Baron Edmond James de Rothschild
in Paris, Edmond de Rothschild did not enter the family banking empire,
but devoted himself instead to art and culture. In 1877, he married
Adelaide, the daughter of Wilhelm Karl Rothschild. His most outstanding
achievements were involved in responding to the threats facing the Jewish
people in Europe in the late 19th century by supporting massive land
purchases and underwriting Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael.
he visited Eretz Yisrael numerous times, his home was in Paris. His
generosity and interest in Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael completely
changed the possibilities for Jews. During his lifetime, his work on
behalf of the yishuv was highly praised by Zionist leaders representing
the entire spectrum of opinion. In recognition of his work, he was named
honorary president of the Jewish Agency in 1929.
He died in Paris in 1934. In 1954 his remains and those
of his wife were brought to Ramat HaNadiv in Zikhron Ya'akov.
de Rothschild first became involved in Jewish affairs after the pogroms
in Russia in the 1880s. Almost immediately, he also became interested
in settlers in Eretz Yisrael. When early settlements faced financial
ruin, Rothschild was approached by Rabbi Samuel Mohilever and the leaders
of Rishon LeZion. He lent his assistance to both Rishon LeZion and Zikhron
Ya'akov and then helped found Ekron. An early supporter of quiet settlement
initiatives, after World War I, he joined the political activity of
the Zionist Organization by aiding Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow.
Before 1900, Rothschild's visits to Eretz Yisrael were
largely meant as settlement tours. He became known as the “Father of
the Yishuv” because of his full and partial involvement in so many young
settlements. In the 1890s, he clashed with Theodore Herzl on the interpretation
of political Zionism. In the early 1900s he had a similar disagreement
with Ahad Ha'am and members of the Hovevei Zion. The result was a group
of 12 settlements under the auspices of Rothschild's Jewish Colonization
By 1914, Rothschild was able to visit expanded settlements
as well as a number of his major and minor investments. He was also
growing closer to the Zionist Organization.
This cooperation increased during World War I as preparations
were made for the Balfour Declaration. Toward the end of the war, his
son, James, arrived in Eretz Yisrael with the British army and was among
the recruiters for the Jewish battalions in the yishuv. In 1923, James
took the helm of the newly-organized Palestine Jewish Colonization Association
(PICA). Its first settlement was Binyamina (his father's Hebrew name
was Avraham Binyamin). By 1925, the Rothschild name had become synonymous
with settlement activity which included cultural, spiritual and political
features. His work was recognized and praised everywhere in the yishuv
and among the members of the Zionist Organization.
Rothschild became honorary president of the expanded
Jewish Agency in 1929. When he died in Paris in 1934, he left a legacy
which included the reclamation of nearly 500,000 dunams of land and
almost 30 settlements.
Source: Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education.
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