“The Jews who have been brought up and are rooted in the Palestine environment are such splendid, capable and intelligent types that one can expect almost anything from them.” This was the way Mrs. Mary Fels expressed her admiration for the Jews of Palestine, in an interview with a representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Mrs. Fels is an annual visitor to Palestine and is one of the few American Jews who has a thorough first hand knowledge of conditions there.
“You cannot appreciate the full significance of my statement unless you have been there and seen things with your own eyes,” she said. “These are the types of Jews who have laid the foundations of modern Palestine; they are the pioneers who have overcome the greatest difficulties, who have suffered hardships and deprivations, who met the problems of life and faced them fearlessly.”
Mrs. Fels believes that a great injustice has been done the old colonists of Palestine, those who are not newcomers, but are well rooted and firmly established in the soil of the land.
“The old colonists of Palestine have been persistently ignored for many years, in spite of the fact that without the achievements of these colonists all other achievements in Palestine and for Palestine would have been impossible. The Balfour Declaration is not based on promises for the future but on the work of the past, on the accomplishments of the colonists.”
“Those who have conducted the Zionist activities in Palestine have never taken the pains to consult the colonists who are the only solid, permanent element in the country, on any of the important problems which are connected with the reconstruction of the land and which touch primarily the vital interests of those very colonists. Thus, for instance, not one agrarian credit bank has been established to help the colonists, who are laboring under considerable difficulties owing to the fact that they are still paying off their debts to Baron Edmund de Rothschild (who established the Jewish colonies), and also the new debts incurred by them during the war.
At this point Mrs. Fels was asked about the agrarian bank established by the Brandeis group after the split in the Zionist Organization of America which occurred in 1920.
“I was one of those who helped to found the Palestine Development Council Bank and other enterprises” Mrs. Fels replied, “and I had great hopes for it; but when I visited Palestine in 1922 I found that the bank was not doing what I had expected it to do. Instead of giving the Jewish farmers credit for long periods it specialized in loans to town dwellers.
“But the colonists are beginning to help themselves in this respect. I want to tell you of an interesting new development among them. Four years ago the young men of the Jewish colonies were organized by Alexander Aronson of Zichron Jacob, brother of the famous Aaron Aronson, in an organization called ‘B’nai Benjamin.’ Only sons of colonists, tillers of the soil, are accepted in this organization, which today counts 500 members, and which has for its purpose mutual cooperation, and assistance to members in the event of sickness or ## distress. The ‘B’nai Benjamin’ bends its efforts toward keeping up the courage of the young Palestinians who are faced with difficulties, and prevents them from emigrating or leaving the soil by offering them a helping hand in case of emergency.
“This splendid organization of young Jewish colonists established a bank of its own early in 1924 and is doing very good work in the way of helping the colonists with credit loans. This is the Srst bank that really endeavored to look after the interests of the older colonists,” Mrs. Fels said.
Mrs. Fels has been elected vice-president of the ‘B’nai Benjamin,’ in recognition of the interest and cooperation she has shown in that organization as well as in other constructive economic enterprises in Palestine.
Mrs. Fels feels that American Jews interested in Palestine reconstruction should found an agrarian bank for the Palestine colonists in order to help them clear away the obstacles which stand in the way of their wonderful work. Although she has decided to conduct her Palestine work individually rather than through an organization, she has consented to serve on the council of the recently created Palestine Investment Corporation, composed of zon-Zionists, who will participate in ## the Jewish Homeland. She spoke in high praise of the members of this corporation.
“These capable men will know how to express their affection for Palestine in concrete terms,” Mrs. Fels said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.