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Agriculture and Commerce, Important points from Albright, et al, Palestine: A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, Yale University Press, 1947.

Returning and Redemption
• The socialist ideals mixed with religious notions about the spirituality of working the land gave Jewish immigrants to Palestine the drive and motivation to take on jobs and manual labor ventures that many would not have considered. Draining swamps, risking their health and sometimes even their lives, many settlers organized into cooperative living settlements. Sharing work ethics, ideals,
and the difficult labor, individuals and the groups succeeded, benefiting from one another’s skills and knowledge, pooling resources and seeing the results (generally agricultural) enhance the development of the Jewish homeland.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 353-354.

• There are two types of communal living groups that developed through the 1920s and 1930s.

  • Kvutzah – Settlement now commonly known as a “kibbutz” in Israel. What may have begun with socialist or even communist ideals (non-Marxist), soon evolved into cooperatives where “… a group having similar religious, political, economic or social background[s],” and who “pool their resources and substitute collective for individual property.” Men and women assumed equal rights and equal responsibilities, children were raised together in a “group” housing arrangement, and profits and losses felt only by the collective, not the individual.

Quoting Harry Viteles, “The Cooperative Movement,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November 1932, p. 131.

  • Moshav Ovadim – Now referred to as “moshav”. These communities are only partly collective, giving more room for personal initiative and private property. Land, machinery, feed, etc, are purchased as a group, providing more market power for purchases. Individuals own their own chickens, cows, etc… In keeping with the ideas of Aaron David Gordon, the moshav placed an emphasis on not employing hired labor – all work should be done by the Jewish settlers living on the land.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 356 – 358.

• The major labor organizations that formed in Palestine during the early part of the 20th century came together in 1920 in the form of the Histadrut. In Hebrew, Histadrut means “organization”. The entire name of the labor organization was Histadrut Hakelalit shel Ha-ovdim be-Eretz Israel – The General Organization of the Jewish Workers of Palestine.
Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 359.

• The goals and ideals of the Histadrut were summarized in several of their statutes-

  • To live on their own work without exploiting the labors of others
  • To build the economy, culture and colonization of Palestine, particularly for the working class
  • To establish a Jewish Worker’s Society (Hevrat Haovidm) within the Palestine

More specific goals of the Histadrut included (quoting Albright, et al)-

  • “…trade union organization, including sick funds and mutual aid
  • Industrial, agricultural and consumer cooperatives
  • Development of cooperative farms
  • Stimulation of workers’ immigration
  • Maintenance of relations with the Pioneer Movement (halutz) abroad
  • Reception of immigrants and provision of employment after arrival
  • Promotion of the Hebrew language and general cultural activity among the workers
  • Publication of periodicals, trade papers and newspapers
  • Maintenance of friendly relations with Arab workers in Palestine
  • Cultivation of bonds between the Jewish international and labor movements throughout the world.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 359 – 360.

• The Histadrut was comprised of many different facets of socio-labor idealism. Political groups within the organization in the early years included-

  • Ahdut Ha’avodah – Jewish Socialist Party. Largest grouping within the Histadrut, comprising over half its membership.
  • Hapoel Hatzair – The Young Worker. Second in size, with one-forth of the Histadrut.
  • Poale Zion Smol – Left Poale Zion. More extreme socialists within the organization.
  • Hashomer Hatzair – The Young Watchman. Began as a Jewish youth movement in Austria, fusing ideas from Marxist socialism, the British Scouting Organization and the German Wandervogel. Established their own colony in 1924 in Beth Alpha, Palestine.
  • Hapoel Hamizrahi – Mizrahi Worker. Religious in nature, and eventually left the Histadrut formally, continuing to work in conjunction with them on different projects.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 362 – 363.

• Although Brandeis and many of his followers had believed in the economic development of the Jewish home as being the primary task, in fact land settlement and agriculture was where the majority of Zionist energy was focused in the earlier part of the 20th century. It was not until the 1930s and Hitler’s rise to power that Palestine truly took on visible economic development, with the wealth and capitalism coming in from waves of European immigrants.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 366.

• As land was developed for both public and private use, the Jewish Agency took on the task of coordinating and maintaining large Jewish settlements integrated with the population as a whole, specifically Arabs living in some of the less urban areas.

“…apart from more general considerations of a moral order it is essential in the interests of the Jewish National Home that the fellaheen should be raised to a higher standard of life. On a long view, the Jewish village cannot prosper unless the Arab village prospers with it.”

Jewish Agency, Memorandum to the Palestine Royal Commission, p. 128, as cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 366 -367.

• Great Britain’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries officiated several projects to improve the quality and development of the land in Palestine, including planting trees, animal breeding (stock and poultry), veterinary services for livestock health, maintenance and regulation of water and insect/pest related services. And yet much more was needed! Jewish settlers took responsibility for draining swamp lands and marshes and investing in agricultural experiments, so as to determine the best and most efficient crops and animals for development.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 367.

• Although Great Britain assisted with some of the basic needs for cultivation of the land, it has been asserted that they did not do nearly enough to encourage Jewish immigration, in terms of developing the country’s capacity to accept and absorb more people. Quoting directly from the minutes of the Seventeenth Session of the Permanent Mandates Commission,

“… the obligation to encourage close settlement by the Jews on the land implied the adoption of a more active policy which would develop the country’s capacity to receive and absorb immigrants in larger numbers with no ill results… It is quite clear, however, that the Jewish Nation Home, so far as it has been established, has in practice been the work of the Jewish Organization… the Mandate seemed to offer other prospects to the Jews.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 367 – 368, citing the Permanent Mandates Commission, Minutes of the Seventeenth Session, 1930, p. 41.

• During the first decade of the Mandate for Palestine, very little land was made available for Jewish settlement, despite promises made via the Balfour Declaration and agreed to within the Mandate. “State Domain”, or land controlled by the British, equaled approximately 960,000 dunams (240,000 acres) in the 1920s. Of this, 397,000 dunams (99,250 acres), or 41% of the land was granted to the Arabs. A mere 83,000 dunams were provided to the Jews (20,750 acres) or 8% of the divided areas. Even more difficult, at least 78% of the land received by the Jews was sand dunes, with no agricultural potential what so ever. Albright, et al, shows that a mere 3,385 dunams (about 846 acres) were “given” or leased to the Jews for settlements. Land acquired in the next few decades would be purchased, at great expense, by the Jews themselves.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 368 – 369.

• Through the 1920s, the largest population of settlers resided on moshavs, collective villages wherein land and equipment/machinery were privately owned, but decisions and large purchases were made collectively. By 1929, there were approximately 47 moshavs in Palestine, with a combined population of over 29,000. The kibbutzim of the time hosted 2,700 settlers, in 28 different locations.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 375.

• In the town of Nahalal, a Zionist Agricultural school for women was founded in 1924, and eventually was facilitated by WIZO, the European women’s Zionist version of the American’s Hadassah. It was 125 acres large and developed cereal grains, vegetables, flowers and bees. Other women’s agricultural schools and farms focused on dairy and poultry raising, in addition to vegetables and flowers/plants.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 375-376.

• Much of the agricultural development taking place in Palestine during the Jewish immigration of the early 1920s was experimental. Settlers worked to find the most efficient use of water for the different types of land, which animals were most successful in the regions, and how rotating crops not only might conserve/maintain soil integrity, but also prevent farmers from being dependent on only one crop. These efforts moved the farmers and settlers from minimal production of agricultural goods in 1920, to an abundance of production by the end of the decade. New residents of Palestine were eventually producing not only enough for their own self-sufficiency, but for export purposes, as well.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 376-377.

• Albright, et al, summarize the success of the Zionist agricultural goals in Palestine during the 1920s by pointing to three propositions proved true in the following excerpt-

“The Jews, despite their long separation from the soil, could become good farmers again… Palestine could be restored to its original fertility… and that the social concepts of the young Jewish pioneers imbued with labor ideals was an important factor in the success of the agricultural colonies – and not, as some of the experts believed, an economic handicap from the practical point of view.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 380 – 381.

• Prior to World War I, there were very limited commerce industries in Palestine. These included four main enterprises.

  • Olive and sesame oil production, as well as soap
  • Food, alcohol and tobacco
  • Textiles and clothing
  • Metal

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 381.

• By the late 1930s, commercial industries had grown exponentially in Palestine. Based on productive management of the native resources in the land, and enhanced by the skills and knowledge brought by the immigrating Jews, agriculture became an important industry with the following businesses, which can be broken down into three main categories.

1.) Consumer Goods

  • Wine Cellars of Rishon-LeZion and Zikron Jacob – Produced wine and concentrated grape juice, as well as extracting alcohol from grapes for other uses.
  • Grands Moulins and Matzoh Bakeries – Flour mills in Haifa, working with 50 tons of flour per day.
  • Shemen Oil Press – Producing refined olive oils and sesame oils for human consumption, as well as bathroom soaps and food for cattle.

2.) Electricity and Mineral Resources

  • The Palestine Electrical Corporation, Ltd. – Developed hydroelectric resources for Palestine. By 1930, they were selling 5, 352, 630 kilowatt hours of energy per year.
  • Palestine Potash Syndicate – Extracting minerals from the Dead Sea, and uncovering large amounts of potassium salts, bromine and magnesium.
  • Portland Cement Company, ‘Nesher’ Ltd. – Supplying most of Palestine’s cement needs, in addition to exporting to other countries as well. Employed 700 workers, Jews and Arabs alike.

3.) Retail Items (almost exclusively for export)

  • Hosiery – By 1931, there were six different hosiery factories in Palestine, employing 200 people and exporting £17,500 worth of goods.
  • Cardboard Boxes – Not only did this require fewer imports, for items such as cigarette and tobacco boxes, but also created a large export market for Palestine.
  • Handbags and Leather Apparel – Mainly an export good, with factories producing purses, belts, etc…
  • Artificial Teeth – The idea came from a man from Philadelphia, and demonstrates the creativity so many individuals brought to the new country. With a high export value and relatively low costs for materials or production, this was a very successful industry.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 383 – 385.

• Schools in Palestine developed in a logical manner for the population they served, with three types of curriculum for families to choose enrollment in. Elementary schools had a high enrollment, but secondary schools saw only a small proportion of students enrolled. Arabic was taught in all secondary schools, regardless of curriculum tract. The three main types of schools in Palestine during the 1920s and 1930s were-

  • General – Considered secular, although the Bible (or Old Testament) was used as a historical teaching tool for the basis of Jewish thought and culture. Approximately 60% of enrolled students attended the “general” schools.
  • Mizrahi – One third of the Zionists enrolled their children in these “religious schools. Orthodox in their teachings, the most extremely religious groups did not consider the Mizrahi “orthodox”. Traditional religious study is the guide.
  • Labor – Mostly exist within the cooperative settlements. Emphasize the synthesis of education, life and work. These curriculum often split the learning day into book studies and then work in the shops or fields. The labor schools supported the smallest enrollments.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 397 – 398.

• Completely separate from the public form of education were the Talmud Torah and Yeshiva schools, or the highly orthodox. Here, studies were taught in Yiddish, because Hebrew was still believed to be too holy of a language for every-day use. The only secular instruction in these schools was perhaps in mathematics.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 402.

• The two largest “waves” of immigration during the 1920s came during the third Aliyah (1920 – 1923), often known as the Russian Aliyah, due to the huge numbers of Russian Jews coming to Palestine. From 1924 – 1926, the country saw the Polish Aliyah, or fourth Aliyah. There is a direct correlation to the increasing anti-Semitic policies in Poland at the time, and the immigration.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 406.

• The British Mandate for Palestine had included the provision that over time, communities within Palestine were to be given degrees of self-government. Wanting to organize a general assembly for those Jews now living in Palestine, the different groups worked for several years to come up with a governing body that would be as inclusive as possible to the different factions of immigrants and beliefs within Palestine. They sought to bring together the religious groups, the Zionist groups, and the labor movement. They succeeded on October 7, 1920.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 408 – 409.

• One of the first issues the Jewish Assembly (Vaad Leumi) sought to improve was the ratio in benefits for Jewish settlers as related to Jewish contributions. Despite the Mandate’s promise to make Palestine accessible to Jewish immigration, very little monies were provided for Jewish enterprises or community needs. For example, only about 5% of the Jewish population was employed by the British government in Palestine. Those who did work as policemen or railroad builders were not allowed to take time to observe the Sabbath or the Jewish holidays. The Jewish community contributed roughly 45% of the funds to public revenues, and yet less than 10% of the government’s budget for agriculture was directed towards the Jewish settlers, the majority going to Arabs.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 412.

• In an interesting similarity to the provision of health services in Israel today, during the 1920s and 1930s Jewish organizations provided medical treatment to those who needed it, regardless of religion. In fact, Hadassah set up clinics in predominately Arab neighborhoods, where they saw very few Jewish patients. British-funded government hospitals, on the other hand, provided less than adequately for any Jewish needs that were not already covered from within the community. State Albright, et al, “…the Jews were not only carrying the main burden for their won education and health services, but the surplus of revenue derived from Jews paid for the major part of the services rendered to the Arabs through Government.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 412 – 413.

Summary by Rina Abrams.

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