BENE-BERAK (Heb. 1). (בְּנֵי בְרַק) A biblical city 5 mi. (8 km.) E. of Jaffa. It is included in the territory of the tribe of *Dan together with Jehud and *Gath-Rimmon (Josh. 19:45), but it was no doubt in the area controlled by the Philistines until the period of the united monarchy. Assyrian sources describing Sennacherib's invasion in 701 b.c.e. speak of Bene-Berak as subject to *Ashkelon (together with Jaffa, Beth-Dagon, and Azur). After the destruction of the Second Temple, Bene-Berak became a center of Jewish learning when R. *Akiva established his school there, which was attended by such well-known pupils as Judah, Meir, and Simeon b. Yoḥai (Tosef., Ber. 2:14; Tosef., Shab. 3:3; Sanh. 32b; Gen. R. 95:30). The Passover Haggadah preserves an account of a famous seder held there by R. Akiva. When Eleazar b. Azariah accompanied Akiva to the public baths at Bene-Berak, it gave rise to a halakhic query (Tosef., Shab. 3:4). Echoes of religious persecution by the Romans (under Hadrian) are contained in both the passage in the Haggadah and in the Tosefta (Tosef., Ber. 2:14). Even after the *Bar Kokhba War (132–35 c.e.), Bene-Berak remained a Jewish city; Judah ha-Nasi visited it and was impressed by the extraordinary fertility of its orchards and vineyards (Mid. Tanḥ. to 26:9; TJ, Pe'ah 8:4, 20b). The same impression is reported by the amora Rami b. Ezekiel (third century c.e.), who applied to it the biblical phrase "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ket. 111b). The Crusaders called the city Bombrac and built a fortress there to protect the approaches to Jaffa.
(2) One of the ten towns in Israel which form the metropolitan area of Tel aviv, about 3 mi. (5 km.) northeast of downtown Tel aviv, bordered on the north by the Yarkon River, on the east by the main highway to the south and north, and on the south and west by Ramat Gan. Bene-Berak was established in 1924 by a group of 13 Orthodox families from Warsaw, Poland, under the leadership of Rabbi Y. Gerstenkorn, who later became the town's first mayor. Until 1936 affairs were run by a local committee, and from 1936 to 1949 by a local council, but since 1950 Bene-Berak has been a township, comprising about 1,775 acres (7,100 dunams). The founders engaged mostly in farming and by 1929 the settlement grew to 100 families. It had 4,500 inhabitants in 1941, 8,800 in 1948, 25,000 in 1955, and 64,700 in 1968. In the mid-1990s the population was approximately 125,000 and in 2002 about 138,900, making it the tenth largest city in Israel, with a municipal area of 2.7 sq. mi. (7 sq. km.). Its dynamic growth was due to its proximity to Tel aviv, and its special position as a place for a thoroughly Orthodox population and way of life. As a suburb, Bene-Berak is interrelated with the Tel aviv nucleus for its public transportation, wholesale and retail trade, entertainment, education on the university level, and for employment – especially for white collar workers in Tel Aviv who live in Bene-Berak. Bene-Berak is known for its numerous yeshivot, headed by the Ponevezh Yeshivah, founded in 1941 by Rabbi Joseph *Kahaneman. It is also known for the strict public observance of the Sabbath, holidays, and Jewish laws, one consequence of which is that all its roads are closed to traffic on the Sabbath and holidays. There are more than 200 synagogues, many of them for ḥasidic rebbes, and closed ḥasidic neighborhoods like Zikhron Meir, Vizhnitz, and Satmar (see *Satu Mare). Bene-Berak was the home of Ḥazon Ish (Rabbi Abraham I. *Karelitz), who established Tiferet Zion yeshiva. A Haredi College for academic studies geared to observant students was founded in 1999. It had around 100 students in 2002. The special character of the city as a bastion of ultra-Orthodoxy, with most men studying in the yeshivot rather than working, makes the city a center of poverty as well. The city includes one secular neighborhood – Pardes Katz.
Bene-Berak became one of Israel's important industrial areas and in 1969 had about 150 factories and numerous workshops for food preserves, cigarettes, wool textiles, and other branches, among them several of the country's largest such enterprises, employing about 8,000 workers. At the beginning of the 21st century, the city had five industrial areas, with some of the largest plants in Israel.
[Alexander Cohn /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
D.D. Luckenbill (ed.), The Annals of Sennacherib (1924), 31; S. Klein (ed.), Sefer ha-Yishuv, 1 (1939), s.v.; em, 2 (1965), 174; Press, Ereẓ, 1 (1951), 109; A. Cohn, "The Development of Bene-Berak as a Satellite Town of Special Features" (Thesis, Technion Haifa, 1969), Hebrew with English synopsis.