Gedera was founded by the members of the the "Bilu" movement, which was established in the year 1882 in the city of Kharkov in Ukraine, by a group of young intellectuals, whose aim was to establish agricultural settlements in the land of Israel. In the winter of 1884, on the day of the lighting of the second candle of Chanukah, two young members of this movement arrived at a holding in the Arab village of Katra, which had been purchased from the French Consul in Jaffa. This was the beginning of Gedera. They collected twigs and made two bonfires, which they lit, as a symbol of the lighting of the second candle of Chanukah.
The following day, seven more members of the Bilu movement arrived. They all lived together in one wooden shack, and started to work in the fields. There were many difficulties at the beginning, but slowly slowly the number of settlers increased, and the moshava of Gedera was established. A moshava is a settlement where people live and work independently. In 1912, immigrants arrived from Yemen, through the emissary Shmuel Avnielli, but after ten years they left.
Between 1949 and 1953, 3,000 immigrants arrived to Gedera from Yemen, Romania, Iraq, Poland, Egypt, Morocco, Tunis, India, Iran, Libya and other countries. At the beginning, they lived in tents. Schools were started for the immigrants and the sick fund clinics gave medical treatment when necessary. Most of the adults worked in the fields, as this was an agricultural settlement.
Although Gedera has grown, it has still maintained its picturesque and rustic appearance. Gedera has also tried to preserve and restore its historic buildings for the benifit of the moshava and its visitors.
Preservation and Restoration of Historical Sites
The ' Habiluim' street was the first street in Gedera and is now the main street, and in it are many preserved historical sites. Even the new shops and businesses that have opened are being asked to protect the look of the old settlement, at least externally. The main sites to see in this area are: Beit Mintz which now houses the Gedera Museum; Sverdlov Shack and the Bell the original shack where the Biluim lived; . Yeshuron Synagogue; the Water tower; the first school; Bor habiluim- the first hole dug by the Biluim and used as a shelter; and Beit Fuchs.
a. Beit Mintz
Beit Mintz was built by Dr. Moshe Mintz, one of the Biluim, the house was built with a communal hall for the inhabitants of Gedera, and in one wing of the building were his living quarters. When he died in 1930, he bequeathed this house to the people of Gedera. Since then it has had many uses: firstly as a community hall, then a kindergarten, a cinema and public library. During the War of Independence, it was used as a military hospital, and later it housed the local council. Since 1985, it has been the home of the Gedera Museum.
b. The Sverdlov Shack
This is the only original shack left of those built by the Biluim, and belonged to the Sverdlov family, Chana and Yigal lived there, and later donated the shack to Gedera.
Life was not easy with no running water or electricity. The Bell was used to call everyone for important meetings or in times of need. It is now on view in front of the shack
c. Yeshuron Synagogue
This was the first and only synagogue at that time in Gedera and was built in 1912. It was the biggest public building in the area.
d. The Water Tower
The water tower is situated behind the Yeshuron synagogue. It was built in 1935. It has three stories. The bottom storey was used as a classroom and later as a teacher's room. The upper storey housed the water tank and was also used as a watch tower, the lower storey was also, when necessary, used as an arms slick.
e. The First School
In 1896, the synagogue was also used as a school, and some years later a building was erected in the yard of the synagogue, and this was the first school building. There were not enough children for separate classes according to age, and so several classes studied together with the same teacher, but each group at its own level. The building afterwards became "Beit Ha Icar" The Farmer's House, where the local farmers gathered, and it also holds the offices of "Be'er", (a co-operative that supplies water both to residents and farmers, to this day).
f. Bor Habiluim
In 1885 the settlers needed a stable, so they dug a big hole and covered it with a roof, as the Turkish law said that any building with a roof would not be demolished. This was used as a stable, and when more members joined them, this was used, in part, also for the bachelors residence. It was called Bor Habiluim. However, the stable in time collapsed. In 2004, it was restored to show a representation of the original digging.
g. Beit Fuchs
In 1888, Benjamin and Mina Fuchs built the first stone house in Gedera. You can see it opposite the Sverdlov shack. For many years it was used by Bnei Brith as their meeting place, and has now been donated by the Fuchs's family to the Gedera Museum, and will soon be restored.