History of Sarona Campus
When the first German Templer settlers arrived at Sarona, today central Tel Aviv, in 1871, they brought with them a work ethic, architecture and culture new to the Holy Land.
Believing they were promoting the second coming of the messiah, members of the Templers, a breakaway Protestant sect, settled part of what was then the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s. Their diligent, pious communities sprouted in Haifa, the Galilee, Jerusalem and near the ancient port of Jaffa, almost 40 years before Tel Aviv was founded.
For eight decades the villages flourished in the Holy Land. The tenacious Germans paved new roads, introduced European agricultural techniques, and opened hospitals, hospices and banks. The Templers were even the first to market their oranges under the Jaffa label.
But their nationalism – several were members of the Nazi party – led to their internment and eventual deportation to Austria by the Mandatory British government.
Israel, which signed a compensation settlement for the Templers’ lost property, used the empty colony as its temporary seat of government — including the fledgling state’s first mint — during the 1948 War of Independence.
Nearly 140 years later, the grounds of their original agricultural colony are being converted into Ganei Sarona (“Sarona Gardens”), Israel’s first “lifestyle center” — a combination of high-end shopping with quality restaurants, cafés, nightlife and manicured parkland surrounded by residential and commercial high-rises in the thumping heart of modern Tel Aviv. Yet the original colony’s unique character will be meticulously preserved.
The sturdy red shingle-roofed stone buildings had inevitably decayed over the decades, and a comprehensive, unique and expensive restoration process began about a decade ago. The preservation was carried out under extremely stringent conditions, so as to preserve or reconstruct the original structures. Every door frame had to be approved; every detail was meticulously noted.
A total of 33 mainly two-story structures have undergone an overall refurbishment, from reinforcing their foundations to restoring original wall paintings. Five of the buildings had to be physically relocated – a delicate process that demanded considerable resourcefulness.
Most of the buildings will be used for commerce – fashion and accessory stores, boutiques, restaurants and cafés – and the others for a visitors’ center, Technion classrooms and two museums devoted to eyeglasses and the Sarona project.
Sarona’s first new tenant is a satellite branch of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.