Out of the Shoebox

Out of the Shoebox by Yaron Reshef

Book: Out of the Shoebox by Yaron Reshef Read Free Book Online
Authors: Yaron Reshef
Tags: Biography, Jewish, v.5
settlements in that
region, but judging from the information I now found, he was a tragic figure,
far from a crook.

    Location of the lot in Kiryat
Haroshet (marked by a pin)
    Rabbi
Yehezkel Taub of Yablona began selling the Kiryat Haroshet lands in 1933 for 37
lira per dunam (1000 m²). On Lag Ba’Omer (a Jewish holiday occurring around
mid-May) of 1934 the cornerstone to Kiryat Haroshet was laid, named after the
biblical “Harosheth Hagoyim”, the dwelling place of Sisera, captain of the army
of Jabin king of Canaan (Judges 4:2). Opinions regarding the location of the
biblical Harosheth Hagoyim are divided; some think it was at present-day Amakim
Junction or near Yokneam. Other scholars think Harosheth Hagoyim was an early
name of the forested mountains in the north of the country rather than the name
of a single city involved in industry or craft. According to these scholars,
Harosheth Hagoyim is the woodland that used to stretch from Jezreel Valley
northward to the Galilee.
    The
young rabbi, living with his followers in Yablona, Poland, wanted to become a
Zionist entrepreneur and bring his followers along to Palestine, to take part
in redeeming the land. In 1924 Rabbi Taub established in Warsaw a company to
sell land, called Nachlat Yaacov. Through the mediation of Zionist leader
Yehoshua Hankin, Taub bought some land on the Sheikh Abreik hills from
Hachsharat Hayishuv (The Jewish Palestine Land Development Company). The
original land owner was a Lebanese Christian named Sursock. After the purchase,
Rabbi Taub began selling plots of land to his followers, and established a
Hassidic agricultural settlement called Nachlat Yaacov. But the settlement
could not cope with the day-to-day hardships. Security and financial
difficulties proved to be too much for the Hassidic settlers, so they turned to
the JNF (Jewish National Fund) and asked them to exchange the treacherous land for
other lots more suitable for settling. The swap took place: Rabbi Taub returned
to the JNF all the land he’d bought to sell, and in return received new land on
which his followers established an agricultural village called Kfar Hassidim.
This stretch of land was both more fertile and further away from hostile Arab
villages, which enabled the new settlement to flourish.
    However,
despite his obligation to JNF, Rabbi Taub did not return all the Sheikh Abreik
lands to JNF, but kept for himself a lot of some 900 dunam (~222 acres) on the
slopes of the hills opposite Mt. Carmel, along the Kishon River. The rabbi, who
had a shrewd business sense as any modern day real estate developer, felt that
despite the inhospitable topography and marshes in the land he held, it was
worth his while hanging on to it and trying to sell lots for the construction
of a new, urban-rural settlement. He believed that the railway, the western
route of the Jezreel Valley railway,  would enable people to live in a rural environment
yet work in the city of Haifa, which was only a half-hour’s train ride away. In
his vision, he saw a place where people would grow and consume their own fruit
and vegetables, strengthening the rural aspect of their lives, while being
employed or owning a business in Haifa. The rabbi also tried to attract light
industry to the area, such as metal workers, textile and upholstery workers,
and so develop a town based on the model of rural towns in central Europe.
    Rabbi
Taub succeeded in selling dozens of lots for building, but still the settlement
did not flourish. The new immigrants, scared of the nearby Arab and Beduin population,
preferred living in the big cities. The tension reached its peak after the
murder of two Jewish guards who were guarding a pool nearby, close to today’s
Yokneam, and the development of the settlement came to a halt.  But Taub did
not give up. He imported two shiploads of lumber, had some forty portables
built, and embarked on a new marketing campaign: Buy a dunam of land and
receive another dunam, a wooden cabin, a

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