Born in the Ukraine, Yehoshua Hankin came to Eretz Yisrael with his father in 1882, where they were among the founders of Rishon LeZion. In 1887, they moved to Gedera where he established relations with the local Arab landowners which helped in negotiating the purchase of land to expand the Jewish settlement.
He made his first land purchase in 1890: the land on which Rehovot was established. The following year he bought the land for the founding of Hadera. He also purchased land on which the Jewish Colonization Association established settlements in the Galilee and in other parts of Palestine. In 1908, Hankin went to work for the Palestine Land Development Corporation which was established by the Zionist Organization to purchase and cultivate land for the Jewish National Fund and for private individuals.
Hankin had negotiated the purchase of Jezreel Valley lands as early as 1897, but the sale was delayed until 1909, when he finally succeeded in purchase the land on which Merhavia - the first Jewish settlement in the valley - was established.
In 1915, he was exiled by Turkish authorities to Turkey, returning three years later. In 1920, he concluded a major purchase in the Jezreel Valley: Ein Harod, Tel Yosef and Nahalal are among the settlements founded on this land. As a result of this important acquisition, Hankin became know as "Redeemer of the Valley."
In 1927, Hankin presented the Zionist leadership with a daring 20-year plan for the acquisition of Palestinian lands. He became director of the Palestine Land Development Corporation in 1932.
He died in Tel Aviv and was buried on Mt. Gilboa, facing the land he redeemed in the Jezreel Valley. During his lifetime, he arranged the purchase of more than 600,000 dunams of land. Kfar Yehoshua in the Jezreel Valley is named for him.