The Templars left their mark on the lay of the land with their industrious and innovative nature.
In 1871, on the western banks of the Ayalon River the Templars established the colony of Sarona. They were pious Christians who came from southern Germany who primarily engaged in agriculture and small industry. At the end of the first World War with the occupation of Palestine by the British Army the Templars were exiled to Egypt and only returned in 1921. During the British Mandate, the settlement flourished. Agricultural areas expanded and new houses were built in an international style, which added a modern touch to the rural landscape. With the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, the British declared the German Templars ‘enemy nationals’; the colony became a detention camp and its residents were exiled to Germany and Australia.
At the beginning of World War II, the British security forces began occupying the colony. After the war, the fortified camp became a military base for the British forces and naturally became a favored target for attacks by the different Jewish undergrounds—the Haganah, Etzel, and Lehi—and eventually a symbol of the armed struggle against the British rule.
In December 1947 the British handed over the Sarona camp to the Jewish leadership as it evacuated their forces from the greater Tel Aviv region. The new camp was called ‘Mahaneh Yehoshua’ (Camp Yehoshua), named after Yehoshua Globerman, commander of the Tel Aviv District for the Haganah. This was the first military camp under the independent and open command of Haganah. In May 1948, the government ministries were temporarily housed in some of the Templer homes as Jerusalem was under siege. The name ‘Sarona’ was changed by David Ben-Gurion to the ‘Kiryah’ (the Compound).
In December 1949 the government decided to relocate its offices to Jerusalem, the nation’s capital. However, representatives and offices of most government ministries remained in the Kiryah, including the Prime Minister’s Office. Only in the 2000s did the government offices vacate their historical buildings in Sarona in the southern section of the Kiryah and they were concentrated in the Yovel Tower on Menachem Begin Blvd. In 1955 the General Headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces was transferred from its national bureau in Ramat Gan to the northern section of the Kirya where it is located to this day.
In 2006 a plan to preserve 36 historical buildings was approved, so as to return them to their former façade from the time of the Templer settlement. The rest of the buildings were demolished. For the purpose of expanding Kaplan Street, five Templer buildings were relocated in a complex engineering feat. The Sarona compound is used as a center for culture, leisure and shopping and its visitors’ center tells the story of its turbulent history and its important place as a national heritage site.