The Trailblazing Agricultural School That Began In A Cave
It was at Mikve Yisrael Youth Village that the Davidka homemade Israeli mortar was created, and the ‘most Israeli tree’ was first planted.
Israel’s flagship agricultural school had its beginnings in a cave. And Charles (Karl) Netter — the school’s founder — recruited the first student off a Jerusalem street.
Netter was looking for suitable candidates for his project when he spotted a youth lounging on the street eating a watermelon. The boy’s widowed mother, who was barely eking out a living, readily agreed to let him go: not only would it help with the family’s financial difficulties, but it assured her son of an education. And that’s how Mikve Yisrael Agricultural School sprang into action — with one teacher, and one pupil — and in a cave.
Mikve Yisrael Agricultural School was established by Alliance Israelite Universelle, a French organization founded in 1860 to improve the lot of the Jews in communities all over the world. Soon afterwards, the organization began opening Jewish schools in different parts of North Africa.
Ten years after its foundation, “Alliance” decided to set up a network of schools in Palestine. It began by purchasing a tract of empty land from the Turkish sultan slightly southeast of Jaffa, and sent Netter to establish a school.