Israel: Ashdod

Ashdod (Hebrew: About this sound אַשְׁדּוֹד‬; Arabic: أَشْدُود‎ Ashdud or إِسْدُود Isdud) is the sixth-largest city and the largest port in Israel accounting for 60% of the country's imported goods. Ashdod is located in the Southern District of the country, on the Mediterranean coast where it is situated between Tel Aviv to the North (32 kilometres (20 miles) away) and Ashkelon to the South (20 km (12 mi) away). Jerusalem is 53 km (33 mi) to the east. The city is also an important regional industrial center.

Modern Ashdod covers the territory of two ancient twin towns, one inland and one on the coast, which were for most of their history two separate entities, connected by close ties with each other. This article deals with these historic towns, including other ancient nearby sites, and modern Ashdod.

The first documented urban settlement at Ashdod dates to the Canaanite culture of the 17th century BCE, making the city one of the oldest in the world. Ashdod is mentioned 13 times in the Bible. During its pre-1956 history the city was settled by Philistines, Israelites, Greek colonists coming in the wake of Alexander's conquests, Romans and Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, and Ottoman Turks.

Modern Ashdod was established in 1956 on the sand hills near the site of the ancient town, and incorporated as a city in 1968, with a land-area of approximately 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi). Being a planned city, expansion followed a main development plan, which facilitated traffic and prevented air pollution in the residential areas, despite population growth. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Ashdod had a population of 221,591 in 2016, with an area of 47,242 dunams (47.242 km2; 18.240 sq mi).

Ashdod today is home to the largest Moroccan Jewish community in Israel, the largest Karaite Jewish community in Israel, and the largest Georgian Jewish community in the world.

Mitinti was king at the time of Sargon's son Sennacherib (r. 705–681 BCE), and Akhimilki in the reign of Sennacherib's son Esarhaddon (r. 681–669 BCE).

Psamtik I of Egypt (r. 664 – 610 BCE) is reported to have besieged the great city Azotus for twenty-nine years (Herodotus, ii. 157); the biblical references to the remnant of Ashdod (Jeremiah 25:20; cf Zephaniah 2:4) are interpreted as allusions to this event.

The city absorbed another blow in 605 BCE, when Nebuchadnezzar conquered it.

In 539 BCE the city was rebuilt by the Persians. In 332 BCE it was conquered in the wars of Alexander the Great.

In the Book of Nehemiah, the Ashdodites seem to represent the whole nation of the Philistines in the sixth century BCE, the speech of Ashdod (which half of the children from mixed families are described as adopting) would simply be the general Philistine dialect. Hugo Winckler explains the use of that name by the fact that Ashdod was the nearest of the Philistine cities to Jerusalem.

A coastal fort was erected by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, the builder of the Dome of the Rock, at or near the former Azotus Paralios, which was later reconstructed by the Fatimids and Crusaders.

The medieval Arabic name of the port town was Mahuz Azdud, "harbour of Azdud", a very interesting combination between the by then already ancient Aramaic word for harbour, mahuz, and "Azdud", a return to a form much closer to the old Semitic name "Ashdod".

The geographer Ibn Khordadbeh (c. 820 – 912) referred to the inland city as "Azdud" and described it as a postal station between al-Ramla and Gaza.

In 1950, the moshavim of Sde Uziyahu and Shtulim were established to the east of Isdud, and in 1949 and 1953, Bnei Darom and Gan HaDarom were established north of Isdud. According to Khalidi, they were established on the village lands.

The modern city of Ashdod was founded in 1956. On May 1, 1956, then finance minister Levi Eshkol approved the establishment of the city of Ashdod. "Ashdod Company Ltd.", a daughter company of City-Builders Company Ltd., was created for that purpose by Oved Ben-Ami and Philip Klutznick. The first settlers, 22 families from Morocco, arrived in November 1956, followed by a small influx of immigrants from Egypt. In July 1957, the government granted a 24 square kilometres (9 square miles), approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Tel Aviv, to the Ashdod Company Ltd., for building the modern city of Ashdod. The building of the Eshkol A power station in Ashdod was completed in 1958 and included 3 units: 2 units of 50 megawatt, and one unit of 45 megawatt (with sea water desalination capabilities).

The first local council was appointed in October 1959. Dov Gur was appointed the first local council head on behalf of the Israeli Ministry of Interior. In 1961, Ashdod was a town of 4,600. The Magistrates' Court in the city was inaugurated in 1963. The building of the port of Ashdod began in April 1961. The port was inaugurated in November 1963, and was first utilized in November 1965, with the coming of the Swedish ship "Wiengelgad". The city expanded gradually, with the construction of two quarters in the 1960s, followed by four more in the 1970s and two more in the 1980s. In 1972, the population was 40,300, and this grew to 65,700 by 1983.

Large-scale growth of the city began in 1991, with the massive arrival of immigrants from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia and infrastructure development. From 1990 to 2001 the city accepted more than 100,000 new inhabitants, a 150% growth. Five more quarters of the city were completed, and a business district was built. In the 2000s, three more quarters and the marina districts were completed.

Ashdod was one of six cities that won the 2012 Education Prize awarded by the Israel Ministry of Education.

Assuta Ashdod Medical Center, Ashdod's only general hospital, serves the city and the surrounding area. It is a 300-bed hospital, and it's "bomb shelter" design with thick concrete walls offers sufficient protection so as to keep operating without having to transfer patients during a time of war. It is also a university hospital affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The hospital opened in 2017. Prior to the opening of the hospital, Ashdod did not have a general hospital, and residents in need of hospitalization had to travel to Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot or Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

There are public and private clinics operating in the city. A special clinic run by Hatzalah operates at times when all other clinics in the city are closed.

Ashdod has seen much of its growth as the result of absorption of immigrants. The first settlers were Jewish immigrants from Morocco and Egypt. In the 1960s Ashdod accepted a large number of immigrants from Romania, followed by a large number from Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union) in the 1970s. More than 60,000 Russian Jews from the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union settled in Ashdod. Recent demographic figures suggest that about 32%[7] of the city's population are new immigrants, 85% of whom are originally from the former Soviet Union. During the 1990s the city absorbed a large number of Beta Israel immigrants from Ethiopia, and in more recent years Ashdod absorbed a large number of immigrants from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Argentina, and South Africa. Many of the 60,000 Marathi-speaking Bene Israel from Maharashtra, India who moved to Israel also settled there. Ashdod also receives a significant amount of internal migration, especially from the Gush Dan region.

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