The drive north on the road from Tel Aviv to Zichron Ya’acov has not changed in decades: the Mediterranean sun still shines down as you pass rows of flowering banana trees swaying seductively in the breeze, and fish farms sparkle with dancing denise—sea bream—luring passersby to fish for their supper. The vivid blue sea spreads out lazily alongside you. Just past the Roman bastion of Caesarea you turn off the main road to climb the Carmel Mountains toward Zichron Ya’acov. (Mountains? It is really just one high hill, down which a white hotel cascades toward the water.) Once the city of Zichron was still basically sand dunes. Today, its main pedestrian street is busy with strolling tourists and locals, visiting sweet cafés and galleries.
Israel is a place where the old is in a state of constant interface with the new. Zichron Ya’acov is the home of the First Aliyah Museum, which outlines the story of the first wave of immigrants to what was then known as Palestine. Although Zichron Ya’acov retains echoes of its 1880s spirit—the simple, sturdy buildings, the towns, people purposeful in their activities—things are transforming in important ways.