Netanya translates into English as “gift of God” – and there are many who would argue that with its nearly nine miles of beautiful beaches, bustling commercial centers, many hotels and numerous galleries and museums, charming cafes, outdoor performances in an amphitheater overlooking the sea and boutique shops, the city of Netanya lives up to its name. Often called “the “Riviera of Israel,” Netanya is a true resort town in every sense of the word.

Just 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv, Netanya is located about one-third the way up the coast from Tel Aviv to Haifa. Named in honor of a wealthy American Jewish philanthropist, Nathan Straus, the hope was that he would contribute money to the new settlement, but he quickly informed the residents that he had no more money to donate. He did, however, help them gain introductions to others who were able to assist in Netanya’s establishment.

In October, 1929, cornerstones for the first ten houses were laid. Development took place rapidly, and by 1931 the first school opened; by then Netanya had 100 residents. From the start a tourism district was planned on the coast, and in 1933 the first hotel opened. In 1934 Netanya’s first factory was established; it produced fruit and vegetable preserves. By the early 1930s, Netanya had already become a center of the Israeli diamond-cutting industry, as it still remains.

Illegal immigrants arriving on Netanya’s shore from 1934 till 1939 swelled the population. In 1937, Netanya was connected to the Tel Aviv-Haifa road, and this greatly affected its growth. The city grew to more than 9,000 people by 1948 when it was recognized as the first new city to be founded after the establishment of the State of Israel.

Throughout its existence, immigrants have been attracted to this city and English-speakers are served well by the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel). Aside from their absorption and guidance counselling services, they have an extensive library, Hebrew classes on different levels, and a variety of other courses. Their members are also involved in many volunteer activities.

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