Dizengoff, Meir

views updated


DIZENGOFF, MEIR (1861–1936), a founder and first mayor of *Tel Aviv. Born in Akimovici, near Orgeyev, Bessarabia, he was active in Russian revolutionary circles in his youth, and was arrested in 1885. Later he became active in the Ḥovevei Zion movement. During the late 1880s he studied chemical engineering in France, specializing in glass production. He was sent to Ereẓ Israel in 1892 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild to establish a glass factory at Tantura (Dor) which was to supply bottles for the wines produced in the settlements. However, the factory was closed in 1894 when it became clear that the local sand was unsuitable. During his stay in Ereẓ Israel Dizengoff, together with others, tried to form a Jewish workers' organization. Returning to Russia in 1897, he settled in Odessa, went into business, and became active in the Zionist movement. He participated in Zionist Congresses and was among the opponents of the Uganda Scheme. Dizengoff was a founder of the Geulah Company, formed in 1904 to purchase land in Ereẓ Israel. As director of the company he returned to Ereẓ Israel in 1905 and settled in Jaffa. Dizengoff was one of the founders of the Ahuzat Bayit Company for establishing a modern Jewish quarter near Jaffa. This quarter, later called Tel Aviv, was founded in 1909. In 1911 Dizengoff was elected head of the local council. Later, when Tel Aviv became a city (1921), Dizengoff was elected its first mayor and, except during 1925–28, served in that capacity until the end of his life. At the outbreak of World War i, Dizengoff headed a committee that assisted war sufferers and refugees. However, the Turkish authorities expelled him to Damascus, where he remained until the conquest of northern Palestine by the British at the end of 1918. In 1919 Dizengoff founded Ha-Ezraḥ ("The Citizen"), a first attempt at the political organization of the non-labor middle class. He was a member of the Zionist executive during 1927–29 and ran its trade and industry department. He donated his house on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard for the establishment of the Tel Aviv Museum in his wife Zina's name. Upon the outbreak of the Arab riots in 1936 Dizengoff urged that government offices be opened in Tel Aviv and succeeded in establishing a separate port at Tel Aviv independent of Jaffa and its port. Dizengoff published his memoirs, Im Tel Aviv ba-Golah ("With Tel Aviv in Exile"), in 1931.


J. Yaari-Poleskin, M. Dizengoff (Heb., 1926); D. Smilansky, Im Benei Dori (1942), 89–107; Tidhar, 2 (1948), 794–6; M. Smilansky, Mishpaḥat ha-Adamah, 2 (1944), 180–7.

[Yehuda Slutsky]