The Central District surrounds the Tel Aviv District to the north, south and east, with the Mediterranean Sea giving the western border. The majority of Israel’s Jewish population lives in this densely populated part of the country, with 21 cities being included in this district. The housing prices can be significantly lower in this district than in Tel Aviv itself. This region is characterised by the cliffs, beaches and dunes of the coastal plain and the flat fertile land that is famous for the citrus fruits grown in this area. The climate is hot and humid in the summer, with heavy rainfall in the winter.
Another name given to the region that extends from Rehovot in the south, to Herzliya in the north, is Gush Dan. Gush refers to the portion of Dan, referring to the tribal territory allocated by Joshua at Shilo. This sprawling metropolitan area is the largest in Israel, with an estimated population of over 4 million residents, 95% of whom are Jewish. Despite making up less than 8% of Israel's total land area, it houses about 45% of the country's total population. It is one of the largest metropolitan areas on the Mediterranean Sea and because of this it is also the most densely populated part of the land. Two parts of this district connect to the coast, while the rest is inland, connecting between the coastal plain and the lowlands.
Many of the cities in this area were established during the first wave of aliyah in the late 1880’s, such as Rishon le Zion, Petah Tikvah and Nes Tziona. These three Jewish cities have beautiful names; Rishon le Zion means The First to Zion, Petah Tikvah means Opening of Hope, and Nes Tziona is translated The Miracle of Zion. There were five periods of time known as waves as aliyah, when significant movements of the Jewish people towards the land of Israel (then part of the Ottoman Empire) took place.
The First Aliyah took place from 1882-1903 and was also known as The Farmers’ Aliyah because many of those who came wanted to learn how to farm the land. The majority of those who came during this period originated in Eastern Europe and Yemen, with approximately 25,000–35,000 immigrating during the First Aliyah. Part of the drive to make the long and arduous journey came from the horrific pogroms of Russia which took place from 1881-1882. Two of the movements that helped to train and prepare people to make this journey, and then to establish themselves in the land were named the Hibbat Zion and Bilu. Their stated goal was “the political, national, and spiritual resurrection of the Jewish people in Palestine.” Bilu chose a scripture that when translated to Hebrew, gives the first letter of each word of this phrase from Isaiah 2 v 5: “House of Jacob, let us get up and go!””
Though they were inexperienced in agriculture, most chose farming as their way of life, founding moshavot. These are villages where everyone has their own private property and their own agricultural land, but in order to maximize prices for produce, it is taken to the markets collectively. Rishon le Tzion was one of the first examples of these types of settlement.
The cities of Lod and Ramla have mixed populations, with both Arabic speaking Muslims and Christians and Jews living there. The area known as the Arab triangle, has several larger towns inhabited by Israeli Arabs, such as Kfar Kasim, Qalansawe, and Tayibe.
One of the most beautiful of the coastal cities is Netanya which has undergone significant regeneration and growth in recent years. It has a beautiful boulevard and steep cliffs that lead down to expansive stretches of sand.
Modi’in is the most inland of the center cities and is a planned new city which enjoys a growing population. The area is connected to the Maccabees, the heroes of the Hanukkah story.