Rosh Pina is in the Upper Galilee on the eastern slopes of Mount Kna'an in the Northern District of Israel. Rosh Pina, one of the earliest Jewish agricultural settlements, was first founded in 1878, when 18 religious Jews from Safed walked 90 minutes to this area, hoping to start farming with the help of three natural springs, and live off the land as farmers rather than off handouts from European Jewish communities. They knew little about farming, however, and the experiment failed.
A second, more successful effort to develop a settlement began in 1882, with the arrival of a group of mostly new immigrants from Romania and Russia. The newcomers purchased land from local Arabs who were willing to sell their plots to raise money to bribe the authorities to keep their sons out of the Turkish army.
Although they too had to overcome massive hardship and depend for some time on the financial support of the Rothschilds; they eventually became independent and created the town that exists today. The anniversary of the town’s founding is celebrated on December 12 because on that date in 1882, the settlers sowed their first crops. The symbolism may have been bolstered by the connection between the name they had chosen – “Rosh Pina,” which means “capstone” and comes from Psalms 118:22 – and the holiday of Hanukkah, when the psalm is sung in the Hallel section of services.
Botanist Aaron Aaronsohn discovered wild-growing emmer (Triticum dicoccoides) while trekking around Rosh Pina in 1906 trip. He called it the “mother of wheat” and, indeed, wild emmer has been proved to be the ancestor of most domesticated wheat strands cultivated on a large scale today.
From the old neighborhood of the city it is possible to see Israel’s tallest peak, Mt Hermon. One of the tourist sites is the home of Professor Gideon Mer, a physician who was given the property by Baron Edmund de Rothschild to seek a solution to the malaria problem that plagued the inhabitants around the Hula Valley. Thanks to his research, the malaria epidemic among settlers in the region and beyond was contained.
Next door, at the restored site of the Rothschild offices, visitors can watch a film about the history of the city. The office was used to house clerks who monitored how the Baron’s money was being spent. Outside is a garden reportedly modeled on Versailles.
In 1903, there were 292 people in Rosh Pina according to a census taken by the Turks. Today, the town has a population of approximately 3,000 and is a thriving artists’ colony with many bed-and-breakfasts and luxury boutique hotels.