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Without Settlers Initiative Rothschild Would Not Have Undertaken Colonization

August 13, 1928
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who invested millions in Jewish settiement work in Palestine resulting in the creation of some of the most prosperous Jewish colonies in Judea, would never have dared to take upon himself the responsibility of sending out colonists were it not for the initiative taken by the first settlers coming from Russia and Roumama, prompted by the return to Palestine movement.

Baron Edmond, whose Palestine work for the past fifty years has earned him the affection of Jews throughout the world, who refer to him as the “Nodiv Ha’yodua” (the famous philanthropist), gave an explanation of the motives which prompted him to undertake the work in a communication dated July 6, 1928, to David Druck, New York journalist and author of the recently published work, “Baron Edmond de Rothschild, The Story of a Practical Idealist.” The text of the letter was made public by Mr. Druck.

In outlining the difficulties of the colonization work during the Turkish regime, the aged philanthropist says that he persisted in his work although “almost everybody and especially the Jewish notables looked with misgivings upon the establishment of Jews in Palestine and believed my endeavors doomed to failure.”

Baron Edmond writes: “You have certainly understood the predominent idea which has guided my actions. It was not a simple act of charity, but an undertaking of quite a different nature from the moral point of view. At that time I felt grave anxiety regarding the future of Judaism. Our unfortunate coreligionists in Eastern Europe, where they are so numerous, were suffering under the most crushing oppression and were beginning to give way to the deepest despair.

“I was constantly talking over this distressing question with that high minded and great hearted man, the Chief Rabbi Zadoc Kahn, who has devoted his whole life to the defense of Jewish interests, and I finally came to the conclusion that we must look towards Palestine to save Judaism, by creating over there centers where the Jewish moral and intellectual culture could be fully developed.

“But. in view of the uncertainty I felt with regard to their future, I would never have dared to take upon myself the responsibility of sending out colonists. The ‘return to Palestine feeling,’ inspired by the Hoveve Zion, prompted a number of Russians and Roumanians to establish themselves in that country, and to form small Jewish colonies which, owing to inexperience and to the many difficulies they had to face, soon found themselves in dire distress. Chief Rabbi Zadoc Kahn informed me of their sad plight, and in agreement with him, I determined to come to their assistance, which was moreover in accordance with my own ideas. It was only after this decision had been taken that I received the representative of the Rishon-le-Zion colonists and, according to your narrative, Rabbi Mohilever, of whose visit, as Mr. Franck wrote to tell you, I had no recollection, doubtless due to the fact that this interview in no way influenced the decision I had just taken. It is only at a later date that the occasion of the foundation of the colony of Mazkereth-Bathya brought me in touch with him on the subject of Palestine.

“Perhaps I ought to mention that, with the exception of Chief Rabbi. Zadoc Kahn and a very small number of other persons, almost everybody and especially the Jewish notables, looked with misgivings upon the establishment of Jews in Palestine and believed my endeavors doomed to failure.

“My own opinion, on the contrary, was that if the colonization were to succeed it would have an enormous influence on Judaism in gneral, through the respect which the Jewish centers established in Palestine would inspire throughout the world.

“I had to struggle against tremendous difficulties, which at times seemed insurmountable; there was the hostility of the Turkish Government–which I had forseen from the beginning and which explains my reason for withholding my name as long as it was in my power–and also the inferior quality of the ssil, ignorance and inexperience of the colonists. In addition to this, I had the greatest difficulty in finding competent administrators and persons fitted for the direction of agriculture, for at that time scientific methods of agronomy did not exist. All these obstancles which I had to overcome were to me very much more important than the few revolts of colonists at Mazkereth-Bathya and Rish-on in particular, which you describe at such length. I had so many other things to occupy my mind: Petah-Tik-vah, where I introduced orange growing, with the result that what used to be but a small center is now a colony with a population of nearly ten thousand souls, Samaria, where, owing to my efforts, a swamp of more than two thousand acres, spreading malaria throughout the country, has been drained and is today one of the most fertile regions of Palestine; not to mention High and Low Galilee. These are the serious questions which demanded my attention. According to your book, the wine question was one of the most vital problems, whereas in actual fact this was only one of the questions which called for a profound study.

“Today to my great joy, colonization has entered into a new phase since the Jewish National Home has been recognized by the great powers of Europe and America. For so many centuries, Eretz Israel has been a dream, always alive in the heart of every Jew; it has maintained in them the wonderful spirit which has helped them to bear the most awful persecutions. Today Eretz Israel is a reality and I have complete confidence in the future of Judaism,” Baron Edmond concludes.

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