The Herzl Gateway is being developed to remember the historic meeting between Theodor Herzl and the German Emperor Wilhelm II in 1898. This was Herzl’s sole visit to Eretz Israel. This meeting was held at the main entrance to the first agricultural school in Eretz Israel - Mikveh Yisrael, which was also the first organized community at the modern era.
This is an initiative of the agricultural school the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS), a partner of JNF. This gateway was developed by architect Prof. Saadia Mandel and the sculptor Motti Mizrachi. The statue will also be visible beyond the Mikveh Yisrael compound, affording the gateway to the school and dominating the surrounding area, in which the Government of Israel currently planning the Ayalon Park the largest park ever built in Israel.
Herzl first became aware of anti-Semitism through literature and through the press reports of the Dreyfus case. These events alerted him to the fact that anti-Semitism afforded the main problem of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, the solution to which was establishing a Jewish state. Accordingly, he invested considerable effort in formulating and identifying a practical solution. He wrote ‘The Jewish State’ (Medinat Ha’yehudim) in 1896, and he toiled to recruit the money necessary to realize his vision. At the peak of his Zionist activities, Herzl headed the Jewish Congresses, and led other international issues regarding the Jewish question in general and the international arena regarding Eretz Israel in particular.
The agricultural school Mikve Israel was opened more than 130 years ago and is the oldest educational institution in Israel. It was founded in 1870 by Carl Netter, an emissary of the Alliance society in Paris, in order to teach Jewish children how to work the land and thereby improve the condition of Jews in Eretz Israel.
The school’s founder hoped to make the Jewish settlement more productive, to develop the country’s natural resources and to renew the glory of agriculture. The Turkish government allocated it an area of some 750 acres on both sides of the Jaffa-Jerusalem road, intending to provide a basis for a mixed and varied agriculture where the students could gain practical experience in the areas of their specialization. In the course of time the farm served as a center for teaching and instruction, and set an example. Over the years thousands of students studied there, many of them the children of immigrants who were uprooted from their homes and from their families during the riots in Eretz Israel and the War of Independence, and found a warm supportive home at Mikve Yisrael.
The school’s educational staff specialized in absorbing immigrant children, and their accommodation gradually became a pleasant, well-cared for, boarding school rather than the original, barrack-like dormitories. Thousands of graduates found their way to key positions in Israel’s diverse communities, and now work in agricultural settlements, research institutions and agricultural factories.
In the period preceding the establishment of the State of Israel, the school served as a training and instruction center for the Hagana Defense Organization. The Davidka mortar was manufactured in its workshops that held weapons production factories and restored later by SPIHS. The teachers and the school graduates participated in all of Israel’s wars, and education for protection and security was an inseparable part of the value system nurtured there.
More than 200 graduates of the Mikve Yisrael School and staff fell in the battles for Israel’s independence (1948), safety and sovereignty.