, Zikhronot (1946); E.Z. Lewin-Epstein, Zikhronot (1932); Y. Harari, Bein ha-Keramim (1947).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.