Sde Dov Today.
A panoramic view of what was Sde Dov Airport looks liketoday, from inside the old security fence.
A bit of nostalgia.
From Dunes to Airport,
From Airport to Residential Towers
For as long as I can remember, there was a small airport to the west of our neighborhood, blocking direct access to the sea. As of the 30th June 2019 Sde Dov – call-sign: SDV (or by its formal name: Dov Hoz Airport) is officially closed. Most flights from Sde Dov were domestic; to Eilat, northern Israel (Haifa and the Galilee), and the Golan Heights. However, there also was an international service operating to Cyprus. Small, convenient and not too noisy, the airport was a remnant, a leftover from mandatory Palestine, when, during the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 Lydda Airport (todays Ben-Gurion Airport) became inaccessible to Jews.
The danger to passengers travelling from Tel Aviv, the main Jewish population center, to Lydda Airport through Arab majority territory overland, became too great. In October 1938 Palestinian Airways moved its main base to the newly built Tel Aviv Airport (in 1940 renamed Sde Dov) and commenced operations on the Tel Aviv to Haifa route.
* An Anachronism
To my great surprise, more than 10 months after the closure of Sde Dov, the Online-Flight-Timetable for the airfield on the Israel Airports Authority website is still active.
The future looks bright
The future looks bleak
Today the 1,300 dunam (325 acres) is considered prime real estate – too costly to be squandered on a quaint little airport say city planners and property developers.
The present plan is to build 16,000 housing units, among them 2,400 affordable housing units and 4,500 special housing units (student dormitories, assisted living facilities, rental housing, etc.). The plan also includes 500,000 square meters for public buildings, 125,000 square meters for hotels, and some measly 365 dunam (91.25 acres) of parks and public gardens.
Buildings, nay towers, of 10, 20, 35 and even 40 storeys will obstruct the view to the sea. Busy roads and light rails will replace the meandering paths.
I miss the airport already.
All this, before delving into the history of the airport.
Who is/was Dov Hoz and what did he do?
For starters, there are a number of places commemorating Dov Hoz. There is the Dov Hoz Boulevard leading from Struma Square to Dov Hoz Interchange and the Ayalon Highway. There is the Dov Hoz Community Center. There is also the famous Dov Hoz Technological High School and as mentioned above Dov Hoz Airport.
Well Dov Hoz was one of the early Zionist leaders. Not so much the talkers but tone of the planners and above all – one of the doers.
Dov Hoz was born in Orsha, then part of the Russian Empire (today Belarus) in 1894. The Hoz family immigrated to Ottoman Palestine in 1906 when Dov was 12 years old.
At the age of 15 (in 1909) he joined a group that organized guarding activity of the new city of Tel-Aviv.
From 1920–1930, he was a member of the central Haganah committee and from 1931–1940, he was a member of the national Haganah command center.
In 1935 he was appointed vice-mayor of Tel-Aviv, and later head of the state department of the Histadrut (Labor Federation).
In addition to that, Dov Hoz was an advocate for new technologies.
He was one of the founders of Aviron Aviation Company, and its first CEO. Aviron was one of a handful of aviation pioneering enterprises of the Yishuv, created with its foreseeable security needs in mind. It trained pilots and established flight lines in Mandatory Palestine and outside, while serving as cover for the budding, tiny and illegal "air force" of the Yishuv.
The Aviron Aviation Company was established in 1936 by Dov Hoz and Yitzhak Ben Ya'akov at the initiative of the Histadrut trade union association and the Jewish Agency.
At its beginnings, the Aviron flight school was based in three kibbutzim in the northern Jordan Valley, with the flight school in the attic of the cowshed at Degania Alef, an improvised airstrip at Afikim, and a hangar at Ashdot Ya'akov.
The cowshed in Degania Alef has long been replaced, the airstrip is now part of a road. And the hangar in Ashdot Ya'akov (Me'ukhad)? Well that is a long story.
The Tale of the Hangar
At this point, I wish to express my thanks and appreciation to Ms. Shula Avishur, the curator or the archives of Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'akov (Me'ukhad), for her assistance and cooperation in this project.
It would not be wrong to claim that both The Israel Air Force (I.A.F.) and Israeli civil aviation have its roots in Kibbutz Afikim and Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov.
First, Civil Aviation – by establishing a pilot training school and providing an air service for passengers between Tel Aviv, Haifa and Tiberias. A Tiger-Moths aircraft purchased by the Israeli pilot Zvi Chizik in England was renovated and flown to Mandatory Palestine. It served as the first training aircraft in the first pilot’s course held by ‘Aviron’.
There just are too many pictures that tell a tale. I am including a mini gallery below. (Click on pic to enlarge)
In March 1938, the Aivron Company Flight School opened in the Jordan Valley, under the direction of English flight instructor Gray. During the 1936-1939 uprising, the aircraft were assisted the Haganah for reconnaissance. They were also used to evacuate casualties.
After World War II and the War of Independence, the company was dissolved and its pilots became members of the I.A.F. and some later went to serve with El-Al. The kibbutz began to use the hangar for its needs. Benches were built, a large screen was hung and the place became the local movie theater. It also became the meeting place for large gatherings.In the 70’s "Beit Davidka” was built and cultural activities moved there. The hangar became an emergency warehouse for several years and later it was of no use at all. The hangar was in shambles until the 90s arose the need to vacate the hangar for residential construction.
The secretary of the kibbutz contacted the Air Force, who jumped at the opportunity, disassembled the hangar and rebuilt it at the Air Force Museum in Hatzerim - where it proudly stands to this day.
Sde Dov as seen from the Sea-Side-Promenade
Back to Dov Hoz
On his way to an Aviron board meeting Dov Hoz died in a car accident in December 1940 In his car were his wife Rivka, daughter Tirza, sister in law Tzvia Sharett and Aviron co-founder Yitzhak Ben-Ya'akov.
My pictures of the abandoned airport in April/May 2020 can be found at the SDE DOV 2020 Gallery.
It is gratifying to read that a boy born in our small town of Orsha contributed so much to the development and security of Israel.