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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Migdal Zedek's Inactive Quarries

The area of Rosh Ha'ayin is full of stone quarries, with a few remaining active to this day. These quarries provided much of the stone used in the construction of Tel Aviv and the center of the country. The stone is mostly soft chalk. The quarries are both north and south of the Migdal Zedek archaeological site and the former site of Majdal Yaba.

The quarries began in 1924, when Solel Boneh decided to build one in the area. The first 11 workers were mostly from the Third Aliya and mostly from Poland, known as the "Teitelbaum Group". They built wooden shacks and transported stone on rails to the main railway line. They were paid 35 grush per day. The workers hoped to establish a permanent workers' colony in the area, but after a year abandoned this dream. In 1925 "The 23", a group of about 50 olim connected the the HeChalutz movement, came to work in the quarry. They built additional structures and made it into more of a real settlement. Things progressed until competition made the business unprofitable and in 1928 this second group also abandoned the quarry. Only in 1931 did a group return. In 1932 a second Jewish quarry opened on land purchased from Majdal Yaba. At this time a 32 meter-tall quicklime furnace was built. The furnace was somewhat of a symbol, and appeared in drawings on the cover of the book HaEmda HaKidmit: Migdal Zedek Ba'avoda, baShmira, baMilchama by Mordechai Reicher and on the cover of the newsletter of Migdal Zedek guards.
Cover of newsletter published by Migdal Zedek Guards
Another version of the cover, showing Majdal Yaba in background

Quicklime Kiln
Destroyed Kiln. Photo from Mordechai Reicher's book, p44
At first the quarrymen had a good relationship with the Arab neighbors. In 1936 things became more tense and competing businesses resulted in price wars. There was considerable pressure to use "Hebrew Labor" and a number of attempts were made to expel the Arabs from the company. In 1936 one of the factories was destroyed and the furnace was toppled, so in November 1936 the site was rebuilt and guarded by the Hagana. This also caused Migdal Zedek to become more of a permanent settlement and less of a temporary camp. It also became somewhat of a training camp for the Hagana. Both Migdal Zedek and Majdal Yaba continued to grow until 1948, when the war began and Majdal Yaba was abandoned.

Over the years Migdal Zedek has been underdeveloped as a recreation site, and the quarries are even less developed. In 1978 Gavriel Gafni published a report on the subject of abandoned quarries for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who were anxious to utilize this open area. This was park of a national survey of abandoned quarries, but special attention was paid to Migdal Zedek because of its large area and proximity to the central metropolis. Ultimately two proposals were given, which noted that in Israel quarries are not reclaimed as is common in other countries. In the proposals, one suggestion is to locate heavy industries in the quarries, where they would be hidden from site. Another states that the parks can be turned into parks.

Dr. Avi Sasson produced an archaeological survey of Migdal Zedek in 2008, with the goal of turning it into a national park. A separate post will be devoted to the history of the archaeological site of Migdal Zedek, but Sasson writes that Migdal Zedek is one of the few sites in Israel where one can trace the development of the quicklime production. In the 1930s there was a modern quicklime furnace in the area, and some ruins of the concrete structure can still be found on site.

Quarries are certainly man-made, but not really structures. As such, it's hard to consider them ruins. However, it's still interesting to think about them as abandoned features which can undergo a variety of transformative processes and turned into something new. On the one hand, they can be left as they are. New uses can be built in their shadows. Or they can be landscaped and "erased." The blog Stories in Stones has an interesting entry about reuse of quarries, particularly for rock climbing enthusiasts. Other quarries have been flooded to provide swimming, snorkeling or even a marina. Still others now have zip lines (omegas) and mountain biking. As with ruins, I would imagine that leaving the quarries intact makes for a more memorable experience and a richer site.
Overall map of quarries, taken from Gafni
Gafni's Option A
Gafni's Option B


  1. Have you had a chance to visit the quarries? What do they look like today?

    1. Gila,

      See this picture http://www.palestineremembered.com/al-Ramla/Majdal-Yaba/Picture3932.html

      I believe it was taken from the same angle as the picture above titled "Destroyed Kiln. Photo from Mordechai Reicher's book, p44"

      Notice the cement structure left in 2002 photo it's very much similar to the one above.

      A comment at the 2002 photo dated January 01, 2008 says in Arabic "This image is (the fabrica) for the manufacture of quicklime, it was where most men of Majdal Sadeq work and the one responsible for the workers was my groundfather Abdel-Razek Asad Damra"

    2. It does seem to be the same structure, although I understand that the quicklime industry had many installations in the area, so it could just be a similar-looking building. If I remember correctly, the photo in the Reicher book identifies it as a building destroyed during Arab riots.

  2. Nice article jskarf, how can I get a copy of Mordechai Reicher books? cannot find in Amazon or any other place

  3. The book came out in 1968 and I have to imagine that it's been out of print for decades. The publisher is Beit Neta, an archive for the city of Petach Tikva, which is near the quarries. Their website is (in Hebrew) http://www.ptarchive.co.il/he/Default.aspx
    The book can be found at a variety of libraries around Israel, and maybe some research libraries elsewhere. You can see the cover on google books:
    and here it is for sale at least in one place, http://www.booksefer.co.il/index.php?dir=site&page=catalog&op=item&cs=17418

  4. Thanks alot jskarf, that was very helpful, I wrote to booksefer, hope they would reply soon

  5. How about Migdal Zedek Guards newsletter, anyway to get my hands on it?

  6. Gosh, the only place I saw them available was in the national library in Jerusalem. I doubt you'll be able to find them anywhere outside of Israel.

  7. jskarf I found a very rare photo of Migdal Sedek before it was ruined, a copy of which is here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Majdal_Yaba_3.JPG maybe you can help get original from Israel Antiquities Archives

  8. It can't be that rare if it's available on wikipedia to anyone. What's strange about it is that someone colored in the grass. The original published photo is black and white. Can you tell me who you are and what you're researching?

  9. Thanks Jushua for asking, my name is Khaled and I am interested in history and archaeology & it's relation to architecture and the people who used to occupy the place. I have a special interest in Ha Sharon area, central region, since my parents descended from there