Bright prospects for the Jewish agricultural development in Palestine were predicted and the views of a Catholic agricultural expert on the recent developments in Palestine were given by Father Alfred Sacchetti, manager of the Christian Agricultural School at Beitgemal and procurator of the Salesian Fathers in Palestine. Father Sacchetti. who came to the United States for the purpose of collecting a fund of $50,000 among American Catholics for his agricultural school, is a leader of the Catholic Salesian community, which was founded about sixty years ago by Don Bosco, a priest of Turin, Italy. The Salesian community conducts agricultural schools in various parts of the world and its purpose is to educate poor and abandoned Christian children by teaching them arts and trades. The institute has about 500 schools. They have six institutions in Palestine. The agricultural school of Beitgemal was founded by the Salesian Fathers at the same time as the Jewish Mikvah Israel School was founded by Carl Netter.
Commenting on his mission to the United States, Father Sacchetti stated that “it would not seem strange that I also seek support for our institutions among the Israelites. I hope to be able to find some charitable persons who might interest themselves in our work. Palestine is our common country and our work, being non-sectarian, is directed toward the exercise of well understood charity and the agricultural rebirth of the Holy Land.”
Father Sacchetti. who is considered one of the agricultural experts of the Catholic community and who is very influential in governing Catholic circles in Jerusalem, expressed his opinion on the agricultural work of the Jews in Palestine in an interview with the representative of the “Jewish Daily Bulletin.”
“I have traveled through Palestine many times, both during and after the war, and during my trips I noted the striking result achieved during the last few years in many places but especially in the valley of Esdraelon. I know this locality very well because I had to carry on several scientific researches there during 1919. At that time the entire plain of Esdraelon was desolate A few small villages could be seen but the rest of the land was in an abandoned state. The whole aspect has now been changed. There have arisen about 25 villages, great extensions of land have been afforested, all swamps and marshes have been drained and cases of malaria are rare. The plantation of eucalyptus trees is rapidly growing and fields of cereal, pastures and vegetables cover many miles of the land. The village of Nahalal has an Agricultural Training College for Women, an ideal institution, where the small industries of rural life are taught. There is a hospital in a neighboring village and active commerce has begun with the nearby cities of Haifa and Nazareth. What had been up to six years ago a wild and unproductive waste land has been transformed into a fertile and productive country.
“There is no reason to believe that similar transformations do not take place in other colonies, even though conditions are not as favorable as in the Valley of Esdraelon,” he stated.
Asked as to the possibility of the financial success of the Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine, Father Sacchetti offered his opinion in the following terms: “This is a question of statistics and figures concerning those colonies which have already passed the critical period of the first years. The Jews in Palestine are now studying various methods of colonization and are making experiments in many directions. Even though, theoretically speaking, the system of private property payable in instalments should be the best. it is not always practicable in all places. Experience alone will be able to decide which of the systems will succeed.
“One must not forget that the geological and climatic conditions of Palestine are adverse and that dryness and warm winds of the East sometimes produce disastrous results. but the agricultural resources are very numerous for the intelligent and laborious farmer, especially if he is allowed to make a reasonable use of credit. Where water abounds in the undersoil, the hydraulic installations easily solve the problem of cultivation. Methodic planting of trees, especially of the olive tree and the afforestation of rocky land constitute an effective capital in reserve.
“The elements of financial success are not wanting, especially for the settlers that have already had a certain amount of agricultural experience and for the new generation which has been bred in the country and has an intimate knowledge of the peculiarities, your ideals both religious and patriotic certainly assure a moral and financial success. It is beautiful and moving to see groups of fine strong young men dedicate themselves happily and contentedly to all sorts of hard farming all day and then meet in the evening to study or to arrange concerts. I also know people of importance and profession that do not disdain to do farming and that have dedicated their modest fortunes for the purchase of a tract of land in order to do their share towards the redemption of Palestine. This sort of work, rendered lighter by intellectual activity and raised by an ideal which is religious and patriotic, cannot but be a success,” he stated.
Father Sacchetti, although indisposed to discuss the political aspects of the Palestine situation, expressed the opinion that the Palestine Arab question would constitute no problem for the Jews in Palestine if they would apply the method of “making haste slowly.”