Solel Boneh

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SOLEL BONEH , *Histadrut concern for building, public works, and industry. Solel Boneh developed out of organized groups of Third Aliyah pioneers that contracted to do road building and quarrying. In 1920 the first agreement was signed between the Agricultural Workers' Union and the Public Works Department of the Mandatory government for the building of a road between Tiberias and Ẓemaḥ. The two existing labor parties ran separate contracting offices, which were merged in 1921 into the Histadrut's Public Works and Building Office, renamed Solel Boneh in 1924. The concern carried out a variety of works throughout the country; it worked for British army camps and helped to lay railroad lines and to build Tel Aviv and Jewish quarters in Jerusalem and Haifa. Its resources were scanty, however, and it went bankrupt during the economic crisis of 1927, renewing its activities only in 1935.

During the Arab riots (1936–39) Solel Boneh was responsible for a number of large-scale pioneering operations: the building of *stockade and watchtower settlements, fortifications in Jewish areas, and police stations in outlying spots. It organized Jewish laborers for work in the ports of Tel Aviv and Haifa and was responsible for the erection of the security fence along the northern frontier (the "Tegart Wall") by hundreds of Jewish workers accommodated in a camp that stretched for miles. During World War ii Solel Boneh made an important contribution to the war effort, erecting army camps in many parts of the country. It also built airfields, bridges, roads, and factories abroad in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Cyprus, Iran, and Bahrain.

On the establishment of the State of Israel (1948), Solel Boneh played a large part in the building of thousands of homes, as well as hospitals, schools, factories, roads, and airfields. In 1958, on the initiative of Pinḥas *Lavon, Solel Boneh was reorganized into three companies: Building and Public Works, Overseas and Harbors Works, and Industry, with subsidiary companies for building materials (Even va-Sid – "Stone and Lime"), sanitary installations (Herouth), and tiles and cement products (Hemar). Among Solel Boneh's outstanding projects were the construction of the atomic research center at Nahal Sorek; the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Kerem, Jerusalem; and the 268-foot chimney of the Haifa power station. As part of the reorganization, workers' representatives were co-opted onto the managements: three out of ten in the Building and Public Works Company, the same proportion in Even va-Sid, and two out of 11 in Herouth. The Overseas and Harbors Works Company has carried out extensive projects in Asia, Africa, and non-Arab countries of the Middle East. At the end of 1970 Solel Boneh employed about 25,000 workers and had a turnover of some $230 million.

With the Histadrut selling off its assets in the 1980s and 1990s, Solel Boneh became part of the Housing and Construction Holding Company Ltd., Israel's largest construction group. In the early 2000s Solel Boneh's turnover exceeded $400 million, and it was involved in building the $1.3 billion Trans-Israel Highway.


I. Bar-Razon, Solel Boneh, Darko u-Mahuto (1958); Solel Boneh, Hitpatteḥuto u-Mifalav (n.d.); H. Dan, Be-Derekh Lo Selulah (1963).

[Moshe Allon.]