This is one of five milling sites along the Yarkon river. Each site had several stone structures, each containing several milling devices:
Mir Mill – At the source of the Yarkon springs, near Rosh Ha’Ayin.
Abu Rabah Mill and Faruhiya Mill – south of Hod HaSharon.
Al Hadar Mill – Ten Mills – where the city limits of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan meet, near Ayalon Shopping Mall.
And lastly, Jarisha Mill – Seven Mills.
The Seven Mills site was first used during Roman times. The Romans built a bridge over the Yarkon river, which was destroyed probably during the Middle Ages, as well as a dam which serves as the base of the dam we see today. Remnants of the Roman bridge can be seen at the nearby reservoir.
Water mills gained traction in Israel after Alexander Yanay’s conquests through the end of the Herods era.
Their far-reaching reputation is evidenced in discussions held at Beit Hillel and Beit Shamai. Contemporary writings (“Tosafta” and “Yerushalmi”) indicate that those mills were highly advanced and included grain storage containers and had special devices meant to regulate the speed of the water wheel. It appears that in those early days millstones were smaller, and water fell onto the water wheel from half-pipe water channels, with no fixed structure covering the installation.
Remnants indicate that the number of mills was limited, since they could operate only using the force of local streams.
Beginning in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD the mills began to increase dramatically both in number and in size. These changes occurred thanks to the dams which harnessed the rise in water levels to increase the energy used in the milling process. Other methods to increase water energy were used, such as water reservoirs along the streams, as well as a vertical water container which helped increase the water pressure coming out at the bottom. For information on other mechanisms used in mills see the Documentary File.
Since the Yarkon river is second only to the Jordan River in its strength, it was likely that its water flow was harnessed for milling as early as the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. 10th-century writings indicate that the Yarkon mills were considered the largest in the country.
However, the remnants we see today, as well as the restored southern mill structure, date back to the Ottoman period. The mill site was part of the Jarisha village, next to Jarisha Hill (Napoleon Hill).
During this time three stone structures were built over the milling mechanisms:
- Western Flour Mill – has seven milling mechanisms, giving the site its name.
This was a limestone structure, covered partly with red tiles and partly with a dome-shaped roof. This was the largest milling structure in the region with an area of 190 square meters (over 2,000 square feet).
- Northern Flour Mill – with two milling mechanisms.
This was a limestone structure with a plastered, dome-shaped roof. The structure size was 40 square meters (430 square feet).
- Southern Flour Mill – with two milling mechanisms.
This structure was also made of limestone with a red tile roof. It was 75 square meters (800 square feet) in size.
During partial restorations in 2008 chalk was used rather than limestone.
Jarisha was the oldest village in the region. In 1596 the village was part of the Bney Tsaab Region (Nablus District). According to the British Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) the village had a population of 171. Its buildings were made of clay and mortar. Later structures were made of cement and local stone.
During the Ottoman period, the Ottoman administration leased the mills to the highest bidder. Mills served many villagers who traveled from as far as Mount Hebron. They would spend several hours on site and even stayed for the night when they had to.
During the British rule a Jewish Tel Aviv resident acquired the mills; however modern mills, operated with advanced motors, were already crowding out traditional water mills. The Jarisha mills were being used less and less frequently until they ceased to operate completely in 1936.
The village was an important flour milling center, but also served as a focal point for entertainment. During British rule, there was an esplanade next to the Western mills with a cafe that operated until 1948. A boat dock was erected nearby. Sailing down the river, stopping by at the different cafes along its banks, was a common pastime.
This was a water-channel-type mill with two milling mechanisms.
Water from the Al-Uja – or the Yarkon – river accumulated in the central reservoir. It was then carried via half-pipe feeding channels, acting as a type of “water slide”, and flowed onto the water wheel using the force of gravity. The water then flowed back into the river through an opening in the southern side of the mill. A vertical drive shaft connected the water wheel and the millstones, rotating the top millstone, which would grind wheat grains laid on top of the bottom millstone into flour.
The average hourly output of the milling mechanism is estimated at 40 kgs of flour, meaning around one ton per day and up to 365 tons per year.
The flow of the Yarkon isn’t as powerful as it used to be and, in the absence of additional technological help, it cannot be harnessed to operate the milling mechanism.
The site was excavated in 2001, through the joint efforts of Ganey Yehoshua, the Yarkon River Authority, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and the Antiquities Authority, by Mr Joshua Drey, a specialist in ancient technology. The reservoir was exposed and cleaned, arches were uncovered and some of the walls were restored up to 70cms above the level of existing limestone remnants.
In 2008, a decision was made to restore the site following the Maccabiya disaster which claimed the lives of 15 people, most of whom were members of the Australian delegation.
The restoration was funded by members of the Jewish communities in Australia and Italy, in cooperation with Ganey Yehoshua and the City of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, and with the help of the Antiquities Authority, the Yarkon River Authority, the Yarkon River Drainage Authority and the Conservation Department at the City of Tel Aviv.
In 2012, a detailed plan was prepared and approved for the site. It included a documentation file as well as a list of proposed architectural, engineering, landscaping and ecological restoration methods (TA/3858).
In 2017, once construction permits were issued, works commenced on the ground to restore parts of the mill structure walls. The original milling mechanism, part of which has been at the site since 2001, is also being restored.
Restoration is partial, following recent restoration trends which stipulate a clear distinction between old and new parts of the structure. In addition, the roof of the structure will be constructed using a new method that can better withstand flooding. It will include metal elements and a tin roof, unlike the original structure which had clay tiles laid over a wooden frame.
In addition, the partial restoration allows visitors to look into the structure even when it is closed.
Some of the original limestone tiles used as the floor of the nearby esplanade have also been found and were integrated into the new flooring (in the area next to the eastern wall of the mill).
The site has a ramp allowing easy access. Wooden benches have also been added for visitors to enjoy.