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In 1909, 66 wealthy Jewish families founded Ahuzat Bayit, the original core of today’s thriving Tel Aviv metropolis. Watching from afar as their landsmen moved out of the crowded, filthy Old City were several dozen small craftsmen, laborers, shopkeepers, a baker and a laundress. And they wondered: why they shouldn’t have a nice little neighborhood of their own.
But there was a problem: Not only did they lack the money necessary to build themselves houses, they also didn’t have what it took to purchase the property on which they would put them.
Obviously the group, called the Nahalat Binyamin Association, would need some help. But the Jewish National Fund, which had acquired the land for Ahuzat Bayit, refused to assist. And the bank turned down repeated requests for money – until 1911, when a journalist who went by the pen name of “Rabbi Binyamin” wrote a scathing article accusing both bank and JNF of favoring the rich over hard working common folk.
Soon afterwards, they were able to get their hands on a long north-to-south strip of sand dune. The first very modest, one-story houses began going up in 1914, along a dirt road they called Nahalat Binyamin. Laborers – mostly women – paved the street a decade or so later. […]