Israel Rokach (1896-1959) served as the mayor of Tel-Aviv for some 17 years, from 1936 to 1953.
Israel, the fourth child of Rachel and Shimon Rokach, was born in 1896 in the Neve-Tzedek neighborhood. He grew up in the Jaffa suburb and was educated in Torah study schools as well as at the Alliance Israelite Universelle School in Jaffa. In 1912, Rokach was sent to study electrical engineering at the Zurich Polytechnic in Switzerland and later for advanced studies at industrial centers in England. His hope was to specialize in a profession which would contribute to the building of the country and to become part of engineer Pinhas Rotenberg's electricity plants. But the illness and subsequent death of Israel's father in 1922 forced him to return to Eretz Israel sooner than he had planned and he founded an electrical supply business. At that point he began his public activity and was elected to the Tel-Aviv Municipal Committee. He came to be Mayor Meir Dizengoff's right hand man.
When the second Municipal Committee was elected in May of 1925 Israel Rokach became the head of its Technical Department. In 1928 he ran as a representative of the "General Zionists" party, which was led by Meir Dizengoff, and was appointed as his Deputy Mayor. Following Dizengoff's death in September 1936, Rokach was appointed Mayor of Tel-Aviv.
His period in office was filled with crucial events and was decisive for the development, the physical planning and the formation of the city's social, economic and cultural character. The riots of 1936-1939 disrupted life in Tel-Aviv and refugees from Jaffa sought shelter there. The Yishuv in Tel-Aviv responded to these events by establishing the Hebrew port on the city's coast. Tel-Aviv was bombed from the air during World War II and battles took place along its borders during the War of Independence.
During Rokach's tenure Tel-Aviv became the Yishuv's first test of self-government. He led an autonomous Jewish government in the largest Hebrew city and laid the foundations for Israel's health, education and welfare systems there.
Rokach acted as a loyal representative of his city and as an emissary of the entire Jewish population. He conducted regular administrative relations with the British authorities, but did not hesitate to resist them in the national struggle against the White Paper and in favor of immigration, settlement and defense. On August 5, 1947 Rokach was arrested by the British and jailed in Latroun along with other mayors and leaders of the Yishuv. After the War of Independence Jaffa was annexed to Tel-Aviv and Israel Rokach coined the name of the unified city: "Tel-Aviv-Jaffa". New housing complexes were built for refugees and demobilized soldiers within the city as well as new neighborhoods across the Yarkon River. As a symbol of his love for his city Tel-Aviv, Rokach named his youngest daughter "Iri" (My City).
Israel Rokach retired as mayor of Tel-Aviv in 1953 when he was appointed as the Israeli Government's Minister of Interior. He passed away in 1959. The city of Tel-Aviv has commemorated Rokach by naming a number of sites and institutions after him, but more than anything else the mark that he made may still be seen in the city's character, development and institutions these many years later.