||Levontin (Levontin) Zalman David
The founder, Zalman David Levontin, was born in Russia. He was "among the first" (accoring to David Yudelovitch) who already in 1880 began to advocate in the newspapers the idea of resettling Eretz Israel. A year later, after the outbreak of the first pogrom in Russia, he began to take active steps to implement his idea by establishing groups of families who were willing to move to Eretz Israel. In 1882 he set up the "Committee of Yesod Ha'maala Pioneers" and was chosen to stand at its head.
The aim of the Committee was to buy land and settle on it. Zalman David Levontin, astride a horse and carrying a gun, went out himself to tour the length and breadth of the country in order to find suitable land. In the summer of 1882 the land of Ayun Kara was purchased and on July 31st 1882 the settlement of Rishon Le Zion was established under leadership.
The guiding principle aim was the collectivism of work devoted himself to Zionist activity, wrote a memorandum to the leaders of the Hovevei Zion Movement in which he suggested the setting up of a bank in Eretz Israel. He was one of the first to join the World Zionist Organization and participated in the first Zionist Congress. He was invited by Herzl to join the management of the "Jewish Colonial Bank", an institution that was inaugurated in London in order to provide funds for the Zionist movement. As a result of Levontin's insistance, the Anglo-Palestine Company Bank was established with the intention of its becoming active in Eretz Israel and he was appointed its first manager.
When, for the second time, he came to the country with his family, he settled in Jaffa and for 25 years he managed the bank and tried, in addition to making it a commercial bank, to create an establishment involved in Zionism, settlement and education. His intention was to train the public to work on the basis of healthy economic principles and in this way create friendly, commercial and practical relationships with the Ottoman government and with the Arab population.
Many land purchases were made with the help of the bank. It was the first to instigate and set up the mutual saving societies on a collective basis in the villages and in this way contributed the idea of productive co-operation between the villages. During the World War I he endangered his life by travelling to London and Paris in order to obtain funds for the bank. In 1914, on his way back to the country, he was forced to stay over in Alexandria and, as the manager of the Anglo-Palestine Bank, he did much to assist those who had been exiled from the country.
He also assisted in the setting up of the First Hebrew Battalion which Jabotinsky was forming.
When he returned to the country in 1918 he devoted himself to the restoration of the APEC bank and later to the building of the Big Synagogue in Tel-Aviv.
At the age of 80 Zalman Daviv Levontin was awarded "honorary citizenship" of the village of Rishon Le Zion and a road was given his name. Tel-Aviv also awarded him "honorary citizenship".
Among his writings are "To the Land of Our Forefathers", "The History of the Work of Hovevei Zion", newspaper articles and numerous, correspondences, records and memorandi in connection with "Hibat Zion" and Rishon Le Zion, matters concerning the APEC bank and the Jewish Settlement Trust, etc.
When he died he was brought for burial in the old cemetery in Rishon Le Zion.