During the middle of the 19th century the De Pass
brothers, Jewish merchants from Cape Town, established a trading post
on the Nawaqualand Coast, becoming the first Jews in this southwest
African area. In 1861, they started the Pomona Copper Company.
In the late 19th century, when Namibia became a German
colony, Jewish connections with the land grew much stronger. Carl Fuerstenberg,
a German Jewish banker and head of the Berliner Handellgesellschaft,
was responsible for the development of the diamond industry. He also
organized the construction of a railway line from Luderitz Bay to Kubub.
Emil Rathenau created the German South West African Mining Syndicate
and established a research company in 1907 for the study of irrigation
problems. Walter Rathenau was one of the two experts sent by Kaiser
Wilhelm II to report on administrative reforms.
The number of Jews in South West Africa under German
rule was no more than about 100, most of them in Swakopmund.
Africa was granted a mandate over Namibia by the League of Nations
after World War I, however, the Jewish population increased and, in
1965, there were 400-500 Jews in a total white population of 68,000,
most living in Windhoek. Windhoek has a Hebrew congregation dating from
1917, a synagogue built in 1925, a Talmud Torah, a communal hall, an
active Zionist movement supported by
generous contributions, and the only Jewish minister in the territory.
The only other community is at Keetmanshoop and consists
of about 12 families.
Political developments including the cancellation of
the League of Nations mandate by the United Nations and the proclamation
of the establishment of an independent republic, now Namibia, has brought
about a considerable dwindling of the Jewish population. Today's population
consists of approximately 100 Jews.
Israel and Namibia
established diplomatic relations in 1994. Israel is represented by its
ambassador in Zimbabwe.
In November 1980, Wwindhoek became a twin city with
Kiryat Telshe Stone, a settlement outside Jerusalem.