Baron Edmond James de Rothschild
(1845 - 1934)
Born 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.
Although 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.
Edmond 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 Association (ICA).
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.
Sources: Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education