In 1871 a group of Pietist Christians from southwestern Germany known as the Templers (not to be confused with the medieval Knights Templar) established a small agricultural colony 4km northeast of Jaffa, on the banks of the Ayalon River, and called it Sarona. The technologies, agricultural and otherwise, that they brought with them had a profound impact on the early Zionists, with whom they had good relations. Exiled to Egypt by the British at the end of WWI, they returned in 1921, constructing Bauhaus-style buildings.
As the Nazi party rose to power in Germany, some of Sarona's residents became enthusiastic supporters, leading, unsurprisingly, to friction with their Jewish neighbours. At the outbreak of WWII, the Templers were declared 'enemy aliens', and Sarona was turned into an internment camp; in 1943 most of the Templers were deported to Australia.
After the war, the fortified camp became a military base for the British forces and a target for attacks by the various Jewish undergrounds – the Haganah, Etzel and Lehi. In December 1947, as they were about to leave, the British turned over the camp to the Jewish leadership. After 1948, the Israeli government turned the old Templer buildings into government offices.
In recent years, more than 30 of the colony's historic buildings have been restored and redeveloped as a commercial centre. Set in lush green surrounds, Sarona includes offices, restaurants, bars, cafes, fashion stores, art galleries and a visitor centre where the colony's fascinating history is told. Today, the biggest attraction is the indoor Sarona Market, an arcade featuring global street-food stands, celebrity-chef restaurants and shops to buy fresh meat, fish, cheese and more.
Sarona is on Eliezer Kaplan St, 1km east of the Dizengoff Centre and just east of Habima Sq.