The Regeneration of Palestine

ALBERT M. HYAMSON June 1 1909

The Regeneration of Palestine

ALBERT M. HYAMSON June 1 1909

The Regeneration of Palestine

ALBERT M. HYAMSON

From the International.

THE population of Jerusalem is now estimated at 80,000, about two-thirds of whom live outside the walls in a new city, the oldest house in which does not date back more than a quarter of a century. So rapid is the growth of the city that visitors who were previously in the country only a couple of years ago are astonished at the vast changes that have taken place in the interval. Jaffa, whose name (Beautiful) well describes the aspect of the district, is extending at a similar rate, and a city of white domes is rapidly giving place to one of red French tiles. The imports of Petroleum are also increasing to a very considerable extent. This fuel is largely used for the working of agricultural engines, as well as for light ing purposes. The imports of petroleum include apparently no waste product. The empty tins are being used by the natives throughout the land as substitutes for pitchers, and it is to be feared that the romantic pictures of dusky maidens of sublime gracefulness returning from the wells with pitchers poised upon their heads are doomed to disappearance. These tins, as well as the wooden boxes in which they reach the country, also serve another purpose in Palestine. The “Box Colony” on the outskirts of Jerusalem, inhabited by Yemenite and Kurdish Jews steeped in the direst poverty, has earned its designation from the materials out of which the

hovels are constructed-—petroleum tins and boxes. I understand that since my visit an outbreak of fire has deprived the inhabitants of even these primitive shelters.

The principal exports from Jaffa are oranges, soap, sesame and wines. The value of the respective articles has risen to the following extent in the period of 1900-1907: Oranges, £74,215 to £179,000; soap, £44,550 to £88,870; sesame, £30,560 to £47,300, and wines £21,840 to £33,850. This, however, is by no means the full measure of the increase in production, for the rapid increase in population has of course led to an enhanced home consumption of produce that would otherwise has« been exported. In these comparai the unfavorable harvest of 1907 should also be taken into account.

In 1906 Gaza exported barley to the value of £180,000 and wheat to that of £ 16,000, all grown within the district. The cultivation of the orange is growing at a remarkable rate. In 1897 290,000 cases were exported ; last year the number was 630,000, and the total is expected to reach a million within a few years. The success of viticulture has fallen short of expectation. The produce was quite satisfactory—-Palestine wine gained a gold metal at the Paris Exhibition of 1900—but the wine market appears to be fully supplied and the sales rendered the culture hardly profitable. As a conse-

quence, a large extent of land hitherto devoted to vineyards is being given over to the cultivation of oranges, almonds, and other fruit trees. Experiments, which have shown considerable success, have also, during the last few months, been made in the cultivation of cotton, and the export of this plant should become considerable within a few years. Other recent experiments in the growing of tobacco, geraniums (for the extraction of oil), potatoes, eucalyptus, peas, beans and oats, have in the great majority of cases been successful, while an attempt at ostrich farming made a year ago has survived the winter with success. One of the latest Quarterly Statements of the Palestine Exploration Fund contains an announcement that may be fraught with much influence on the agricultural future of the country. Wild wheat has again been found in Palestine. On this discovery Mr. Macalister says, “The importance of this discovery is two-fold. If the newdy-found plant be the original stock from which cultivated wheat was artificially de veloped, then the origin of wheat culture must be looked for, not in a rich alluvial basin like Mesopotamia or Egypt, but in some stony country, for there alone the original plant seems to grow. On the rich soils of the plains and valleys of Palestine the plant appears to be absolutely unknown, though common enough in the more uninviting regions, where it is always found associated with wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum). This is evidently a fact of far-reaching archaeological importance. Secondly, there is of course a practical side to the discovery, for given the original material from which the primeval agriculturists developed the wheat plant it may be expected that with modern scientific methods of culture yet greater results might be attained

in developing the material than have been attained hitherto.”

Grain has, of course, always been produced, the principal wheat-growing district being the Hauran, east of the Jordan. Hauran wheat is considered among the best in the world, and when the primitive methods of cultivation and milling still in force among the natives are replaced by others more scientific the Hauran wheat will doubtless be accorded the recognition it deserves.

Within the last quarter of a century a large number of Jewish agricultural colonies have been estab fished in Palestine, and despite the many difficulties with which they had to contend, not the least being the unsuitability for agricultural fife of a large proportion of the pioneers, they are to-day, with hardly an exception, self-supporting and flourishing. The best proof of their success is the establishment, so far as the Government will per mit, of additional colonies. German colonies have been established still longer, and their success is, if anything, greater. A visit to the German colony in Jaffa or Haifa for instance, arouses envy on the part of those who are confined by circumstances to a town fife in England. The Jewish colonies are in many instances practically autonomous republics paying tribute, in the form of a communal tax, to the Turkish Government. They are governed by an elected committee with whom the administration of justice rests, and so thoroughly have these committees earned the public confidence that it often happens that disputes between Arabs unconnected with the colony are brought before the nearest administrative committee for adjudication. The prosperity of these colonies naturally varies, but the average is very far above the poverty line, and few, if any, of the settlers are to be found who look back with longing

to the flesh-pots of Egypt—the conditions in Europe from which they have severed themselves. The agritural conditions of these colonies is in every way satisfactory, and other industries are already beginning to be established among them. At Rishon le Zion, near Jaffa, wool washing is being undertaken. A partner in a large Russian firm of manufacturers has settled in the colony. The wool, after having been washed, is exported to Russia, where it is worked up by his partner. The manufactured goods are then exported to Palestine and Syria, and a fair profit is made on the series of transactions. In the course of the present year the firm proposes to establish a weaving factory in Rishon itself, and the wool will then be turned into manufactured goods on the spot. At the Rosh Pinah Colony, near Safed, silk, produced on a large scale in Northern Palestine, is turned into silk floss and exported to France.

At Zichron Yaacob, another of the colonies, on the hills close to Caesarea and Haifa, a mutual credit bank has been established. Agricultural laborers are encouraged to acquire holdings of their own, for which they pay by instalments, and thus without the assistance of legislation peasant proprietors are rising among the recent Jewish settlers on the soil of Palestine. In the towns also industries are springing up. Oil refineries and soap factories have been established at Ramleh and Haifa. A machine factory has been established in Jaffa, and in other parts are to be seen the beginnings of spinning, weaving, dyeing and ceramic industries, and of fruit preserving. Religious objects—Jewish and Chris tian—have for a long time been manufactured on a considerable scale. Home industries, such as knitting, have been introduced into the colonies as well as Jerusalem. Waterproof cloaks are also made for

the wear of the peasants. There are many other industries—milling, perfumery, furniture, bedsteads, sodawater, etc.—conducted at present on a small scale. The Turkish policy of levying a duty in other provinces of the Empire on articles exported from Palestine — only recently changed—hampered very considerably the industrial growth of the country. At Jaffa a Cabinet-makers’ Association has been formed.

d'he mineral wealth of Palestine has hitherto been entirely neglected. There can be no doubt, however, that it exists. This was recognized by the Government even before the recent change of policy, and more than a year ago a scientific commission was dispatched by the Sultan in order to investigate the mineral resources. The Hedjas Railway runs the whole length of the country beyond the Jordan. It connects at Derat with a line to Haifa, a port beautifully situated at the foot of Mount Carmel. The French line from Jaffa to Jerusalem is sufficiently successful to show in 1907 a profit of over 210 per cent, on the year’s total expenditure. The roads are, however, in many cases very primitive, and, granted a settled Government, the greatest needs of the country are communications and irrigation. That neither desideratum is quite unattainable will be seen from the following extract from a letter written by the new Governor of Jerusalem shortly after his appointment—

“I shall endeavor to pave the way and direct to completion, means of encouraging commerce, of developing agriculture, of assuring the well being of all citizens. I shall endeavor to extend or to create means of communication, to irrigate the land, to assure the safety of property, to ameliorate the situation of towns and villages, to create new schools to assure the execution of justice, to extend liberty and equality to all

citizens without exception. The above is my programme.

“In the following statement I render an account of my first week in Jerusalem. I have listened to and examined all complaints and all pe titions presented to me, and have in each case given such decisions as are conformable to the laws. I have formed, under the presidency of Lieutenant-Colonel Noury Bey, Director of the Imperial Demesnes, a Commission composed of competent persons, whose duty it will be to investigate the agricultural needs of the province and to submit to me a report of the result of their investigations. I convened a meeting of merchants, with the object of creating a Chamber of Commerce which can serve as a consulting body, but acting on the suggestion of the Israelites, who begged to be excused from attending on account of their festivals then beginning, I have postponed the establishment of this Chamber of Commerce till next week. Being assured of the extreme need of water for the town, I have confided to an energetic man the consideration of a project to bring into Jerusalem the waters of the spring Arroub, and .also the forma-

tion of a company which is to procure the capital necessary for the work. I have placed myself in communication with the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway Company, and have asked them to consider the question of a junction of their railroad with the Haifa-Damascus line, and am endeavoring to promote, by the construction of other railway lines, the easv and free access to all parts of the country of travelers arriving at Jaffa and Jerusalem. In conclusion, I have charged the municipality with the earnest consideration of the speedy sanitary canalization of the town.”

Even as it is, Palestine is rapidly becoming a favorite tourist resort. With the introduction of improvements the characteristics of the people and the land will rapidly change. The existing universal picturesqueness will soon submit to demands of utilitarianism, and those who delay their projected visit may find when they arrive in Palestine in a few years’ time that, as in Algeria and Egypt, the Orientalism of all the ages has been driven out by the pressure of the modern Occident.