Melbourne (Jul. 11)
Representatives of the Executive of the Australian Zionist Federation recently waited upon Sir John Russell here and obtained his views with regard to Jewish colonization work in Palestine.
Sir John, the acknowledged British authority on soil and crop production, visited Palestine recently at the invitation of the Zionist Executive and the Empire Marketing Board and submitted a report both to the Palestine Executive and to the British Government with regard to agriculture in Palestine and future possibilities. He also served as one of the experts of the Joint Palestine Survey Commission. Sir John explained in the course of the interview that there are considerable tracts of land in Palestine capable of development. Such work has already been started by the Zionist Organization and by other Jewish bodies interested. First comes the Plain of Sharon, he said. Here citrus plantations, especially oranges, are being worked with success. The Jaffa orange even today is the foremost on the British market. Additional plantations are being laid out and further areas are available for citrus culture. Other crops are being tried with promising results, notably bananas and dairy produce.
The second district is the Plain of Esdraelon. At present it is under cereals growing in accordance with dry farming principles. So far as can be seen at present, it will remain a dry farming area, though there are possibilities of developing more intensive branches of farming. Sir John specially mentioned the importance of mixed farming, that is, each farmer devoting himself to several cultures, including dairying, and the catering for the tourist traffic which, under the more settled conditions now prevailing, is likely to increase.
Both areas at present include swamps which are useless and even harmful. This land is being reclaimed by the Pica, Keren Hayesod and Jewish National Fund, and will become moste fertile; areas at present barren will be put under cultivation.
The third area is the Jordan Valley with the plain of Beisan, a continuation of the Esdraelon district. The Palestine Electrical Corporation, headed by Engineer Rutenberg, has already started the establishment of its Jordan Electric Plant. Its second aim will be to provide facilities for irrigation. The Beisan Valley is part of the Jordan Valley District, and has a promising future. In some of these districts the climate is warm, so that immigrants used to such conditions will have to be selected for colonization. At the same time, after the valleps have been developed, there is a possibility of the population gradually extending to the hills, but only small parts of these would be of value, so far as can be seen at present.
Sir John did not give any actual figures as to the number of immigrants which can be settled in the country, but he believed that there can be established farmers in sufficient numbers to create a strong basis for the Jewish National Home. Sir John explained that from a purely commercial point of view it is probable that better results can be obtained by individuals in countries more developed than Palestine. We are fortunate in having idealistic settlers. All they want is to settle in the country and to have the possibility of finding their livelihood, and this they certainly can do. Colonization means either sacrifice in money or sacrifice in human life and suffering. In Palestine, human suffering is comparatively small, and this is due to the efforts of the Zionist Organization and other bodies interested in the country.
Land in Palestine is being bought at prices rather high. Nevertheless, if not at present then in the future, the economic value of the land is bound to increase and the investment in land may yet prove a good one. But the colonization should not be regarded solely as a business proposition.
Generally, Sir John is optimistic and believes that the work in Palestine is being and can be made a success. He specially stressed the devotion of the leaders of the Zionist movement and their efforts for the cause which they have at heart.
Jewish enterprise in Palestine is being watched with much sympathy and interest in Britain, both by the Government and by many of the people, he declared.