NETANYAH (Heb. נְתַנְיָה), city in central Israel, on the Sharon coast. Netanyah is named after the U.S. Jewish philanthropist Nathan *Straus. It was founded in 1929 as a moshavah based on farming by 40 young people of the *Benei Binyamin association, led by Oved *Ben-Ami, whose parents were veteran settlers in moshavot. The village soon served as a nucleus for the settlement of the central Sharon where no Jewish villages had existed before, particularly as its founding coincided with the purchase of the *Ḥefer Plain by the *Jewish National Fund. Because it was situated between Tel Aviv and Haifa, Netanyah was able to develop as a market town for its quickly expanding rural hinterland. In the initial period citrus groves constituted Netanyah's principal economy, employing a considerable number of hired workers and thus causing an increase in population. A further growth factor was Netanyah's location at a communications center. In 1948 the population was 8,500. Later Netanyah was given city status and by 1951 its population had already risen to 30,000, then to 60,100 by 1968 as large numbers of new immigrants were absorbed. By the mid-1990s the population had again more then doubled to 142,700 and in 2002 it was 164,800, making Netanyah the ninth largest city in Israel. Its area was 11 sq. mi. (28.5 sq. km.), with accelerated expansion continuing in the first years of the new century as new neighborhoods burgeoned.
The city's economy was based mainly on tourism and industry. Netanyah is one of Israel's foremost seaside resorts with dozens of hotels and pensions. The foremost industrial branch was diamond polishing, of which Netanyah became the Israeli center in the 1940s, when the industry was transferred from Nazi-dominated Belgium to Palestine–although subsequently the center moved to the Tel Aviv area and over the years most of the diamond-polishing workshops were closed. The city's industry is now concentrated in two industrial areas and includes hi-tech industries, steel, pharmaceuticals, food, beer, textiles, rubber, furniture, electronics, etc. In addition, Netanyah become a regional commercial center, including the first and only branch of the ikea Corp. Public institutions located at Netanyah included the Ohel Shem Culture Hall, the Malben Old Age Home, the Wingate Sports Center, and Ulpan Akiva. The Netanyah Academic College has an enrollment of 3,500 students. During the al-Aqsa Intifada the city came under a number of terrorist attacks, most notably a suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in 2002, killing 22 and wounding 140 at a Passover seder.
[Shlomo Hasson /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]